Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Egyptian Copts and the Jews: No Illusions

by Gerald A. Honigman

Egypt's Copts: Uncle Boutros and Uncle Tom. When you are feeling sorry for them, remember that they hate us too.

Not everyone was celebrating the "Arab Spring"…

Don't get me wrong, I too wished for all peoples--Arabs and non-Arabs alike (yes, there are scores of millions of the latter) to finally gain modern-day freedoms in a region ruled for millennia by various imperial powers succeeded, in the modern era, by assorted Arab autocrats, tyrants, and despots.

Still, for those schooled in this area, many had fears and doubts--even if kept to themselves. For such folks, what and who was likely to replace such leadership--despite wishful thinking--was going to be as bad or worse than what was being overthrown.

I wrote about this not long after the Egyptian Arab Spring had sprung. And in that same analysis, I expressed major concerns about what would likely unfold for Egypt's native, pre-Arab/non-Arab people, the Copts.

Well, I truly hate to have to say that I told you so, but--since that earlier article was written--Coptic Churches have indeed been burned down, and Copts have been murdered, maimed, and intimidated at an accelerated pace. The situation has deteriorated, and it always has been tenuous and iffy for all native, non-Arab (and especially non-Muslim) populations living in Arab-conquered lands, the dhimmis.

While dhimmitude primarily refers to the plight of conquered, native Christian and Jewish populations (the People of the Book), Arab subjugating racist attitudes often also extended to those non-Arab peoples who--in order to jump on the winning bandwagon, escape special taxation, and so forth--became Muslims.

And those who were not ahl al-Kitab most often either converted or were massacred. Think Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists, in particular, as jihad was waged in the name of the Dar ul-Islam to points east.

Since dozens of Copts were recently murdered and deliberately mowed down in the streets, the plight of these folks in Egypt deserves further attention…

While there are Berbers in the west, black Nubians in the south, and once upon a time Egypt had a substantial population of native Jews, the Copts are by far the largest pre-Arab, non-Arab population in the land. They are the native people, descendants of the Pharaohs, who, after being subjected to the rule of the hated Byzantines, were conquered in the 7th century C. E. as Arabs burst out of the Arabian Peninsula and spread in all directions.

Today, there are probably somewhere between ten and thirteen million Copts in Egypt--depending upon whose numbers you use. As Christians, they, with the Jews, were tolerated, to a degree, as "People of the Book"--as long as certain rules of the conquering Arab Muslim road were adhered to. The latter have been referred to as dhimmitude.

The best approach for the Copts over the centuries has been to keep a low profile, pay the obligatory special taxes, prove usefulness, quietly accept a perpetual, subservient status, and find ways to ingratiate and prove loyalty to the Arab Muslim majority and its rulers.

Boutros-Ghali, a Copt, felt that there might be a solution. How?…Well, Israel could become an Arab country. Most Israelis were (Jewish) immigrants from Arab countries anyway ...

The new urgency of this topic brought back memories of some famous quotes I had come across during my own doctoral study days.

In Amos Elon’s Flight Into Egypt (New York, 1980), he reviewed encounters with the late President Sadat’s Foreign Minister, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali. The latter would later become Secretary General of the United Nations.

A Copt, it was largely believed that Boutros-Ghali was selected by Sadat for this post precisely because of his unquestioned, assured loyalty. Centuries of dhimmitude could be expected to have done its thing…and it did.

Follow carefully some excerpts regarding this famous Copt’s advice to Elon, a prominent Israeli journalist:

In his office, there is a map of the Middle East on which Israel is still blacked out…Israel must integrate by accepting the nature of the area…that nature that is Arab…In a tape of a long discourse delivered in 1975 to Professor Brecher he proclaimed that…in the vast area between the Persian Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean everyone had to be Arab or risk continuing strife…Still, Boutros-Ghali felt that there might be a solution. How?…Well, Israel could become an Arab country. Most Israelis were (Jewish) immigrants from Arab countries anyway (pp.84-91).

To learn more about all of this, other scholars, besides the essential Egyptian Jewish scholar, Bat Ye’or, have also made important contributions. One, in particular, Professor Albert Memmi, a Tunisian Jew, wrote a short but powerful work also exposing firsthand, like Bat Ye’or, dhimmitude--and what needs to be done about it. Memmi supported Tunisia’s struggle for independence from France, and the mere four lines on the opening page to his book, Jews And Arabs, say it all…

To my Jewish brothers
To my Arab brothers
so that we can all
be free men at last…

Compare this Jewish call for mutual respect to Boutros-Ghali’s, the Copt's, pathetic advice.

In contrast to Copts who daily fear for their very lives in Egypt, a reading of what they have to say about these things when they flee abroad is telling as well.

In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe authored a famous antislavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in which she wrote of the blacks’ expected servile behavior towards their white masters.

Unfortunately, as we've seen in the words of Sadat's Foreign Minister, this is also the Arabs’ predominant idea of “tolerance”…creating scores of millions of Uncle Boutroses--be they Copts, Kurds, black Africans, "Berbers," native kilab yahud (Jew dogs), pre-Arab Lebanese, etc. and so forth.

Given their own tragic plight in a land where their ancestors lived and ruled for millennia before Arabs ever invaded and conquered both, the Copts' attitude to Jews too often gets whisked under the rug--for a number of reasons. Since my wish is for a better future for all of the region's diverse peoples, I won't remain silent.

You see, if there are problems with the Arab Spring regarding freedom, democracy, and such due to Muslim intolerance and the rise of Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, then the following nasty reality must also be addressed…

Simply put, non-Arab, Christian Copts don't need Arab Muslims to teach them how to hate Jews...Their own faith has taught them to hate the G-d-killers for centuries before Islam's Muhammad ever entered into the picture.

As just one example of the problem, Saint John Chrysostom of Antioch--one of the early Church Fathers, is beloved among the Copts. Here's a taste of Chrysostom's teaching in Homily 1, some sixteen centuries ago.

The Jewish people were driven by their drunkenness and plumpness to the ultimate evil; they kicked about, they failed to accept the yoke of Christ, nor did they pull the plow of his teaching. Another prophet hinted at this when he said: "Israel is as obstinate as a stubborn heifer " ...Although such beasts are unfit for work, they are fit for killing. And this is what happened to the Jews: while they were making themselves unfit for work, they grew fit for slaughter. This is why Christ said: "But as for these my enemies, who did not want me to be king over them, bring them here and slay them."

Here's an excerpt from Homily 6...

You {Jews} did slay Christ, you did lift violent hands against the Master, you did spill his precious blood. This is why you have no chance for atonement, excuse, or defense.

And, moving into modern times, listening to the Copts' Pope Shenouda III is like hearing a speech from the best anti-Semites of any stripe have to offer.

So,Copts have been taught by their religious leaders to join their own often murderous, abusive Arab neighbors in their mutual antagonism of the Jew:

Besides joining their fellow Muslim Arab Egyptian neighbors in targeting a common, demonized enemy (to help divert attention away from their own vulnerable positions), an even earlier animus towards the alleged G-d-killers has been ever present as well.

At a time when the lives of Egypt's truly native people are becoming increasingly endangered due to Muslim intolerance, is it not long overdue for the Copts to realize that they and the Jews are two of the region's most ancient peoples and that they should finally overcome their Jew hatred?

Gerald A. Honigman is an educator who has done extensive doctoral studies in Mid-East Affairs and has conducted counter-Arab propaganda programs for college youth.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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