Egypt, Arabia, et. al. v. the Jews

Surprisingly, Dr. Hilmi and his legal eagles will actually be able to depend on existing boilerplate for most of their affidavits.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

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According to a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the August 9, 2003, edition of the Egyptian weekly al-Ahram al-Arabi includes an interview with Dr. Nabil Hilmi, the Dean of the Law Faculty at al-Zaqaziq University. Dr. Hilmi claims that he and a group of Switzerland-based Egyptian expatriates, the weekly reports, are preparing a suit to be filed against ?all the Jews? for property taken from the Egyptians at the time of the Biblical Exodus from Pharaonic Egypt. He estimates the value of the suit to be ?very large?, at least 1.125 trillion tons of gold (based on a low, but still shari?a-forbidden, 5% annual interest rate).

Dr. Hilmi?s source, he says, is the Bible itself. Exodus 12:33-36 records that the Children of Israel left Egypt after having ?borrowed? gold, silver and garments from the Egyptian people; as is written, ?so they emptied Egypt.? According to the al-Ahram al-Arabi interview, Hilmi was inspired to draw up the case by the fact that ?the Jews make various demands of the Arabs and the world, and claim rights that they base on historical and religious sources....?

However, the law school dean was faced with an acute religious conundrum, since Islamic sources claim to venerate the Biblical prophets Moses and Aaron, as well. Only a proper ?police investigation? could clear up the confusion. As Hilmi told the al-Ahram al-Arabi interviewer: ?A police investigation revealed that Moses and Aaron, peace be upon them, understood that it was impossible to live in Egypt, despite its pleasures and even though the Egyptians included them in every activity, due to the Jews' perverse nature....? Despite their good intentions - ridding Egypt of ?perverse? Jews - circumstantial evidence still points to the prophets as the suspects in the Great Egyptian Gold Heist. However, the Egyptian scholar informs us, the police eventually uncovered the true villain: ?[A]n order was issued by the Jewish rabbis to flee the country, and that the exodus should be secret and under cover of darkness and with the largest possible amount of loot. The code word was ?At midnight?. In addition, the Jewish women were told to steal the gold and cooking utensils of the Egyptian women, and that is what happened.?

Surprisingly, Dr. Hilmi and his legal eagles will actually be able to depend on existing boilerplate for most of their affidavits. In 1986, it was reported in the Israeli press that a group of Egyptians had claimed that Israel owes them a debt of about 40 billion US dollars for the Exodus-period plundered gold. An Egyptian expert in the history of ancient Egypt investigated the matter, and told the local daily al-Gomhouriyah that ?The Israelites robbed the Egyptians of their riches and used them to fashion the golden calf. In our opinion, a debt is a debt. The State of Israel is therefore obliged to pay it to the Egyptian treasury today, albeit without interest, as Islam forbids us to collect interest.? He backed up his claim with a further quasi-legal appeal to inherited debts: ?The Jews should not forget that which is stated in their Torah, that ?the sins of the fathers will be visited upon their children?,? the scholar noted.

Israel Radio?s Arabic-language program issued a counter-challenge to the Egyptian scholar interviewed for al-Gomhouriyah. Pointing out that the Children of Israel worked for the Egyptians as slaves for a period of 280 years, the Voice of Israel commentator said, ?kindly calculate the wages which the Egyptians owe the Jews, plus the amount owed them for withholding their wages for over 3,000 years. When you finish your exact calculation, please appeal to your government to return us the change.?

Even in 1986, however, this was an ancient story. The Talmud, in tractate Sanhedrin records: ?The Egyptians once again came to debate with the Jews before Alexander the Great. They said to him, ?Behold! Their Torah says that G-d let the Jews find favor in the Egyptians? eyes and they lent them [gold and silver utensils]. Give us back the gold and silver which you took from us.?? A simple Jew named Geviha ben-Pesisa, records the Talmud, asked the sages leave to respond before the court of Alexander. In this way, he said, his defeat will be the fault of his ignorance and his success will be credited to the Torah alone.

Receiving permission, Geviha asked the Egyptians, ?Where does your proof come from??

?From the Torah,? the Egyptian delegates replied.

The Talmud continues: ?He then told them, ?I shall also bring you proof only from the Torah. The Torah says that ?the Children of Israel dwelled in Egypt 430 years.? Give us the wages owed the 600,000 men whom you enslaved in Egypt for 430 years.??

According to the Talmud, the Egyptians then asked for three days to prepare their reply. The left, never to return.

Another legal case in which the ?unlearned? Geviha ben-Pesisa represented the Jews is also detailed in the same Talmudic tractate: ?[T]he descendant of Yishmael [the Arabs] came to court before Alexander the Great. They said before him, ?The land of Canaan is ours and yours (referring to the Jews)...? Geviha ben-Pesisa said... ?You bring proof from the Torah, I will also bring proof from the Torah. It is written, ?Avraham gave all he had to Yitzchak, and he gave gifts to the children of the concubines....? (and
not to Yishmael).??

Interestingly, the Ishmaelites did not submit their claim until they saw that the Egyptians had failed to prove theirs. The reason for this is that the Ishmaelites initially supposed that the Jews were granted the Land of Israel in exchange for their having suffered a ?holocaust? under Pharaoh. However, once they saw that, essentially, the Jewish people had received other compensation for their servitude in Egypt (gold and silver), the Ishmaelites claimed equal rights to the Land of Israel. (With thanks to Kollel Iyun HaDaf of Har Nof, Jerusalem.) Thus, if ?the Jews? do win the suit currently being prepared in Egypt by Dr. Nabil Hilmi, the al-Zaqaziq University law professor, then I suspect we will find ourselves facing a class-action suit submitted by ?the descendants of Ishmael?.

Still, the new information regarding the Jews that Dr. Hilmi said was recently uncovered by the police may just produce a better outcome for Egypt this time.

Now, if only those police would turn their impressive investigative skills towards uncovering the identity of those very mysterious people smuggling explosives, weapons and ammunition from Egypt into Palestinian Authority-controlled Gaza.