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Report: Arab Anti-Semitism 1998

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Anti-Semitism in Arab Countries 1998

 This is one of a series of reports prepared by the Stephen Roth Institute relating to Arab Anti-Semitism.

The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel was marked in
Arab countries, and especially in the Palestinian National Authority (PA), by
the commemoration of what is perceived in Palestinian historiography as a
parallel event in Palestinian history known as the
nakba (catastrophe). Concomitantly,
a debate was triggered in Arab newspapers on the significance
and meaning of the
nakba in the process of Palestinian nation building,
leading to a conscious attempt at memory building and history reconstruction.
The
nakba, epitomizing Palestinian suffering, was forged in the Arab
public discourse in contrast to the Holocaust, the embodiment of Jewish
suffering. The debate was thus more introspective, especially among
Palestinians, dealing with the Palestinian past and future, and with attacks
on Israel and Zionist history notably absent.
Nevertheless, Arab publications continued to feature anti-Semitic themes
and to discuss the issue of anti-Semitism in response to Israeli governmental
reports surveying manifestations of anti-Semitism in the Egyptian and
Palestinian media. Although no major events, such as the Qana incident (see
ASW 1996/ 7) or the pig leaflet incident (see ASW 1997/ 8), occurred in 1998,
other political events, such as the Monica Lewinsky affair, the Iraqi crisis and
the appointment of a Jew as the American ambassador to Egypt, provided
pretexts for anti-Semitic expressions.
The major issue which seemed to increasingly occupy the Arab discourse,
however, was the Holocaust. This was partly a continuation of earlier debates
begun in 1996 and 1997, either over Roger Garaudy's book
The Founding
Myths of Israeli Politics, or over ideas expressed by intellectuals and writers
such as Columbia University Professor Edward Said. In 1998 three events
intensified these debates: the proposed visit of Palestinian Authority (PA)
Chairman Yasir 'Arafat to the Holocaust Museum in Washington in January;
the opening of Roger Garaudy's trial in France in January; and the historical
Vatican declaration of 16 March. All these expanded the discussion and
seemed to bring about, with regard to the
nakba, a closer examination of
traditional Arab attitudes toward the Holocaust (see
Rethinking the
Holocaust, in this volume).
 

This chapter is divided into four sections:
- General Analysis
- Traditional Anti-Semitic Themes
- The Conspiracy Theory as Manifested in Political Events
- The Struggle against Anti-Semitism and the Arab Reaction
 

GENERAL ANALYSIS

While anti-Semitic manifestations in the Arab media did not decrease in 1998,
increasingly they became part of a broader debate on contemporary Arab
thought and attitudes toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, Zionism, Judaism and
the Holocaust. Parallel to the body of traditional discourse on these issues,
wholly adopted by Islamists, voices criticizing the stagnation of the Arab
mind due to the adoption of obstructionist beliefs and prejudices have been
emerging. Alongside traditional themes, which present the Jews as the
enemies of Islam, an inherently negative and conspiratorial force scheming
to control the world, there is a growing trend among some Arab intellectuals
and writers to totally refute these notions as sheer nonsense, detrimental first
and foremost to the Arab cause and to Arab understanding of social and
political realities. Although far from being equal in weight and impact, these
two contending approaches are evident throughout this chapter, demonstrating
the complexity and diversity of Arab discourse on Zionism, Jews and
other related issues.
Two themes are integral to the traditional Arab discourse. The first, differentiating
between Zionism and Judaism, is discussed in the General Analysis.
The second focuses on jihad against the Jews and Crusaders.
 

Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders

Enmity toward the Jews emanating from the Arab-Israeli conflict and the
continued occupation of Palestine, which was translated into violent attacks
against Jewish targets worldwide, such as the bombing of the AMIA building
in Buenos Aires (see ASW 1994), threatened to explode again. Information
on intentions to strike at Jewish targets in Latin American states was revealed
by an Iranian diplomat interrogated by the Argentinean authorities on Iran's
involvement in the bombings of the AMIA building and the Israeli embassy
in Argentina in 1992 (Yediot Aharonot, 25, 29 Jan.).
On 23 February the World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and
the Crusaders (al-jabha al-islamiyya al-' alamiyya li-jihad al-yahud wal-salibiyyun)
-- an organization comprising several Islamist movements such
as the Egyptian Jihad and Jama'a Islamiyya, the Pakistani Jama'at-i al-'Ulama
and the Bangladeshi Jihad group, headed by Saudi exile opposition leader
Usama bin Ladin -- issued a declaration "of jihad against the Jews and the
Crusaders." The declaration included a fatwa (religious edict) by Usama bin
Ladin, the unchallenged spiritual and operational leader of this Islamist front.
He ruled that "to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military
-- is the individual duty of every Muslim who can do it, in any country in
which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the Aqsa Mosque and the
Holy Mosque [Mecca] from their grip" (al-Quds al-' Arabi, 23 Feb.; al-Hayat,
24 Feb. See also Bernard Lewis, "License to Kill," Foreign Affairs 6,
Nov.-Dec., pp. 9- 14). After the attacks on the American embassies in Kenya
and Tanzania in August the World Islamic Front renewed its threats and in
one of its statements it defined the war with the Americans and the Jews as
"a life-or-death battle" (al-Hayat, 19 Aug.; Reuters, 19 Aug. -- Infoseek news
channel). Bin Ladin reiterated his call to Muslims to fight the Jews and the
Crusaders, especially the Americans and the British, in an interview held
with him at the end of the year (Reuters, 25 Dec. -- Infoseek; Time, 11 Jan.
1999).
The military wing of Hamas, the 'Izz al-Din al-Qassam battalions, issued
a statement at the beginning of April inciting Arabs and Muslims to strike at
"Jews and Zionists" all over the world. The organization claimed that it had
prepared a plan to avenge the killing of Muhyi al-Din Sharif (a member of
the group killed in his car on 29 March) by "the Zionist enemy" (al-Hayat,
9 April). Hamas maintained in the past that it had refrained from acting
against Jewish targets worldwide. Nevertheless, its leader Shaykh Ahmad
Yasin pledged on several occasions to continue the holy war against the
Israeli occupation (al-Sha' b, 28 April; New York Times, 28 Dec.).
In an article entitled "Come to Jihad," Fahd al-Rimawi, the editor of the
Jordanian leftist paper al-Majd, called on the Arab and Muslim public to
follow the example of Hizballah, which refused to acknowledge "the
enemy's superiority" and European and American mediation, and to rebel
against their governments, which had surrendered themselves to the peace
process and to normalization (al-Majd, 3 Aug.). Al-Rimawi was reportedly
due to stand trial for his article (Ha'aretz, 6 Sept.) but there was no further
information of proceedings against him. A discussion in Jordan over the sale
of lands to Jews was unanimously concluded with the deeming of such an
act as treason and a religious and national crime, deserving a death sentence
(al-Sabil, 13 Jan.).
A similar call for jihad was made by an Egyptian cleric, Wagdi Ghunayim,
at a conference held in Brooklyn College on the 50th anniversary of the
creation of the State of Israel. He incited his audience against Israel for 50
years of occupation of Palestine and against the Jews, the killers of the
prophets who will never cease to hate the Muslims (Forward, 7 Aug.).
Although these calls did not lead to a new wave of violence against
Jewish targets during 1998, a few isolated incidents against Jews in Muslim
countries did occur. Yet, there is no evidence to prove their connection to
these specific calls or to establish the existence of anti-Semitic motives
behind them. On 2 March a Jewish moneylender was murdered in Fez,
Morocco. On 21 and 22 August a synagogue in Casablanca was broken into
and vandalized. Several items were stolen. In June a well-established Iranian
Jew was executed by the authorities without any explanation. His brother,
who lives in Los Angeles, claimed that he was executed solely because he
was Jewish (Yediot Aharonot, 7 June). On 4 October, two Jews and two
Muslims were shot dead by a Palestinian in a synagogue located in a
Baghdad community center. The Palestinian, 'Abd al-Hadi al-Sharqawi, when
arrested by the Iraqi security authorities, reportedly claimed that he had
avenged his parents' death in Lebanon (Yediot Aharonot, Ha'aretz,
Jerusalem Post,
6 Oct.).
 

TRADITIONAL ANTI-SEMITIC THEMES

The stereotyping of Jews and Israelis in the Arab press centers on three
major themes:
- negative Jewish traits and the inherent enmity of the Jews toward Islam;
- the racist Nazi character of Zionism;
- Jewish power and conspiracy.
The trend to find evidence in the Qur'an and in Islamic tradition for the
negative portrayal of Jews is more typical of Islamist writing, whereas
mainstream papers tend to concentrate on conspiracy theories.
 

Negative Jewish Traits and the Inherent Enmity of the Jews toward Islam


Islamist papers such as Jordan's al-Sabil and al-Liwa', Lebanon's al-' Ahd and
al-Shira' and Egypt's al-Sha' b incessantly harp on this theme. The Jews are
depicted as the real enemies of Islam, the killers of prophets and plotters
against the Prophet Muhammad, who therefore launched a holy war against
them, which should be continued until the Day of Judgment. This serves as
a basis for perceiving the Arab-Israeli conflict as an irreconcilable war of
conviction between Muslims and Jews (see, for instance, al-Shira', 2 Feb.;
al-Sha' b, 21 April, 9 June; al-Sabil, 2, 16 June; al-Liwa', 6 July; 16 Sept.).
Arguing against the meeting of Shaykh al-Azhar Muhammad al-Tantawi
with Israeli Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau in December 1997, Ibrahim al-Khuli
repeated what he considered as incontestable certainties:
- The Jews have been the worst enemy of the Muslim umma from the past
to the present and they will continue to be an enemy regardless of the
Muslim attitude toward them;
- The return of Palestine, all Palestine, and its complete liberation is a
personal duty incumbent on every member of the umma;
- A state of war prevails between the umma and the Jews, notwithstanding
the agreements signed so far (al-Sha' b, 16 Jan.).
Libyan leader Mu' ammar al-Qadhdhafi used this theme in a Friday
sermon while on a visit to Chad in May, accusing the Jews and Christians of
hating Muslims and insulting the Prophet Muhammad (AP, 1 May --
Internet). For the third consecutive year, Hamas' monthly organ Filastin al-Muslima
continued to publish chapters from a series of articles entitled "This
Is How the Prophet Spoke of the Jews," in which the author, Ibrahim al-'Ali,
described their traits and their disagreements with the prophet (Filastin al-Muslima,
Jan.-Nov.).
A number of Arab mainstream papers also cited the scriptures, attributing
to the Jews arrogance, treachery, stinginess, war-mongering, deceit, corruption
and violation of agreements. On 20 March Egypt's al-Akhbar
published an article calling for the translation of the Talmud into Arabic in
order to better understand the character of the Jews (al-Akhbar, 13 Feb.).
The Egyptian weekly October repeatedly dealt with the origins of Jewish
wickedness and found it in the Torah, the Talmud and The Protocols of the
Elders of Zion.
Mustafa Mahmud claimed that "reading the Jewish sources
gives one the feeling that all plots against religions ... values and principles
... emanated from that heritage." Subsequently, he reviewed certain so-called
commandments to prove his case that the Jews were the destructive force
behind all evil, corruption and revolutions from time immemorial (October,
4 Oct.). Another article by Muhammad al-Tahlawi, published a week later,
followed a similar line to demonstrate that the Jews were by nature argumentative,
competitive and quarrelsome. Citing incidents from the Bible,
Tahlawi argued that they even quarreled with "God Almighty himself"
(October, 11 Oct.).
Prolific Egyptian writer Anis Mansur also addressed this theme and
contended that because of these traits the Jews had lived in ghettoes until
the establishment of the State of Israel, which became the biggest Jewish
ghetto in the Middle East and in the world (al-Ahram, 12 Oct.). In another
article, analyzing the political situation and Israeli protests against offensive
caricatures and statements in the Arab media, he wrote that the Jews
"confirm what has been said in the holy books, that they are cursed and that
they shall remain so" (al-Ahram, 29 Oct.).
In the Egyptian Gazette, Samir Ragab described the Jews as a stingy
people, with "an obsessive yen for possession" (23 Oct.). Nabil Omar
wondered, in an al-Ahram article, whether the basic characteristics of the
Jew, as they are known and documented in literature, have changed since
the establishment of the State of Israel. Are Netanyahu's traits, for instance,
when he deals with the Palestinians, Lebanese or Syrians different from those
of the moneylender in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice ? Referring to
several current episodes involving Jews, Omar concluded that basically not
much has changed (al-Ahram, 12 Dec.). According to an article, "The
Dossier of the Jews in Modern Egypt", reviewing a new book on the Jewish
community in Egypt by 'Arfa 'Abduh (for his previous book The Barons and
the Wretched,
see ASW 1997/ 8, pp. 184-5), the Jewish blood libel seems to
have been resurrected. The article quotes 'Abduh as saying that he wanted
to make Egyptians strongly aware of the fact that they were facing
"bloodthirsty killers," and that human sacrifice constituted a Jewish
ceremony and was not "a figment of imagination" (al-Sha' b, 1 Dec.).
Similar depictions could be found occasionally in Jordanian mainstream
papers such as al-' Arab al-Yawm (27 March; 7, 9 June) and al-Dustur
(6 Feb.). In one of its religious programs, Radio Damascus referred to the
roots of the negative Muslim attitude toward the Jews and inferred that all
Muslims should stand united before "the enemies of humanity and history"
in order to prevent a catastrophe to human race and culture (R. Damascus,
19 June).
Another recurring anti-Semitic motif was accusing Israel of spreading
diseases. The Palestinian Committee for Consumer Protection issued a warning
to Palestinians not to consume oil or milk distributed by Israel since they
were contaminated and caused cancer (Hatzofeh, 10 May). A Jordanian
Internet site revived the 1997 libel of the infection of 305 Palestinian children
with AIDS (see ASW 1997/ 8), and Egypt's Ruz al-Yusuf quoted an Arab
League report warning of imported plasma blood units manufactured by an
Australian company, but allegedly contaminated by Israel with viruses of
AIDS, hepatitis and bilharzia before they were sent to Arab and Third World
countries (Ruz al-Yusuf, 24 Aug.). A week earlier Ruz al-Yusuf warned of
imported Israeli chicken, which might cause malignant diseases (Ruz al-Yusuf,
18 Aug.).
 

The Racist Nazi Character of Zionism

Another theme with an apparent consensus in the Arab press is the
characterization of Zionism as racist and Nazi, and of Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians as Hitler. The weekly
Jordanian magazine Shihan, commenting on Ariel Sharon's statement about
Israel's determination to pursue the head of Hamas' political bureau
secretary Khalid Mash' al, not only described him as Hitler but photomontaged
his head on Hitler's body, standing with an entourage of army officers
(Shihan, 21 March; Yediot Aharonot, 29 March).
After the incident in March at the West Bank checkpoint of Tarqumiyya,
involving the death of three Palestinians and injury to six others, Jordan's
mainstream paper Jordan Times compared the behavior of Israeli soldiers
with the Nazi treatment of non-Aryan peoples (14 March). Al-' Arab al-Yawm
quoted an abstract of a lecture delivered at a symposium held on 13 May,
relating the racism allegedly existing in Israel to the Nazi ideology (al-'Arab
al-Yawm,
14 May). A similar analogy was made by the head of the
Palestinian Association for Human Rights in a radio interview (Voice of
Palestine, 13 March). Egyptian papers also attributed racism to Israel and
Israeli society (al-Ahram, 1 June; al-Akhbar, 16 June) and made numerous
comparisons between Netanyahu and Hitler. He was defined as "the Hitler
of the next century," "promoting hatred," "preparing crematoria" and "digging
canals of separation" (al-Jumhuriyya, 15 Feb.). This view was also
frequently depicted in caricatures (see, for instance, October, 1 Feb., 26 July;
al-Jumhuriyya, 18 Sept.).
Syrian papers and radio commentators stressed this theme on different
occasions. Al-Ba' th compared Israeli arrogance in its treatment of European
delegations to that of Nazi Germany (al-Ba' th, 19 March; see also al-Thawra,
20 Sept.). Radio Damascus (20 April) stated that Hitler was no more radical
or aggressive than Netanyahu. Even an article in the Moroccan opposition
paper L'Opinion (7 Jan.) pointed to the striking similarity between Zionism
and Nazism, and complained that the issue had been silenced.
 

Jewish Conspiracy and Power

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were published by the Jordanian daily al-
'Arab al-Yawm,
with an introduction by Muhammad Faruq al-Imam, who
explained the logic behind the publication and its importance for the
understanding of Zionism. The Protocols, he said, constituted Zionism's
ideological and strategic basis (al-' Arab al-Yawm, 16, 20 Jan.). References to
The Protocols, and to secret connections between Zionists and Freemasons
who aim to control the world, are frequent and serve to explain international
political developments (see, for instance, Egyptian weekly 'Alam al-Dimuqratiyya,
11 March).
The Jewish lobby, often depicted as an octopus, controls the American
administration and the international media (al-Hayat, 7 Jan.; al-Sha' b, 20
Feb., 20 March; al-Ahram, 5 March, 21 April) as well as the French media
and the political establishment in Europe, Russia and Turkey (Sawt al-Haq
wal-Hurriyya,
9 Jan.; al-Ahram, 24 Feb., 26 Sept.; al-Sha' b, 24 March; al-Riyadh,
1 April; al-Musawwar, 11 Sept.). Al-Hayat al-Jadida published an
article that explained the Jews' historic interest in controlling the media. The
Jews attach equal importance to economic strength. Through control of the
media they managed to influence European and American public opinion
and to change their traditional image, epitomized in the personality of
Shylock -- greedy, sly, wicked and spiteful (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 2 July).
"What is this hidden force which planted Israel, established it, protected
it, provided it with nuclear weapons and turned it into a state?" posed Salama
Ahmad Salama in a two-part editorial on the occasion of the 50th anniversary
of the State of Israel. While pondering the answer, he introduced a new book
by the notorious expert in Jewish affairs, 'Abd al-Wahhab al-Masiri, The
Hidden Hand of the Jews,
which deals with this issue. Many Arab scholars,
Salama wrote, were intrigued by this question and attributed to Jews an
extraordinary, all-prevailing force, especially in the decision-making centers.
Moreover, they claim that there is a Jewish conspiracy aimed at controlling
the world and realizing the Zionist-Jewish scheme. But while pointing to
actual plans, Masiri seems to criticize the "conspiratorial fantasies," which
monopolize and mislead the Arab mind (al-Ahram, 3 May). Although The
Protocols of the Elders of Zion
are forged, he says, they continue to serve as
a tool for interpreting Israeli policies and, in a way, also for justifying Arab
incapacity (al-Ahram, 4 May).
A host of Arab intellectuals criticized the frequent Arab use of conspiracy
theories, including the Zionist conspiracy, to explain social and
global phenomena. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a professor of Political Sociology
at the American University in Cairo and editor of the liberal monthly
magazine Civil Society, maintains that the time has come "to give up the
ghost." Specifically mentioning the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which was
widely presented in the Arab press as a Zionist conspiracy (see below),
he argued that such theories defy logic and can blatantly contradict one
another (" Intelligence: Time to Give Up the Ghost," Civil Society, May,
pp. 3-4).
'Aziz al-' Azma also refuted the conspiracy idea and dismissed it as a
mythical view of reality which threatens the bases of society and politics (al-Sabil,
13 Jan.). A similar attack was launched by Edward Said, who asserted
that history was a result of human deeds and not of a hidden force. He
expressed his confidence that a new kind of history could be constructed by
the Jews of Israel and the Arab people on the bases of integration and
mutual acceptance (al-Ayyam, 18 Feb.). In response to an article by Fakhr
Abu Saqr, quoted in a previous report (see ASW 1997/ 8, pp. 185-6),
Palestinian writer and researcher Hisham al-Dajani regretted the myths and
conspiracy theories prevalent among Arab intellectuals and deplored the
confusion between Judaism and Zionism. He attacked researchers such as
Egyptian 'Abd al-Wahhab al-Masiri for lending a contemporary interpretation
to biblical issues, not realizing that Zionism was a "fabricated" modern
political movement that Britain would have invented if it did not already
exist. He discerned two trends typifying the attitudes of Arab intellectuals
toward Judaism, Jews and Zionism -- minimization and exaggeration.
Minimization, which characterized the period before the 1967 Six Day War,
turned into the exaggeration of Israeli ingenuity and Zionist influence
worldwide, thus leaving no solution but surrender and compliance (al-Safir,
3 Feb.).
 

THE CONSPIRACY THEORY AS MANIFESTED IN POLITICAL EVENTS

Nevertheless, these latter voices still do not retain much weight in the Arab
discourse on global and regional phenomena. The conspiracy theory was
perceived as the driving force behind many events in 1998, such as the
Monica Lewinsky affair, the Iraqi crisis, and tensions in Muslim-Coptic
relations in Egypt.
 

The Monica Lewinsky Affair

The basic assumption was that the affair was a premeditated "Zionist
conspiracy" to entangle US president Bill Clinton in a series of sexual
scandals in order to prevent him from exerting pressure on Israel to make
more concessions to the Palestinians. The coincidence of Netanyahu's visit
to the US to pursue the peace process with the explosion of the affair and
the fact that Monica was Jewish were two basic determinants on which the
theory was based. Wagih Abu Zikra even tried to prove that all the parties
involved in the affair were Jewish, including Kenneth Star, Paula Jones and
Lynda Tripp, and that world Zionism was behind the anti-Clinton conspiracy.
The aim was twofold: in the event that Clinton remained in office he would
be "nothing but a toy" in the hands of the Israelis, and if he was impeached,
Vice President Al Gore, who would replace him, would surely be amenable
to all Israel's wishes (al-Akhbar, 16 Sept.; Egyptian Gazette, 17 Sept.).
This logic was also expressed by al-Hayat editor 'Urfan Nizam al-Din (4
Feb.) and Jordanian writer Yasin Za' atra (al-Hayat, 4 Feb.). Hamas spiritual
leader Shaykh Ahmad Yasin was also quick to accuse the Zionist lobby of
being behind the scandal (al-Hayat, 24 Jan.). The Jewish Zionist lobby
regularly collected information on the personal life of American politicians
and exploited it for the promotion of Israel's interests. Moreover, Netanyahu,
"the Israeli gangster," gave his agents instructions to start the scandal, wrote
Egyptian paper al-Akhbar (26 Jan.). The Zionist lobby acted as a state within
a state, wrote Syrian paper Tishrin (28 Jan.), controlling the Congress, the
media and the big companies, and dictating American decisions. It was along
these lines that the affair was introduced by most Arab commentators (see,
for instance, al-Jazira [Saudi Arabia]; al-Nahar [Lebanon], 24 Jan.; Syrian
Times,
25 Jan., 14 Sept.; al-Bilad [Lebanon], 7 Feb.; al-Wafd, 29 Sept.; Civil
Society,
May; Egyptian Gazette, 20 Aug.; Tishrin al-Usbu', 24 Aug.; The
Frontier Post,
24 Aug. -- Internet). A Muslim Pakistani writer found a direct
link between the scandal and the century-old Protocols. "A close and
analytical look at the events," he said, would prove "that the agenda of The
Protocols
has been meticulously worked out" (The Frontier Post, 22 Aug. --
Internet edition).
Some Arab writers linked the Lewinsky affair with Garaudy's trial (see
below), stressing that in both cases the Zionist Jewish lobby was behind
them. Egyptian writer Muhammad Salmawi was a prominent advocate of this
view (al-Ahram, 2 Feb.; al-Ahram hebdo, 4 Feb.. See also al-Safir, 23 Jan.;
al-Nahar, 29 Jan.). Egyptian Muhammad Sid Ahmad argued, however, that
evidence revealed that there were no conspiracies but "consciously designed
political plans," which had reached a crucial phase (al-Nahar, 29 Jan.).
Lebanese writers especially mocked the conspiracy theory in the case of the
Lewinsky affair (al-Hayat, 4 Feb.). This is not to say that the world was not
full of conspiracies, explained Lebanese writer Joseph Samaha, but a close
examination of the developments and facts did not confirm the basic
conditions for a conspiracy of this magnitude. Moreover, there were no
grounds for comparison between the cases of Garaudy and Clinton (al-Safir,
23 Jan.). Several reservations regarding Arab support of Garaudy and Clinton
were raised also by Ahmad 'Ayyash (al-Nahar, 29 Jan.). "There was no
Jewish conspiracy but a Jewish woman" who did not intend to play the role
of Queen Esther, wrote Sati' Nur al-Din (al-Safir, 27 Jan.). Similar
reservations on the use of the conspiracy theory by the Arabs in this
particular case were also raised by Hazim Saghiya (al-Hayat, 17 Jan.);
Muhammad Ibrahim (al-Nahar, 17 Jan.); Hasan Munaymana, a Lebanese
writer living in the US (al-Hayat, 4 Feb.); and Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who
showed how flawed and contradictory the use of these theories could be
(Civil Society, May, pp. 3-4).
 

Behind International Crises

Jewish influence in the decision-making centers in the US, Germany and
France was said to be the major determinant in the dissolution of former
Yugoslavia and in the Kosovo crisis (al-Ahram, 29 Aug.), as well as in the
attack on Sudan in September in response to its alleged involvement in
August in the two terrorist blasts in Nairobi and Tanzania (interview with
Sudanese President Omar Hasan al-Bashir by Moroccan TV, MBC, 10 Sept.).
The most direct connection, however, was made between Clinton's trial and
the American attacks on Iraq. The Iraqi crisis, which had continued to
simmer since the end of the Gulf War in February 1991, threatened to
explode again in early 1998, when Iraqi President Saddam Husayn refused
to comply with UN resolutions. The timing of the American administration's
decision to attack Iraq followed the exposure of the Lewinsky affair and
hence was seen by Arabs and Muslims as a "malicious attempt" by Clinton
"to divert public attention" from the scandals in the White House, "which
have been stirred up by the Jews" (CDLR, 24 Jan. -- MSANEWS, 26 Jan.; al-Muhajiroun,
29 Jan. -- MSANEWS, 30 Jan.; al-Bilad, 7 Feb.).
"The ugly Jew" appeared in several caricatures as maneuvering the UN
and the US to attack Iraq (al-Wafd, 2 Feb.; al-' Arab al-Yawm, 11, 17 Feb.).
The Palestinian al-Hayat al-Jadida wrote of "plots of aggression against
Iraq." The Jews, "a fraction of mankind," the article went on, "perceiving
themselves to be of unique descent and chosen by Allah to rule the world
-- spell doom for all nations on Earth, emanating from their superiority
complex, composed of neo-Nazism and the new Aryan race" (al-Hayat al-Jadida,
18 Feb.; Daily News, 10 March). Another article in al-Hayat al-Jadida
referred to the head of the UN inspection team, Richard Butler, as Hitler's
heir (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 18 Dec.). "Bombing Iraq is not a decision President
Clinton makes," wrote Ali Baghdadi, a Muslim writer from the US; "the
strings are pulled by Zionist cooks in the White House kosher kitchen" (Arab
Journal, 13 Nov. -- MSANEWS, 14 Nov.). By destroying Muslim Iraq the Jews
seek to fulfill "the Zionist secret agenda" of Greater Israel (CDLR, 2 Feb. --
MSANEWS, 4 Feb.). The Iraqi crisis, seen as the result of a Crusader-Zionist
alliance, was one of the causes for Bin Ladin's fatwa (see above), which
called for a holy war against Americans and Jews (al-Quds al-' Arabi, 23 Feb..
For an interpretation of the importance of Iraq in Islamic tradition, see
Bernard Lewis' article in Foreign Affairs 6, Nov.-Dec., pp. 14- 19).
In addition to these references to Jewish control, there were specific
allusions to Israeli or Jewish attempts to penetrate Arab economies. The
Egyptian government's decision to involve Jewish tycoon George Soros in its
development plans was met with criticism and suspicion by the opposition
paper al-Sha' b, over his being Jewish and over his alleged role in causing
the economic crisis in Southeast Asia (al-Sha' b, 13, 23 Jan.; al-Nahar, 19 Jan.;
see also ASW 1997/ 9).
The Egyptian Jewish community was accused of intending to expand its
control over Jewish heritage sites in Egypt which, in effect, would lead to
Israeli control (al-Safir, 13 Jan.). Another article published in the Egyptian
weekly Usbu' claimed that Israel was trying to repossess Egyptian lands,
among them parts of al-Azhar University, which were allegedly expropriated
from Jews (Usbu', 16 May). Egypt's resistance to normalization was
manifested in the total rejection of any contacts with Israelis or Israeli
culture. A Slovak artist, Lubamir Ferko, who held an exhibition in Cairo on
the three monotheistic religions was asked to remove the Jewish articles
which, despite the Israeli ambassador's protest, were not reinstated (Yediot
Aharonot, 24 May; Hatzofeh, 25 May). Israel and the Jewish lobby were
accused of sowing dissent in Egypt between Muslims and Copts, by
spreading false rumors about the religious persecution of Copts in Egypt (al-Akhbar,
10 Feb., 19 April, 16 June).
In an article published in the Australian Internet magazine Free Arab
Voice,
Jordanian Islamist opposition leader and president of the Council of
Professional Trade Unions Layth Shubaylatt, blamed Israel for methodically
striving to annex Jordan to Israel "in the service of Zionist plans, against Arab
and Muslim ones" (Free Arab Voice, 1 Feb. -- MSANEWS, 2 Feb.).
 

THE STRUGGLE AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM AND ARAB REACTION

Awareness of Arab anti-Semitism seemed to increase, particularly among
Israeli and Jewish organizations, which considered them contradictory to the
spirit of the peace process and detrimental to future reconciliation between
Israelis and Arabs. Accordingly, they exerted pressure on the Egyptian and
Palestinian authorities and on international bodies to combat such occurrences.
The French Academy's decision to grant Muhammad Salmawi, the
editor of the Egyptian weekly al-Ahram hebdo, a prize for promoting the
French language was revoked following protests of Jewish organizations.
Salmawi was accused of Holocaust denial when he pointed to the alleged
Jewish connection behind the Lewinsky affair and the harassment of
Garaudy and David Irving (al-Ahram, 2 Feb.; al-Ahram hebdo, 4 Feb.; al-Musawwar,
13 Nov.).
The candidacy of the head of the Arab Lawyers Association, Faruq Abu
'Isa, for the UN prize for human rights was also withdrawn, following Jewish
pressure, due to his support for Garaudy (The Independent, 1 Feb.; Yediot
Aharonot,
13 Sept.).
UN Watch criticized Mahmoud Abu al-Nasr, the Egyptian chairman of the
UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), for his
support of Garaudy. In reply he said that no one could deny the Holocaust,
but he added angrily that nothing should be "sacrosanct." He claimed that it
was acceptable to question the number of Jews killed in World War II, and
that the issue of compensation was being used to further "political
objectives" (The Wednesday Watch, No. 10, 12 Aug.).
The dissemination of anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and other forms of
hatred in the Palestinian media became an issue in the Israeli-Palestinian
negotiations. In December 1997, the Prime Minister's Office published a
report surveying anti-Semitic manifestations (see ASW 1997/ 8) and in
October 1998 Israel's delegation to the Wye Plantation talks was armed with
another report on Palestinian Authority school textbooks prepared by the
Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP). The report demonstrated
that the textbooks reinforced stereotypes of Jews and Israelis and negative
characteristics of the State of Israel. Consequently, an article was
incorporated into the Wye agreement stipulating the formulation of a
Palestinian decree prohibiting all forms of incitement to violence and
terrorism, and a trilateral American-Israeli-Palestinian committee was set up
to find ways to prevent incitement. Likewise the PLO covenant was amended
and the abusive articles calling for the disintegration of the State of Israel
were removed in December (CMIP, Palestinian Authority School Textbooks,
Sept.; Jerusalem Post, 10, 19 Aug.; Ha'aretz, 25 Nov.; The Jerusalem Report,
21 Dec.; The Australia/ Israel Review, 12 Nov., p. 12).
Earlier in the year, Israeli complaints about a children's television
program aired on PA TV had led to the severance of US aid for the
Palestinian Broadcasting Authority (Aljadid, No. 23, Spring 1998, p. 23). On
24 July US Jewish organizations and Holocaust scholars published an
advertisement in Jewish papers condemning PA newspapers for denial and
distortion of the Holocaust. This came in response to an article by Sayf 'Ali
al-Jarwan published in al-Hayat al-Jadida on 2 July. They called upon
'Arafat to reprimand the editors of the paper and take appropriate action to
ensure an end to Holocaust denial. In a telephone interview, PA Minister for
Higher Education and Research Hanan 'Ashrawi said she knew of no
Palestinian officials who made statements distorting the Holocaust. On the
contrary, she claimed that Palestinians do not deny the Holocaust: "Actually
we think recognition of the immorality of the Holocaust is a basic moral
component," she added (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 2 July; NYT, 24 July). Hafiz
Barguti, chief editor of al-Hayat al-Jadida, told the Jerusalem Report that he
had given his editors instructions not to use abusive words to depict the
people of Israel; on the other hand, Radwan Abu 'Ayyash, head of
Palestinian Radio and Television, complained that Israelis were "picking and
choosing" and taking things out of context. If someone says on live TV that
all the Israelis should be thrown into the sea, he argued, "what can I do? ...
I can't change the hearts, minds and language of my people" (The Jerusalem
Report,
21 Dec.). Saudi paper al-Riyadh decried Israeli demands to omit
abusive references to Jews in school textbooks as "presumptuous."
"Whoever would dare to omit verses from the Qur'an in order to please
the Jews is lower than the Jews themselves," the paper went on. "No to the
Jews' obscene demand, even if all the land is lost!" (al-Riyadh, 26 Nov. [DR],
29 Nov.).
Reports and protests were also issued in response to anti-Semitic
expressions in the Egyptian media. The ADL sent a letter to President
Mubarak on 10 March, denouncing publication in the weekly magazine Ruz
al-Yusuf
(9 March) of an article entitled "Jewish Purification of the American
Ambassador's Kitchen," and a caricature depicting him in the ringlets and hat
of a Hasidic Jew. The letter urged the president to intervene to stop the anti-Semitic
campaign in the Egyptian media and to "work to disseminate a
realistic and fair image of Jews." Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, who resumed
his post in mid-January, had been met with criticism from the outset. While
suggesting that the new envoy was a tool of the Jewish and Zionist lobby,
al-Akhbar condemned the crude attack in Ruz al-Yusuf as a blatant anti-Semitic
tract. Kurtzer himself responded to the article in a letter to the editor,
saying that he felt "appalled and hurt." Even the traditionally hostile paper
al-Sha' b shared "the ambassador's feelings of astonishment and protest." But
a spokesman for Ruz al-Yusuf said in a telephone interview that the
magazine intended no offense. "Why was he ashamed of being pictured as
a rabbi? Is he ashamed of his religion?." At a reception honoring Kurtzer in
late March, Osama al-Baz, Mubarak's top adviser, also addressed the issue
and admonished Egyptian journalists for their hostile reception of the new
ambassador (al-Akhbar, 16 Jan.; al-Hayat, 17 Jan.; al-Sha'b, 10 March; New
York Post,
11, 13 March; Jewish Telegraph Agency, 11 March; Washington
Post,
12 March; New York Times, 9 April).
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Camp David Accords between
Egypt and Israel, signed on 17 September, the Israel Government Press
Office released a special report entitled Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial
in the Official Egyptian Press.
The report, which contained political cartoons
and excerpts from articles which had appeared in the Egyptian press mainly
during 1998, noted that despite two decades of peace, anti-Semitic themes
continued to permeate the official Egyptian media, and pointed to four
recurrent themes: classic anti-Semitic stereotypes; comparisons of Israel with
Nazism; Holocaust denial; and traditional libels (Jerusalem Post, 18 Aug.;
Ha'aretz, 21 Aug.). The report provoked a strong reaction in Egypt, and
although it did not lead to a decrease in anti-Semitic manifestations, it put
the issue of anti-Semitism on the agenda for discussion (see also ASW
1996/ 7, 1997/ 8).
Foreign Minister 'Amru Musa dismissed the Israeli
accusations saying that such charges would not intimidate Egypt into
changing its Middle East policy. In an interview to the Israeli paper Ha'aretz,
he reiterated Egypt's claim that the press was free and that criticizing Israeli
policies was not anti-Semitism. "After all," he said, "I do not believe in this
so-called anti-Semitism. We are all Semites. You are a minority among the
Semites" (Reuters, 17 Sept. -- Infoseek news channel; Ha'aretz, 4 Oct.). In
a front-page editorial, board chairman of al-Ahram, Ibrahim Nafi' said
Egyptian newspapers were the targets of Netanyahu's "lies" because they
spoke out against his policies regarding the Palestinians. Interviewed by al-Ahram
Weekly,
Wagih Abu Zikra, who was cited in the report, said that he
did not understand the accusation of being anti-Semitic. He reiterated his
belief that Israel had been built on myths, the Holocaust being one of them.
Editor of al-Ahram hebdo Muhammad Salmawi denounced the report as an
"Israeli blackmail." "I was honored to have my name on the list of prominent
Egyptian writers accused of violating the Camp David Accords," Salmawi
wrote. "The report seeks to foster the false impression that any attack on
Israel in the Egyptian press is the official policy of the state ... This is a cheap
attempt to ward off accusations." According to 'Abd al-Mun' im Sa' id, founder
of the Cairo Peace Society, the report did not mention anti-Arab anti-Semitism
which is abundant in Israeli literature and school textbooks." He
conceded that some of the cartoons in the Egyptian press were anti-Semitic
but added that "Israeli right-wing publications are anti-Semitic too" (al-Ahram
Weekly, 24 Sept.; al-Ahram, 19, 21 Sept.; al-Akhbar, 25 Sept.; for
other responses see al-Ahram, 19, 23 Sept.; Ruz al-Yusuf, 21 Sept.; al-Wafd,
19 Sept.). In addition to these direct responses to the report, a spate of new
caricatures appeared in the daily al-Jumhuriyya and in the weekly October
(al-Jumhuriyya, 17, 18,19 Sept.; October, 20 Sept.).
An update of this report monitoring the last four months of 1998, and
issued in Jan. 1999, showed that anti-Semitic manifestations in the Egyptian
press were continuing unabated. Abdelaleem El-Abyad, from the Press and
Information Bureau at the Egyptian embassy in Washington, responded to an
article by Professor Bernard Lewis, "Muslim Anti-Semitism" (Middle East
Quarterly
2, June, pp. 43-9). Although he conceded "the existence, though
very limited, of verbal manifestations of anti-Semitism in the Muslim world,"
and that they "should be unequivocally condemned," El-Abyad wondered
whether they were really anti-Semitism or "an expansion of indignation and
frustration against, inter alia, Israel's policies of occupation and ethnic
cleansing (1948 and 1967) and against the settlers' behavior (Middle East
Quarterly
3, Sept. 1998, pp. 92-3). "Frustrations against Israeli transgressions,"
explained Musa Salman, "are not always articulated in eloquent
prose," "but only the naive or the calculating would describe such emotional
outbursts as deep-rooted anti-Semitism" (" Anti-Semitism or Victim's
Anguish," Palestine Times, No. 83, May).

Jordanian papers, too, did not remain indifferent to the reports on Arab
anti-Semitism. Al-' Arab al-Yawm quoted, with a hint of surprise, the chapter
on Jordan published in an annual report on anti-Semitism (without giving
any details on the publishers), describing anti-Semitic manifestations in the
Jordanian press. The major anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist themes were said to stem
from what was perceived as the failure of normalization and the stagnating
peace process, and from the fear of the zionification of Jordan (al-' Arab al-Yawm,
2 Sept.; Jordan Times, 24 Nov.).

These reactions to protests of Israeli and Jewish organizations, evidenced
in attempts to dispel the charges and explain the motives behind the attacks,
demonstrate signs of uneasiness among Arab officials and journalists. It
remains unclear, however, whether they will bring about a decline in anti-Semitic
manifestations in the Arab media.
 

Source: http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw98-9/arab.html

 

 

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