BBC News once again misleads on Egyptian Jews

Not for the first time the BBC ignores history in order to promote an inaccurate narrative.

On February 18th another report made for the BBC’s ‘Crossing Divides’ season appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

Produced by Nagham Kasem, the filmed report is titled “The unlikely friendship saving Egypt’s synagogues” and its synopsis reads:

“Two Egyptian women have come together to save the country’s lost Jewish heritage.

Magda, who is Jewish and Marwa, who is Palestinian and Muslim, meet weekly to clean, rescue and repair books, synagogues and cemeteries.

The Jewish community in Egypt shrank after the Israeli-Arab conflict in 1948. Many were exiled or felt forced to leave. With hardly any Jewish people left, the friends are battling to preserve the country’s lost Jewish heritage before it disappears forever.” [emphasis added]

That messaging is repeated in the film itself:

“Egypt once had a thriving Jewish community. But after the Arab-Israeli conflict began in 1948 the number of Jewish people fell from 80,000 to just a handful.

Magda Haroun: “After the establishment of Israel the attitude of Egyptians towards Jews changed.”

Large numbers were expelled or forced out of Egypt.”

Those portrayals would obviously lead BBC audiences to understand that prior to that prior to that unexplained “conflict”, which is inaccurately described as beginning in 1948, all was well for Egyptian Jews.

That, however, is not the case as this timeline of the measures which led to the eradication of Egypt’s Jewish community shows.

This is not the first time that BBC audiences have seen euphemistic or whitewashed portrayals of the history of Egyptian Jews. As has been noted here in the past the persecution of Egyptian Jews  did not, as the BBC suggests, begin “after the establishment of Israel” but long before Israel existed.

“The next step was the nationality laws of 1927 and 1929, which favored jus sanguinis (or right of blood). An Egyptian was from then on defined as somebody who had Arab-Muslim affiliation.

The London Convention (1936) granted Egypt independence under King Farouk, and it was followed by a worsening of the nationality laws. According to additional nationality laws (in 1950, 1951, 1953, and 1956), autochthonous Jews became stateless: 40,000 people were turned into “foreigners” in their own country.”

“In Egypt, a long process of discrimination in the public service began in 1929. In 1945-1948, Jews were excluded from the public service. In 1947, Jewish schools were put under surveillance and forced to Arabize and Egyptianize their curricula.”

Anti-Jewish violencerioting and economic discrimination also predated the existence of Israel.

“Jews in Egypt faced acute problems in the 1940s but these did not set their mass departure in motion. Rioting against Jews occurred in November 1945, then resumed in June-November 1948, the latter time inspired by the war with Israel. An amendment to the Egyptian Companies Law dated July 29, 1947, required that 40 percent of a company’s directors and 75 percent of its employees be Egyptian nationals, causing the dismissal and [loss of] livelihood of many Jews, 85 percent of whom did not possess Egyptian nationality.”

As we see, the BBC continues to erase history in order to promote its own inaccurate narrative according to which the mass departure of Jews from Egypt only happened because of Israel.

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