Egypt remains riled up at the article written by Fatima Naoot on December 10 that blames the nation for expelling its Jews.
Historians, politicians and journalists are falling over themselves to “prove” that when tens of thousands of Jews left the country in the 1950s and 1960s, they all left voluntarily or were spies. But Egypt loved its Jews.
This is a lie. Under Nasser, Egypt systematically reduced and eliminated the rights of Jews.
Here is a small part of M. M. Laskier, , Egyptian Jewry under the Nasser regime, 1956–70, published in Middle Eastern Studies, 1995. These sections only deal with expulsions in 1956.
According to official Egyptian documents, four specific kinds of measure directly and radically affected the rights, status and very existence of many Jews in Egypt. These were: police detention; sequestration of businesses and property; explusion from the country; and promulgation of a new statute under which Jews were deprived of citizenship.
Regarding the first category, Article 3, Paragraph 7, and Article 7 of Emergency Law No.5333 of 1954, on the Proclamation of a State of Siege in Egypt, authorized the Military Government of Egypt ‘to order the arrest and apprehension of suspects and those who prejudice public order and security’. Under these provisions, hundreds of Jews, without charges against them, were detained, imprisoned or otherwise deprived of their liberty.
According to representatives in Egypt of an important international relief organization, at least 900 Jews had been arrested as of 7 December 1956. Five hundred were interned in the Jewish school at Abbasiyya in Cairo. As of 3 December, 261 of these 500 were stateless; the rest were Egyptian citizens. At the Abraham Batesh Jewish school in Heliopolis, another 42 Jews were detained, most of them women, many of them aged. This group included 19 stateless persons and 23 others. At Les Barrages prison north of Cairo, 300 Jews were detained, half of them stateless; the other half British and French subjects. Limited to the Cairo area, and excluding Alexandria and the smaller, dwindling communities of the Nile Delta, these figures cannot represent the total number of Jews then imprisoned in Egypt. Furthermore, there was absolutely reliable information to the effect that almost all Jewish families in Cairo and Alexandria had been held in confinement at their homes for considerable lengths of time, often without funds, food or other supplies, under surveillance by building concierges invested with police authority to control Jewish tenants under confinement, and supplied with firearms to render this control more effective.
Sequestration and economic strangulation: under the authority of Military Proclamation No.4 ‘relative to commerce with British and French subjects and to measures affecting their properties’ (Journal Officiel, No.88, bis A of 1 November 1956), 19 directives appeared in the Journal Officiel of Egypt. Eleven (Nos. 170-177 and 186-188) overwhelmingly affected the property of Jews. Military Proclamation No.4 appeared under the heading of ‘Regime of Sequestration’.
A number of persons living in the United States, thoroughly familiar with the economic structure of Egypt, examined the published lists of 486 persons and firms whose properties were seized under Military Proclamation No.4. They attested that at least 95 per cent of them were Jews.
All in all, it is estimated that between November 1956 and March 1957 assets of at least 500 Jewish-owned firms were sequestered and their bank accounts frozen; 800 more enterprises under Jewish proprietorship were placed on an economic blacklist and their assets frozen. The persons and firms affected by this measure represented the bulk of the economic substance of Egyptian Jewry, the largest and most important enterprises, and the main sustenance, through voluntary contributions, of the Jewish religious, educational, social and welfare institutions in Egypt. The resulting paralysis of these institutions substantially aggravated the uprooting effect of the government’s anti-Jewish policies and greatly intensified the pressure for Jews to leave the country.
In addition to depriving owners of their properties and income, the sequestration measures indirectly affected the livelihood of a much broader circle of Jews, those employed by firms placed under custodianship. It was reliably reported that all sequestered firms received instructions to discharge all employees of the Jewish faith and acted accordingly. Nor was the elimination of Jews from Egyptian economic life confined to sequestered firms and assets. There were other measures, mostly unofficial, which prevented a large, additional group of Jews from earning a living. For example, most Jews had already lost their positions in public companies and many private firms which were not subject to sequestration. At the same time, many Jews in independent private enterprises were prevented from doing business by the denial of trade permits, export and import licenses, foreign currency allocations, and other administrative facilities essential to the continuation of business. As a result, Jews were either forcibly excluded or voluntarily withdrawing from business. Likewise, a steadily growing number of Jewish physicians, lawyers and engineers were, by various means, prevented from practising their professions.
…Egypt’s policy of getting rid of its Jewish population was implemented through both expulsion and ‘voluntary’ emigration. But the two methods were not entirely distinct. It is estimated that as early as the end of November 1956 at least 500 Egyptian and stateless Jews had been expelled from Egypt, not including a considerable number of Jewish citizens of Britain and France. Most of the expellees were heads of families. They were ordered to leave the country within two to seven days. Whereas, in most cases, the individual served with a deportation order was responsible for supporting his family, all members of the family had to leave the country. Thus, this measure indirectly forced out of Egypt several times the number of those who received expulsion orders. However, official deportation orders were by no means the most effective instruments for thorough forced emigration. In fact, around the end of November 1956, direct, individual expulsion orders ceased, only to be replaced by the more subtle, potent techniques of intimidation and psychological warfare against the Jewish population as a whole. Under these pressures and the simultaneous economic harassment of Jews, a much larger and steadily growing emigration movement began. Jews ‘voluntarily’ obliged themselves, in formal declarations to the authorities, to leave the country and, in the case of Egyptian nationals, to relinquish their citizenship.
Both the formal expulsion orders and the ‘voluntary’ pledges to expatriate oneself struck Jews of every status – citizens, stateless persons, and foreign subjects alike. All laissez-passer documents issued to them expressly stated that the person leaving Egypt would not be permitted to return, and that they voluntarily renounced all claims against Egypt. More than 20,200 Jews emigrated between 22 November 1956 and 30 June 1957. In all, between 23,000 and 25,000 out of the 45,000 Jews were estimated to have left Egypt. These included more than 6,000 (until June 1957) who left on ships chartered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) whose headquarters were in Geneva, with funds provided by the United Jewish Appeal. The ICRC, as we shall see, rendered invaluable service in evacuating Jews unable to pay for their passage as well as in assisting needy Jews still in Egypt.
The emigration, expulsion and flight began on a large scale with thousands of people flocking to the offices of the Rabbinate, consulates, and embassies seeking advice, assistance and means of escape. The port of Alexandria and the airfield at Cairo were jammed with refugees leaving the country. Initially, government officials showed little leniency in customs inspections, arbitrarily confiscating any items which were believed to be of value. The pressure at points of embarkation was so great that there was no time for individual treatment. In the bedlam of this situation, thousands of people left with hardly more than the clothes on their backs.
…Denaturalization (deprivation of citizenship) also affected Egyptian Jews. A long-standing device to achieve ‘national homogeneity’ had been the Egyptian nationality law of 13 September 1950. On 22 November 1956 this law was amended by a decree-law promulgated by the President of the Republic (i.e. Nasser). Article 1 proclaimed that:
Only individuals resident on Egyptian territory before 1 January 1900, who maintained their residence until the date of promulgation of the present decree and who are not under the jurisdiction of a foreign state, are Egyptians.
The legally incapacitating intent and effect of this provision was quite manifest in spite of the camouflaging formulation. First of all, the law could easily be interpreted to mean that if an ‘undesirable’ individual left the country, even for a brief stay abroad, he thereby automatically failed to ‘maintain his residence’ until the date of the new law. Through this device, Egyptian citizens of the Jewish faith were easily deprived retroactively of their acquired citizenship.
Second, an even more dangerous loophole was hidden behind the stipulation of the cut-off date of 1 January 1900. According to informed sources familiar with conditions in Egypt, there was simply no officially valid documentation in existence there which could attest to the residence of persons in Egypt at that remote point in time. Through this loophole, not only were new certificates of nationality denied to undesired applicants, but it was now possible for the authorities to annul existing certificates retroactively.
But the 1956 Law did not stop at these stipulations. It went on to impose special disabilities expressly upon Jews alone. Article 1 further stipulated that: Neither Zionists nor those against whom a judgement has been handed down for crimes of disloyalty to the country or for treason, shall be covered by this provision.
To make the intent of this provision clear beyond doubt, Article 1 added that:
No request for the delivery of a certificate of Egyptian nationality will be accepted from persons known as Zionists . . .
To the best of our knowledge, this was the first instance in the history of law where the concept of Zionism was applied in a nationality statute as a criterion of citizenship and as an indirect basis for denaturalization. Since the law furnished no definition whatsoever of the term ‘Zionist’, it was obvious that the Egyptian authorities could apply this provision at will to any person of the Jewish faith.
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