Can Jews Be Egyptians?
The title of Siham Nassar's study of the Egyptian Jewish press, al-Yahud al-misriyyun bayna al-misriyya wa’l-sahyuniyya (The Egyptian Jews between Egyptianism and Zionism), succinctly poses the fundamental issue in most post-1979 Egyptian works on Egyptian Jewish history: Are Egyptian Jews real Egyptians? The intensification of the Arab-Israeli conflict after 1948 gradually diminished the numbers of Arab and Egyptian intellectuals and publicists willing to insist on differentiating between local Jewish communities and Zionism and the state of Israel. As noted in Chapter 4, the Egyptian government officially continued to maintain this distinction during the prosecution of the Operation Susannah network in 1954 and beyond, though during and after the 1956 war its practical significance diminished considerably. By minimizing the distinction between Jews and Zionists, Nassar effectively reverses the official position of the Egyptian government and the dominant political currents of the country in the first half of the twentieth century. According to Nassar, while Jews enjoyed all the civic rights guaranteed by the 1923 constitution, “most of the Jews, who found in Egypt every consideration, supported Zionism.” 
‘Awatif ‘Abd al-Rahman's al-Sahafa al-sahyuniyya fi misr, 1897–1954 (The Zionist press in Egypt) was issued by a publishing house associated with the Communist Party of Egypt. She uses many of the same primary sources as Siham Nassar and seems to have relied extensively on Nassar's unpublished M.A. thesis, which was readily available to her because ‘Abd al-Rahman is on the faculty at Cairo University's College of Communications, where Nassar received her degree. ‘Abd al-Rahman introduces some distinctively Marxist themes into the argument: Zionism flourished in Egypt as a consequence of a specific economic and social formation imposed by imperialism. Poorer Jews were more closely linked to Egyptian society and culture. The communists, including the Jewish Anti-Zionist League established by members of the Iskra organization, were sincere anti-Zionists. These themes lead ‘Abd al-Rahman to a less categorical condemnation of Egyptian Jews than Nassar. Nonetheless, the two books follow the same basic line of exposition, and ‘Abd al-Rahman is complicit in delegitimizing Jews as Egyptians even though Marxist theory regarded Jews throughout the Arab world as properly citizens of their country of birth, just as in Europe and elsewhere.
The main source for the research of both Nassar and ‘Abd al-Rahman is the Egyptian Jewish press in Arabic. This provides a substantial documentary basis for their work. But it also gives them great leeway to interpret texts without reference to their social context. They have little appreciation for nuances of opinion within the Jewish community, and their analysis is always open to attributing the worst of motives to Jews.
For example, Nassar acknowledges that encouraging the Egyptianization and Arabization of the Jewish community was one of the most important goals of the Arabic Jewish weekly, al-Shams, established in 1934. But she unreasonably complains that this did not extend to intermarriage with Muslims and Christians or cultural assimilation. Unsupported by any evidence, Nassar speculates that the Egyptianization campaign of al-Shams might have been an “application of a higher Zionist policy designed by the Jewish Agency.” It was not a result of the editors' “belief that the Jews were a part of Egyptian society,” but rather from their “belief in the necessity of being loyal to and being part of that society.”  Like Nassar, ‘Abd al-Rahman regards al-Shams simply as a Zionist publication.
The editor of al-Shams, Sa‘d Malki, embraced both Egyptian nationalism and moderate Zionism, as many Egyptian Jews did in the 1920s. Malki's distinction was to maintain these dual commitments until May 1948, when al-Shams was closed by the government. His outlook was internally inconsistent and ultimately untenable, but that does not necessarily make it insincere. Malki's emphasis on the Egyptian and Eastern character of Egyptian Jews was not particularly welcome in the Zionist movement and is unlikely to have been inspired by any official Zionist body. Rather, his contradictory political commitments express the hybrid identities and loyalties shared by many Egyptian Jews.
Similarly, based on al-Kalim's publication of a letter from an individual Karaite expressing his concern that there were not enough Karaites in Jerusalem to maintain their synagogue and proposing that young Karaites consider moving there to fulfill this religious duty, Nassar accused the Karaite newspaper of encouraging “the immigration of Egyptian Jews to Palestine.”  Having established that the Karaites were Zionists on the basis of this evidence, she regards al-Kalim's criticism of the establishment of the state of Israel and its repeated assertions that the Karaites were integrated among the Egyptian people as a ruse.
‘Abd al-Rahman does not appear to regard al-Kalim as a Zionist organ because she does not discuss it at all. By failing to mention al-Kalim, she avoids a topic that would have allowed her to demonstrate the existence of a community of Arabized Jews who considered themselves Egyptians, participated in Arabo-Egyptian culture, and were not, as a community, political Zionists.
Both Nassar and ‘Abd al Rahman acknowledge that Albert Mizrahi, the publisher of al-Tas‘ira, al-Misbah, and al-Saraha (see Chapter 3 and also the discussion of Maurice Shammas's “Cafe Lanciano” in Chapter 8), was not a Zionist. Nassar undermines Mizrahi's political stand by arguing that he was motivated solely by financial gain and promoted his newspapers by extortion and incitement. ‘Abd al-Rahman is willing to regard Mizrahi's political stand as sincere. Nonetheless, like Nassar, she concludes that the Zionist press successfully recruited “the great majority of Egyptian Jews to serve its propaganda objectives.” 
Both Nassar and ‘Abd al-Rahman espouse an organicist conception of Egyptian national identity that allows religious and ethnic minorities little space for any expression of collective identity. This same conception has motivated recent expressions of hostility to defining Copts and Nubians as minorities in Egypt. Nonetheless, they regard Egyptian national sentiment as extremely fragile and easily undermined by the Zionist ideas promoted in the Jewish press. Thus, some of the leading political thinkers and authors of the twentieth century, such as Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid, Ahmad Shawqi, Muhammad Husayn Haykal, and Taha Husayn, were easily duped into collaborating with Zionism (a prominent example mentioned by Nassar and ‘Abd al-Rahman is Taha Husayn's service as editor of al-Katib al-Misri, a literary journal owned by the Harari brothers).
Other recent modern histories of Egyptian Jews by ‘Arfa ‘Abduh ‘Ali and Sa‘ida Muhammad Husni follow Siham Nassar's and ‘Awatif ‘Abd al-Rahman's conception of the Jews as foreigners who overwhelmingly embraced Zionism. Nabil ‘Abd al-Hamid Sayyid Ahmad, a professor at Minya University who is not a propagandist for radical Islamist views, extends this perspective to its extreme limit by expressing a certain sympathy for the view of the Muslim Brothers, who rejected the proposition that one could and should distinguish between the Jews of Egypt and the Jews of Palestine (and later Israel). Ultimately, he argues, “reality proved that it is difficult to distinguish between a Zionist Jew and one who is not.”  Ahmad thus effectively obliterates the distinction between Jews and Zionists.
One of the few published opinions in the 1980s to insist on the importance of upholding this distinction is Shihata Harun's Yahudi fi al-qahira (A Jew in Cairo). Harun joined the Democratic Movement for National Liberation led by Henri Curiel in the 1940s and ultimately became a member of the Communist Party of Egypt. He is one of the handful of Jewish communists who continued to live in Egypt after the 1950s. His book is a collection of letters, interviews, and essays written from 1967 to 1985 in which he defines himself as an Egyptian Jew, an anti-Zionist, an Egyptian nationalist, a supporter of the national rights of the Palestinian people, and an opponent of the Camp David process. In a 1975 interview in Ruz al-Yusuf, Harun stated, “I am a Jew, yes, and a leftist, yes. But the most important characteristic is that I am an Egyptian. As far as I know, being an Egyptian is not conditional on changing either my religion or my political beliefs.” 
The interviewer, Salah Hafiz, was a former communist who was prepared to offer Harun a forum for this argument. But many of Harun's comrades were less bold. The name of the Marxist publishing house that issued Yahudi fi al-qahira was slightly altered on the title page of the book (Dar al-Thaqafa al-Haditha instead of Dar al-Thaqafa al-Jadida), suggesting that the directors of the press were ambivalent about Harun's position and unwilling to take full public responsibility for it even though it was entirely consistent with orthodox Marxist doctrine.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Harun often expressed his views to the Arab and international press and at international conferences. Nonetheless, he was arrested with all the other able-bodied Jewish males during the 1967 war; and he was arrested as a communist in 1975 and again in 1979. Neither the government of Gamal Abdel Nasser nor that of Anwar al-Sadat was willing to accept the sincerity of his anti-Zionist and Egyptian nationalist commitments or his Marxist convictions. By the mid-1980s, very few Egyptians (mainly some of those who had been strongly influenced by Marxism for a period of their lives) were willing to insist publicly on making a principled political distinction between Jews and Zionists.