July 21, 2007

Books: Magdi Allam

From European Jewish Press:

Magdi Allam, deputy chief Editor of Italy's most influential daily Il Corriere della Sera, has once again shocked his readership with his seventh book, "Magdi Allam".

The subtitle of the book reads "From the ideology of death to the civilization of life: my story."

Egyptian-born Allam was raised as a Muslim and attended the Italian school of Cairo. In Italy since 1972, Allam believes that "Israel - along with Pope Benedict XVI - represents the residual hope for Western civilization, which, more than other civilizations, embodies the sacredness of life and personal freedom".

"Long Live Israel" is the tale of his life ever since his youth under the republican regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser.

According to Allam, Nasser is responsible for having turned Egypt - and the rest of the Arab world- into the cradle of the "ideology of death". By "breaking the romance" with the Western World as a means to become the leader of the Arab Nation, Nasser brought about an aggressive pan-Arabic dream based on the denial of Israel's right to exist.

This, according to Allam, caused Egypt's transformation from a cosmopolitan tolerant country to an anti-Zionist intolerant nation.

This need for the destruction of Israel is the dominant theme that, Allam states, made death and destruction the core values of a once liberal Islamic culture.

When the Pan-Arabic illusion declined, the Pan-Islamic chimera adopted these nihilistic values and this new concept of martyrdom created the "nihilism that deprived us of our primary value, the sacredness of life".

Due to his acquaintance with an Austrian Jewish girl living in Egypt, a 15 year-old Allam was arrested with the accusation of being a Zionist spy. The long hour he spent in a cell before his mother rescued him made the writer realize that he was an outsider in an authoritarian society.

"Starting in 1967, the inversely proportional relationship between collective hatred for Israel and individual freedom in Arab and Muslim countries was confirmed".

An active supporter of the Palestinian cause in his first Italian years, Allam then thought of Israel as a racist and aggressive State "invented by the Western world as some kind of compensation for the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust".

Years later, his interest in the history of Zionism and an encounter with Arafat brought him to realize that "Arafat was responsible for Palestinian terrorism" and that "the predication of the ideology of death eventually hit and harmed the Palestinians themselves".

"It has been thanks to my personal acquaintance with Arafat that I managed to get rid of my anti-Israeli prejudice and to understand the irresistible force of sacredness of life as a value," he writes.

Allam also slams the violent calls for the killing of the Jews that "moderate" Arabic regimes and theological schools have been spreading in the Muslim world in the last 60 years. At the same time, he reports on the growth of illiteracy and the anti-Semitic brainwash in the Arab League countries.

Today an Italian citizen, Allam has been living under security escort ever since he began to denounce the heavy infiltration of Islamic fundamentalism in Italian mosques, an event described in the book.

The continuous combination of personal stories (from his aunts' Sixties looks in Cairo to his life in Italy) and of a historical perspective that covers more than 50 years of Middle East history make this book particularly pleasant.