The Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) Center for Law and Justice recently filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in support of the claims of an Egyptian Jewish family against the Coca-Cola Company and its subsidiary. The property of Raphael, Ferial and Bahia Bigio — a brother, sister and mother had been confiscated by the Egyptian government in the 1960’s, and Coca-Cola purchased it in or about 1993, knowing full well that it had been unlawfully seized from the Bigios because they were Jewish.
The Bigios owned land and factories in Egypt since 1932, where they produced bottle caps, trays and coolers. Coca-Cola was one of their customers from 1938 until 1962, when the Egyptian government confiscated and nationalized the Bigios’ property because they were Jewish. For the next three decades, the Egyptian government continued to run the factories, and Coca-Cola remained a customer, paying Egypt for products that rightfully belonged to the Bigios. Deprived of their property, the Bigio family left Egypt in 1965. Before the sale of the property to Coca-Cola was completed, the Bigios reminded Coca-Cola in writing that they were the rightful owners and were entitled to be fairly compensated. Coca-Cola went ahead with the purchase without compensating the Bigios.
The trial judge dismissed the Bigios’ lawsuit against Coca-Cola, deciding that though the New York court had jurisdiction over the case, it was more appropriate for the family’s claims to be resolved by a court in Egypt. The Bigios appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, where the ZOA filed its brief in support of the Bigios. The focus of the brief is that the Bigios’ claims could not be decided fairly and impartially in Egypt and should be decided by an American court.
The ZOA showed in its brief that a hatred of Jews is deeply ingrained in Egyptian society. Although there was once a large and thriving Jewish community in Egypt dating back to Biblical times, only a relative handful of Jews remain in Egypt today because of the systematic discrimination, persecution and expulsion the Egyptian Jewish people faced, which forced most of them to leave their homes, their livelihoods and their communities. The ZOA chronicled the long history of anti-Semitism in Egypt, and showed how even the government-sponsored media gives voice to vicious depictions of Jews — through anti-Jewish articles, cartoons and caricatures that are plainly intended to incite hatred and foster prejudice.
For example, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion — the infamous anti-Semitic forgery that claims that Jews seek world domination — has become a bestseller in Egypt. A 30-part series based on The Protocols was broadcast on mainstream Egyptian television, portraying the hateful document as historical fact and a dominant part of Israeli policy. Holocaust denial is rampant in the Egyptian media. And a song called “I Hate Israel” was a hit in Egypt.
The ZOA contended that the hatred of Jews is so embedded in Egyptian society that the Bigios could not realistically be expected to obtain a fair trial in an Egyptian court. The ZOA urged the Court of Appeals to reverse the trial court’s decision and permit the case to proceed in an American court where the Bigios can expect a fair trial and where Coca-Cola, an American company, will have to answer for its conduct.
The American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (AAJLJ) indicated its full support of the ZOA’s position, which is reflected in the ZOA’s brief. The AAJLJ is a membership association of lawyers and jurists open to all members of the professions regardless of religion. It is affiliated with the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, which is based in Israel and was founded by the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and the late Israeli Supreme Court Justice Haim Cohen.