An op-ed written by an Egyptian professor of Jewish studies claimed that the Book of Esther was a fictitious account applied to a pagan festival and used by modern Zionists to justify murdering their enemies and their descendants in any deceitful; manner possible. The professor claimed that this tactic has been used by Jews throughout history to wreak vengeance on any non-Jew who earns their disfavor.
On Sunday, Al Araby UK, a pan-Arab news website headquartered in London, published an Arabic language editorial titled “About Purim: A myth in the service of politics” written by Ahmed Elgendy, a professor of Jewish and Zionist studies at Cairo University.
The article begins with a technical explanation of the Jewish holiday. While being mostly factually correct, the author makes the erroneous claim that in a leap year containing two months of Adar, the holiday is celebrated twice. In such a year, the Purim holiday is, in fact, celebrated in the second month.
Professor Elgendy goes on to say that the Jewish holiday is based on “a story from the world of imagination, which was created by an ancient Jewish writer, and later included by Jewish scholars in the books of the Old Testament” After a summary of the Book of Esther in which the Jewish heroine is compared to “Cinderella”, the professor noted, “the name of the king [Ahasuerus ] was the only thing that carries historical value in the story”.
The professor explained that the Jews of Persia overcame their enemies, summarizing the outcome in an antisemitic trope, saying it “appeared as if the Jews had ruled in all the kingdom, including the king himself.”
Prof. Elgendy explained that the story of Purim was replete with paradoxes. Haman tells the king how to honor his nemesis, Mordechai. Haman is ultimately hung on the gallows built for Mordechai on the date he had chosen for the annihilation of the Jews. Haman’s wealth was transferred to Mordechai when Haman had intended to seize the wealth of the Jews.
“All these paradoxes seem to have been embodied in our modern era in Zionist thought,” Prof. Elgendy wrote.
He went on to discuss the origins of the holiday, claiming that the Purim festival described in the Jewish Bible was, in fact, based on an account by the Greek historian Herodotus of a celebration by the Persians after they expelled the Magi who took over the rule of Persia after the death of King Cambyses, who ruled between 530-522 BCE. Prof. Elgendy noted that like the ancient Persian celebration, the Jewish celebration in Shushan came in the wake of a massacre.
Prof. Elgendy suggested that the Jewish holiday of Purim was actually incorporated into Judaism in the third century BCE, mimicking a Hellenistic feast that the Greeks celebrated when opening new bottles of wine which was later adopted by the Romans in a feast called Vinalia. Like the Jewish holiday, these pagan feasts included exchanging gifts.
Prof. Elgendy suggested that the pagan roots of Purim were revealed in the names Mordechai and Esther which he states were derived from the names of the Babylonian pagan Gods, Marduk and Ishtar.
While Prof. Elgendy’s analysis shows a familiarity with the Jewish sources, his conclusions show a clear anti-Israel agenda.
“All these hypotheses are just theories, and no one has the ability to give the possibility of validating one of them over the other,” the professor summarized. “However, it reflects an approach that almost reaches the point of certainty that the whole story of Esther is nothing but a legend produced for a purpose that serves political goals, and that the feast includes forms of pagan celebration without knowing its source, background, or even its time, and that this feast is not a religious feast.”
He referred to a post by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs describing Purim as “the victory of the Jewish people over anti-Semitic tyranny”. He refuted this, claiming that the term ‘antisemitism’ was coined in the 19th century, hundreds of years after Haman was purported by the Jewish bible to have lived.
“There is clear evidence that Purim is not a religious holiday,” he added. “The story in the Book of Esther is completely devoid of mentioning the name of the Lord, and the celebration of the holiday is also devoid of any religious rituals. There is no mention of offerings or prayers, except for what some people are accustomed to reading the Book of Esther on This holiday. And if we add to that the practices that the holiday is associated with, we will have a feast that is completely different from the nature of other Jewish holidays.”
“The whole story of Purim, it seems, came in order to notify the Jews everywhere that they are in imminent and permanent danger, and that they are blameless except for the crime of being different” Prof. Elgendy concluded. “The liberation of the Jews from this danger is justified even if it is by trickery, cunning, and deceit, after which they must take revenge on their enemies and their descendants, even if they are innocent, just as long as [the Jews] are in a position of strength.”