Mohamed Ali Eltaher



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In March 1912 Eltaher arrived in Port Said from Jaffa for the first time in a fisherman’s boat. Egypt was then ruled by Khedive (i.e. Vice-Roy) Abbas Helmi II7.

Because of his early nationalist activities especially following the occupation of Palestine during World War I by the British after it was captured from the Ottomans, he was imprisoned on September 15, 1915 by Egyptian authorities, acting on behalf of the British, who were the de facto rulers of the country. He was first imprisoned in Alexandria, then at Giza near Cairo. He was released from prison in 1917 and kept on living in Egypt. His objective was to expose Greater Syria’s grievances, following its dismemberment by Britain and France into several countries they divided among themselves according to the Sykes-Picot Agreement secretly drawn during the war. In particular, he wanted to forewarn the Arabs, following the uncovering of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, of Britain’s intention to hand over Palestine to the European Zionist Movement to turn it into a Jewish National Home.

Eltaher relied on his pen and his writing skills to conduct his struggle in Egypt. After all, his writings were known in the Levant, as he used to contribute articles he wrote from Jaffa to several newspapers in Damascus and Beirut during his early youth in Palestine. In 1914, several years before the existence of the Balfour Declaration became known, a Beirut newspaper called “Fata Al-Arab” (Arab Youth) published an article he had written in which he warned about the creation of a National Home for the Jews in Palestine8. He specifically foresaw that the new entity would be called Israel. Eltaher kept publishing articles covering the situation in Palestine under British military rule, and some of his articles were published in Cairo newspapers. Ironically, in those years of British colonial rule, politely referred to as ‘protectorate’, Egypt enjoyed a good deal of freedom of speech due to the multicultural and multi-ethnic composition of the country and its opening to the world.

In order for him to make ends meet at the beginning of his residence in Egypt, Eltaher opened a small shop in the Al-Hussein neighbourhood of Cairo close to the famous Al-Azhar mosque. He sold olive oil which he imported from his native town Nablus, a well-known production centre for olive oil. Soon enough, the small store became a meeting point for Egyptian nationalists and their counterparts who had sought refuge in Egypt from various parts of the Arab and Islamic worlds, which were occupied by various European colonial powers.

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