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An estimated 65,000 Jews have left Egypt since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, most of them to Europe and the West, with a small portion settling in Israel.

Their departure was fueled by rising nationalist sentiment during the Arab-Israeli wars, harassment and some direct expulsions by then-President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, and attacks on Jewish properties, some of them blamed on the Brotherhood, which renounced violence in the 1970s.

Now only a handful of Jews, mostly elderly, remain in Egypt, along with a few heavily guarded synagogues, open only to Jews.

Mr. el-Erian, who is also deputy of the Brotherhood’s political party, made his comments on a late-night talk show on the private station Dream TV.

“I wish our Jews return to our country, so they can make room for the Palestinians to return, and Jews return to their homeland in light of the democracy” evolving in Egypt, he said. “I call on them now. Egypt is more deserving of you.”

“Why stay in a racist entity, an occupation, and be tainted with war crimes that will be punished, all occupation leaders will be punished,” he said, adding that the Zionist “project” will end.

Questions abound

The comments didn’t make much of an impact in Israel, and there was no official comment about them and little discussion of them in the press.

In contrast, they raised widespread ridicule and debate in Egypt on TV shows, newspapers and social websites.

Belal Fadl, a popular Egyptian columnist and satirical writer, said the comments were hypocritical, given other Brotherhood officials’ statements accusing Egypt’s Christians of threatening Mr. Morsi’s legitimacy as president, fueling anger against the minority community.

“How can we believe the tolerance of el-Erian amid all the sectarian statements by leaders of the groups and other sheiks that all seek to chase away Egypt’s Christians in the footsteps of the Jews,” Mr. Fadl wrote in the daily newspaper al-Shorouk.

Youssef el-Husseini, a prominent TV commentator known for his liberal views and harsh criticism of Mr. Morsi and the Brotherhood, said Mr. el-Erian was showing a fake tolerance for Jews to impress Israel and the United States — setting aside the anti-Israel parts of his statement.

Mr. el-Husseini said that, if a liberal had made the comments, he would be branded a traitor and would be accused of inviting Zionists back to Egypt.

“Is el-Erian flirting with the Zionist state to say we are fine and you are friends,” Mr. el-Husseini said on a Sunday-morning talk show. “Or is he flirting with Obama [because of U.S. aid to Egypt]? Is the group taking their political garb bit by bit?”