Egyptian President claims Jews have 'never faced persecution' in Egypt

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi made the incorrect claim during a meeting in Cairo with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken


Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Cairo on October 15, 2023. After Egypt Blinken will head back to Israel on October 16 for his second visit in less than a week following a tour of six Arab countries on the crisis with Hamas, the State Department said. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JACQUELYN MARTIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

During a with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi made a false claim that Jews have never been persecuted in Egypt, despite the nation’s dwindled Jewish population now numbering in the single digits.  

"You spoke about the crisis, and you spoke as a Jewish person,” Sisi said to Blinken via an interpreter.  

“I am an Egyptian citizen, and I was born and brought up in a neighborhood where we had Jewish neighbors,” Sisi said. “And Jews who used to live here in Egypt [had] not ever suffered from oppression and persecution.” 

The Jewish secretary of State met with Sisi as part of a diplomatic visit to Cairo to rally support for Israel following Hamas’ attack last week. Blinken has been vocal about his Judaism, referring to his family’s history of surviving the Holocaust as helping to shape his responsibility to preserving human rights.

He affirmed his commitment to do so during his discussion with Sisi, saying, “I come first and foremost as a human being, a human being, like so many others, appalled at the atrocities committed by Hamas.” 

Sisi’s claim contradicts contemporary evidence of Jewish persecution in Egypt, not to mention the (archaeologically unproven) ancient Passover story of Jewish enslavement in Egypt, to which Sisi may have been referring. The Egyptian Jewish community numbered around 80,000 in the 1940s but rapidly declined following President Gamal Abdel Nassar’s campaign to expel Jews from Egypt in the 1950s and 60s, leaving the current population of Jews under 20.  

Egypt has maintained a peaceful relationship with Israel for over 40 years, but Sisi stated during his meeting with Blinken that Israel’s activity in Gaza had “exceeded” its right to self-defense, and called Israel’s military actions “collective punishment” for the people of Gaza. During Egypt’s National Security Council meeting, also Sunday, Sisi called for continued communication with international and regional partners to work towards a two-state solution, according to a statement from the president’s office.  

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