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Why Does Egypt Love Adolf Hitler?

It's no secret that anti-semitism is rampant among Egyptians, and as the conflict escalates in Gaza, anti-Jewish sentiment is only increasing. Conor Sheils investigates the many faces of the ugly phenomenon...

As Israel's aggression on Palestinians progresses, there is yet again another kind of hate, once again rearing it's ugly head in Egypt - anti-semitism. The 2014 Israeli attacks on Gaza have once again brought anti-semitism to the fore of Egyptian society as Egypt, along with much of the Arab world, took part in the anti-semitic hashtag proclaiming "#Hiterwasright" three years ago.

In everyday life, the name of the former dictator is adorned everywhere, from store signs to street corners, antisemitism is found on TV channels, in cafes and in even among supposedly educated, liberal Egyptian homes. It doesn't take long on the streets of Cairo to before you find a copy of Mein Kampf - Adolf Hitler's book outlining his ideological framework, which lead to the the slaughter of six million Jews during the second world war.

The vile text is rarely seen in public in other parts of the world. However, Egyptian booksellers, including the Zamalek branch of a well-known bookstore, believe that the text is so popular among Egyptians that it must be kept on prominent display.

The latest statistics by the pro-Jewish 'Anti-Defamation League' rank Egypt among the most anti-semitic nations on the planet. The study shockingly found that 37,000,000 (or 75% of the adult population) hold anti-semitic views. Worryingly the figures showed that views were stronger among younger people, with 74% of 18-34 year olds holding anti-semitic views, compared to 72% of respondents aged 50 plus. 

Of course, Egypt's history of hatred towards the Jewish population is not a new concept. During the 1950s Gamal Abdel Nasser, regarded by many Egyptians as the country's greatest leader, chose to issue a decree forcing the country's one-time sizable Jewish community into exile. In 1922 there were up to 80,000 Jews in Egypt - today there are less than 50.

The decree followed the Israeli invasion during the Suez canal crisis in 1956. Nasser's dislike for the Jews peaked when the military strongman suffered a crippling defeat during the six-day war against Israel, which many argue marked the end of Nasser's political career.

However Nasser wasn't alone in his distaste for 'God's chosen people'. Nasser's successor Anwar Sadat had also engaged in espionage in collaboration with the Nazis during World War II.

At the other end of the political spectrum, Hassan al-Banna's Muslim Brotherhood was also flying the flag for anti-Jewish hate. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Ismailia in 1928 by al-Banna, who admired Adolf Hitler's hatred of the Jews and persistently wrote to Hitler to express his admiration for the dictator, as well as his desire for collaboration with Hitler's Nazi Party.

In return Hitler provided funding to the Muslim Brotherhood, which by 1938 had become the Fuhrer's ally in the Middle East. By 1938, the membership of Muslim Brotherhood topped 200,000.

These early cornerstones in the group's formation are still visible at Muslim Brotherhood marches and protests held by the pro-Morsi 'National Alliance to Support Legitimacy' to this very day. While some political commentators may argue that the group is merely anti-Zionist or anti-Israel, a quick glance at some of the placards proudly held by protesters lifts the veneer - to expose the rabid anti-semitism lurking beneath.

In 2012 former president Mohamed Morsi himself attended a religious sermon given by hate preacher Imam Fatouh Abdul Nabi. During the Islamic service the Imam delivered a hate-filled sermon. He said: “Our God, grant us vic­tory over the infi­dels… Our God, deal harshly with the Jews and those who are allied with them… Our God, our God, deal harshly with the Jews and those who are allied with them… Our God, frighten their masses… Our God, dis­perse their union… Our God, show us your strength over them, your great­ness over them… Our God, reveal to us your wrath over them, you are the Lord of creatures.”

In 2013, a video emerged of the former president engaging in a vile anti semetic rant. During the clip he says: “We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews.” Egyptian children “must feed on hatred; hatred must continue,” he said. “The hatred must go on for God and as a form of worshiping him."

Despite the fall of the the Muslim Brotherhood - their legacy of anti-Jewish hatred lives on. In the run-up to this year's Presidential campaign veteran Egyptian actress Soheir al-Babli said, “Egyptians need a man as strong as Hitler to punish citizens for any violations they commit.”

On Cairo's streets, one has only ask the average Egyptian about the reasons behind their support for the German national side in competitions such as the World Cup to find out that the affiliation has little to do with a burning desire to support Germany, rather a strong dislike of the international Jewry. 

Meanwhile one doesn't have to look far to find a wall daubed with Muslim Brotherhood graffiti featuring a Star of David coupled with the word 'CC' amid false claims that the president hails from Jewish ancestry. 

Despite global efforts to tackle problem of anti-Jewish hate around the world, the stench of anti-semitism is never far from everyday Egyptian life. As world leaders battle to put an end to the bloody conflict between Israel and Palestine, it remains to be seen how long it will take the Egyptian populace to end the discrimination, differentiate between the Zionist state and the Jewish people and finally put the fear and prejudices of the past to rest for good.