Columnist Ahmad al-Gamal of Egypt’s Al-Yawm Al-Sabi daily has proposed his country sue numerous countries for damages – both physical and psychological – inflicted over the past several millennia. Notably, he wants to sue Turkey for the abuses of the Ottoman Empire, France for Napoleon’s invasion, Britain for its 72-year occupation and Israel for causing the Biblical plagues.
Media watchdog Middle East Media Research Institute first noted the March 11, 2014 column. In the column, al-Gamal demands compensation for the “backwardness” imposed on his country by Turkey. He accused the Ottoman Empire of plundering the country of its precious resources, as well as its human capital, conscripting both to the Empire’s own needs and plunging the country into intellectual darkness at a time when the rest of the world was experiencing development.
He likewise charged modern Britain with similar misdeeds, saying it “took part in preventing [Egypt] from realizing the fruits of its stupendous victory” against Israel in 1956, 1967 and 1973.
He added, “We want compensation for 72 years of British occupation that imposed backwardness and dependency upon us, stole the resources of our country, drove a wedge between the sons of the homeland and turned [the members of] one social stratum into [British] agents who took no pity on the Egyptian poor…” He traced the roots of this injustice to Napoleon’s 1798 invasion, and added France to the list of responsible countries.
Most startling, however, were the allegations leveled at Israel, or more to the point, their Biblical origins. Al-Gamal quoted the Hebrew Bible in asserting the country should repay Egypt for the harm caused by the plagues, as well as the theft of precious commodities used to build the Tabernacle in the desert.
He claims the Bible’s collective punishment of the Egyptian people was uncalled for, as it was Pharaoh himself alone who was responsible for the suffering of the Israelites. He does not afford the French the same assumption regarding Napoleon’s decisions, though.
“We want compensation for the [Ten] Plagues that were inflicted upon [us] as a result of the curses that the Jews’ ancient forefathers [cast] upon our ancient forefathers, who did not deserve to pay for the mistake that Egypt’s ruler at the time, Pharaoh as the Torah calls him, committed. For what is written in the Torah proves that it was Pharaoh who oppressed the Children of Israel, rather than the Egyptian people. [But] they inflicted upon us the plague of locusts that didn’t leave anything behind them; the plague that transformed the Nile’s waters into blood, so nobody could drink of them for a long time; the plague of darkness that kept the world dark day and night; the plague of frogs; and the plague of the killing of the firstborn, namely every first offspring born to woman or beast, and so on.
“We want compensation for the gold, silver, copper, precious stones, fabrics, hides and lumber, and for [all] animal meat, hair, hides and wool, and for other materials that I will mention [below], when quoting the language of the Torah. All these are materials that the Jews used in their rituals. These are resources that cannot be found among desert wanderers unless they took them before their departure…”
He went on to reference specific Biblical passages. “The stories of the Holy Scriptures state that the Israelites set off from the [Nile] valley at night and went to the Sinai Peninsula. This is known to be a desert, where there is no use for large quantities of gold, silver, precious stones, meats, oils, fabrics and the like. Therefore it is clear that the Israelites took all these things from Egypt before they left.
Chapter 25 of Exodus, on the [Israelites’] departure [from Egypt], states: ‘The Lord said to Moses: Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering… These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. Have them make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other [Exodus 25:1-12]’…
“[Exodus 38:24 states]: ‘The total amount of the gold from the wave offering used for all the work on the sanctuary was 29 talents and 730 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel…’
“I call upon everyone with an interest in Torah studies to instruct us on a scientific basis what is the [precise] meaning of the word ‘talent.’ How many grams is it currently worth, what was the weight of the sheqel during those days, especially as it was made out of solid pure gold and pure silver…”