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Report: Arab Anti-Semitism


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

The Reports:

Arab Anti-semitism 1997, Arab Anti-semitism 1998, Arab Anti-semitism 1999, Arab Anti-semitism 2001, Arab Anti-semitism 2002, Arab Anti-semitism 2003 Arab Anti-semitism 2004, Arab Anti-semitism 2005, Arab Anti-semitism 2006, Arab Anti-semitism 2007, Arab Anti-semitism 2008 


The year 2000 witnessed a sharp increase in anti-Semitic expressions in the Arab media. At the beginning of the year developments in the Middle East, such as the military escalation in Lebanon, coincided with events in Europe and the US, such as the trial of Holocaust denier David Irving, serving to radicalize the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric. In the last quarter of the year, the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada brought in its wake a further upsurge in anti-Semitism, which included the previously unknown phenomenon of acts of vandalism against Jewish holy sites in the West Bank. The intifada also spilled over into cyberspace, creating a new battlefield for the Arab-Israeli conflict. Aside from these additional features, the usual Arab anti-Semitic themes were repeated – virulent attacks on Israel and the Jews, calls from religious leaders, especially during Friday sermons, for jihad and martyrdom, the equation of Zionism with Nazism, and Holocaust denial.

The intifada highlighted the religious dimension of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a basic tenet of Islamic fundamentalist ideology, blurring the lines between the national and Islamist discourse and radicalizing the discourse against Israel, Zionism and the Jews, as well as against the US. The intifada provided fuel for the anti-normalization movement and suppressed most proponents of the peace process. The anti-normalization movement proved yet again that its attitude toward peace and Israel is part of a broader worldview and agenda.

It should be noted that incitement against Israel did not always take the form of anti-Semitism, but exacerbated by the media, was based on national, pan-Arab and pan-Islamic sentiments and symbols. However, the frequency of anti-Semitic manifestations decreased remarkably, especially in the Palestinian press, with the prolongation of the intifada.


The sharp increase in anti-Semitic expressions in the Arab media in 2000 continued a trend discerned in the last months of 1999 (see ASW 1999/2000), which seemed to be an adverse projection of the renewed peace negotiations between Israel and Syria in November 1999, and later between Israel and the Palestinians. Issues such as the controversy over Jörg Haider’s participation in the Austrian government, the trial of British Holocaust denier David Irving, and Joseph Lieberman’s appointment as the Democratic candidate for US vice-president, which coincided with the military escalation in Lebanon and French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin’s utterances on Hizballah, the visit of Pope John Paul II to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), the commemoration of the Palestinian nakba (catastrophe), and statements by Shas religious leader Ovadia Yosef defaming the Palestinians, contributed to radicalizing the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

The Syrian Press

In the midst of the Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations, begun in November 1999, Syrian dailies, and particularly the weekly organ of the Syrian Arab Writers’ Association, al-Usbu‘ al-Adabi, published anti-Israel and anti-Zionist articles filled with anti-Semitic motifs. Articles such as “The Peace of Zion,” “Syria Will Lose Its Soul,” “The Zionist Mentality in Negotiating” and “Zionist Racism and Jerusalem,” dealt with inherent Jewish traits and the alleged Zionist scheme to infiltrate Arab countries and destroy their societies physically, spiritually and culturally (al-Usbu‘ al-Adabi, 1, 22 Jan.; 5, 22, 27 Feb.; 5 March; 12 Aug.). Major themes in the Syrian anti-Israel discourse were the equation of Zionism with Nazism and the portrayal of Israel as a terrorist and racist state. Articles to this effect, such as “Zionism and Nazism,” “‘Israel’: A Terrorist Racist Enterprise,” “The Zionist Entity Carries the Elements of Its Own Destruction” and “Those Are the Jews! From the Exile Lie to the Establishment of Israel,” were published in the political and cultural weekly magazine of the daily Tishrin (Tishrin al-Usbu‘i, 15 Aug.; 7, 14 Oct.; 14, 21 Nov.; 24 Dec.). These themes were also incorporated in Syrian textbooks for grades 4 to 11. A study of Syrian textbooks, conducted by Meyrav Wurmser, executive director of the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute, revealed that Israel is portrayed as the ultimate enemy and as an illegitimate state, while Zionism is a “Nazi movement that aims at colonizing the Arab world.” The Syrian curriculum, Wurmser asserted, “expands the hatred of Israel and Zionism to anti-Semitism directed at all Jews. Its inevitable conclusion is that all Jews must be annihilated” (MEMRI, News Release – memri.org; Ma‘ariv, 28 April; JP, 30 April).

The equation of Zionism with Nazism was a frequently reiterated theme following the escalation of tensions in Lebanon in February, which led Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy to swear vengeance for Hizballah’s attacks. The Syrian parliament unanimously approved a statement branding Israeli raids on Lebanese infrastructure as “Nazi actions” (CNN, 18 Feb.; Egyptian Mail, 19 Feb.). A spate of articles described the Nazi mentality of Zionism and called for sentencing Israeli leaders as Nazi war criminals (al-Ba‘th, 10 Feb.; al-Thawra, 12, 22 Feb.; Tishrin, 13, 14, 21, 23, 26, 27, 28 Feb.; 15 March; FT, 27 Feb.; al-Usbu‘ al-Adabi, 12 Feb., 22 April; Ha’aretz, 14, 16, 20 Feb.). Syrian radio commented on 24 February that when speaking from the rostrum of the Knesset, Levy resembled Hitler, “with the same stance, the same gestures, the same voice, the same manner and the same threats. This theme was also shown in a video clip, which interchanged Levy’s image with that of Hitler, captioned with similar words, as well as on Lebanese and Syrian TV and on Hizballah’s Internet site (al-Hayat, 25 Feb.; Ha‘aretz, Yedi‘ot Aharonot, 27 Feb.; JP, 28 Feb.; ADL Backgrounder, anti-Semitism and Demonization of Israel in the Arab Media, March; Tishrin, 13 March). French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was labeled a Nazi for referring to Hizballah as a terrorist group during his visit to Israel in February (Tishrin, 26, 27 Feb.; JP, 3 March).

It should be noted that this reaction was not confined to the Syrian and Lebanese media. Levy’s two statements in February as well as Jospin’s remarks caused an outrage in the entire Arab world (al-Hayat, 25-28 Feb.; Ha’aretz, JP, 27 Feb.; al-Hayat al-Jadida, 28, 29 Feb.; al-Ahram Weekly, 2 March; al-‘Ahd, 10 March). This same pattern of reaction recurred with the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada – mass demonstrations, an unscheduled meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Beirut including the first visit of President Mubarak to Lebanon, and a barrage of anti-Israel/anti-Zionist articles and caricatures in both official and opposition papers. They all reinforced the image of Israel as the embodiment of neo-Nazism, which threatened the whole world (see for instance: Egyptian al-Wafd, 26 Feb.; al-‘Arabi, 5 March; October, 20 Feb.; al-Akhbar, 14 Feb.; al-Sha‘b, 15 Feb.; Lebanese al-Afkar, Feb.; al-Hayat, 11, 19 Feb.; Palestinian al-Hayat al-Jadida, 13 Feb.).

The other major theme in Syrian papers was Holocaust denial. On 31 January, before Levy’s utterances and Israel’s retaliation in Lebanon, Tishrin editor Muhammad Khayr al-Wadi wrote an editorial entitled “The Plague of the Third Millenium,” which included typical motifs of the traditional Arab discourse on the Holocaust. He asserted that Zionism had created the Holocaust myth to blackmail European states and institutions, and “to strangle any voice that reveals the truth.” “The Nazi war machine annihilated more than 50 million lives,” he alleged, but “Zionism erased the blood of all those victims from human memory and focused on the suffering of the Jews… despite the fact that there is sound historical proof that Zionist leaders collaborated with the Nazis in order to escalate the Jewish problem.” He concluded with a call to the world “to confront the new Nazi plague which is nesting in Israel,” as it had condemned Nazi crimes. Published against the backdrop of David Irving’s trial, heightened anxiety about Haider’s party joining the governmencin Austria, the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, and amidst efforts to jump-start the stalled Israeli-Syrian talks, the article gained worldwide attention and condemnation (Tishrin, 31 Jan.; Reuters, al-Hayat, 1, 4 Feb.; Yedi‘ot Aharonot, Ma‘ariv, 1 Feb.; JP, 1, 13 Feb.; Ha’aretz, 1, 7, 9 Feb.; Metro West Jersey News, 10 Feb.; MEMRI, dispatch no. 71, 2 Feb.; ADL Backgrounder, March). Hizballah’s mouthpiece al-‘Ahd considered that the reaction to the article reflected one of the most important issues in the Israeli perception of reconciliation with the Arabs. Israel, it said, was striving to reconstruct a new culture upon the ruins of the religious and national foundations of Arab culture. The Israeli attack on Syria, allegedly supported by the US, proved that the Israelis, who had succeeded in inculcating a guilt complex in the West for the Jewish Holocaust in order to extract political, financial and moral benefits, aspired to do the same to the Arabs (al-‘Ahd, 4 Feb.; al-Hayat, 6 March).

On 6 September, Syria Times published an article in the same vein by journalist Muhammad Dawud, who said that history had “not witnessed a people who had mastered lying, dodgery and creating myths as the Israelis had,” pointing to the “so-called” Holocaust as their “most famous myth” (Syria Times, 6 Sept.; JP, 7 Sept.).

Frequent references to the Holocaust were made in the Syrian media during the discussion of issues such as the restitution of Jewish property, the Stockholm conference, Haider and the Pope’s visit to Israel and the PA (see also below). These included the political and material gains of Israel and Zionism, on the one hand, and Israeli and Zionist collective crimes against the Palestinian people, on the other. Unlike discussions of the Holocaust in the Egyptian or Lebanese press, representation of the Holocaust in the Syrian press was monolithic, adhering to the traditional Arab approach of denial. Drawing lessons from the so-called Israeli experience, writers raised new demands for compensation after Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights, and for an apology and repentance from the Christian world for the Crusader wars, a major motif which emerged in the discussion of the Pope’s visit by other Arab writers (see below; Tishrin, 10, 24, 26 Jan.; 16, 20, 22 March).

In the wake of the Syrian-Israeli negotiations, the issue of normalization came to the fore and was fervently debated. The most common approach was total rejection of normalization, either out of fear of Israeli/Jewish hegemony or the loss of Arab self esteem. “Due to the differences in character between Israeli and Arab culture,” said Syrian intellectual Riyadh al-Turk in an interview, peace means putting an end to armed conflict but not normalization. The Israeli culture, he maintained, “rejects the Other and places everyone under the title ‘gentile’ due to its supremacist attitude as ‘God’s chosen people’ armed in modern times with colonialist settlements.” Arab intellectuals, added Burhan Ghalyun – a Syrian intellectual living in Paris – will refrain from cooperating with Israel, “not out of fear of possible hegemony of Israeli culture… but rather due to a reservation deriving from a feeling that their self-respect does not allow them to grovel before the victorious power” (MEMRI, dispatch no. 92, 10 May). Hisham al-Dajani, a Palestinian writer living in Damascus, was one of the few voices to defend cultural normalization with Israel. Criticizing anti-normalization intellectuals as imposing intellectual terrorism, he declared “it is about time that we get rid of many of our delusions… Israel is not going to swallow us.” On the contrary, Syria’s role as a regional power would only be enhanced by peace. Al-Dajani’s articles were strongly criticized, and he was reportedly ousted from the Syrian Arab Writers Association (al-Hayat, 15 Jan.; 7, 9, 24, Feb.; 2, 21 March).

The Palestinian Discourse

In the introduction to an article on anti-Semitism in the Palestinian media, Israeli journalist Haggai Huberman wrote that if the blood libel was a typical accusation against the Jews in the 19th century, the allegation of poisoned food products was widespread in the PA on the threshold of the 21st century (Hatzofeh, 11 Feb.). This claim, made several times in the past, drew attention in November 1999 when Suha Arafat accused Israel of intentionally contaminating the Palestinian water supply and using cancerous tear gas (see ASW 1999/2000). Perusal of Palestinian newspapers verifies Huberman’s assertion. Palestinians seem to be haunted by fears of contaminated and spoiled food pouring into the PA’s markets. Greedy traders were accused of purchasing cheap merchandise from Israeli farmers, including from settlers in the territories. This prompted the PA’s ministries of agriculture and supply to urge Palestinians to remove certain products from the shelves, stop consuming Israeli produce and boycott goods originating from the settlements. The occupation was said to have spread mental and social diseases and increased cases of violence among youth (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 20 Jan.; 27, 31 May). Why do the Palestinians use these motifs? Is it a ploy to enforce the consumption of their own produce in order to develop the economy? Are they fighting normalization? PA Minister of Supply Abu ‘Ali Shahin, might have provided at least a partial answer when he said that organizations and individuals should refrain from normalizing relations with the occupation as long as the Palestinians did not obtain their full national rights and Palestinian prisoners had not been freed (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 29 May; Hatzofeh, 1 June).

The Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon instilled new hope in the Palestinians and a strong conviction that Israel was not invincible. Statements by PA officials, editorials, greetings to Hizballah and popular demonstrations of support created a mood bordering on incitement against the occupation and Israel. The Israeli withdrawal was interpreted as a victory for Hizballah, its philosophy and choice of action, “the victory of Allah.” It was proof that the Islamist alternative was the right solution to the Arab predicament, which had haunted the Arab world for the past two hundred years. Hizballah’s experience was held up as a model for emulation by the Muslim umma in its struggle against the Zionist/Jewish enemy, who was revealed as a meek cowardly enemy, “a spider web,” when confronted with death and destruction (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 24, 28–30 May; statements by Hasan Nasrallah on Jerusalem Day, 31 Dec. 1999 and after the Israeli withdrawal on 26 May – Hizballah site; Hatzofeh, 1 June).

During the Camp David summit (on the final phase of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians held under the auspices of US President Bill Clinton) and especially after its failure on 25 July, the Palestinian people had reportedly reached crisis point. Itamar Marcus, director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), which monitors Palestinian radio and television, issued a report in early September pointing out that during the summer there had been a notable increase of footage on Palestinian television of violent clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youth, particularly from the first intifada of the late 1980s. It focused on the heroism and martyrdom of youngsters, portrayed Israeli soldiers as rapists and cold-blooded murderers, and in broadcasts of Friday sermons presented the Palestinians as the spearhead of an eternal struggle between Muslims and Jews. A major theme in deductive and history TV programs was the representation of any peace agreement as a temporary phase, until the liberation of all of Palestine, extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. Israel was said to be doomed (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 24 July; 30 Aug.; PMW, Report nos. 30, 31, 11, 17 Sept.; MEMRI, dispatch no. 132, 6 Oct.; Jewish Week, 20 Dec. 2000).

The reconstruction of a Palestinian national narrative is another issue that preoccupies the Palestinian media. Academic conferences, debates in the press and television programs and new textbooks deal extwitthis subject. A conference of historians convened in February in Cairo by the Center of Modern Egyptian History, was entitled “Palestine – Fifty Years after the 1948 War.” Among the participants were Yunan Labib Rizq, Muhammad Ra’uf ‘Abbas, ‘Adil Hasan Ghnayim and Latifa Salim, from Egypt, and Muhammad Khalid al-Az‘ar, from the PA. The conference called for the establishment of an institute for the study of the Palestinian question in Cairo, which would collect all relevant documents and studies on the subject. They appealed to colleges and universities to encourage research on the contemporary history of Palestine, and especially aspects of “the colonial and Zionist invasion of the Arab homeland in the 20th century” (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 25 Feb.).

Palestinian playwrights such as Ahmad Harb, Ahmad Rafiq ‘Awadh and ‘Abdallah Tayih have also played a part in the national effort, developing a unique Palestinian genre of historical or fictional writing that deals, inter alia, with the Jewish-Zionist personality. The play The End of the Century, by Ahmad ‘Awadh, for instance, depicts the difficulties Palestinians confront under the occupation, while the Jews “distort and steal the history” of Palestine (al-Hayat, 14 May).

The representation of Jews, Israel and Zionism in Palestinian textbooks, which is of paramount importance in a process of reconciliation and trust building, aroused the interest of Jewish as well as international bodies. After reviewing 15 new Palestinian textbooks for grades one and six issued in September, the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), a US non-profit organization, concluded that they continued to ignore and de-legitimize Israel, while asserting their people’s historical roots in Palestine. However, depictions of the Jews as treacherous or evil, which abound in Egyptian and Jordanian textbooks used previously in Palestinian schools, were omitted. Palestinians, for their part, contend that the curriculum “is not anti-anyone.” The fact that Israel does not appear in the books’ maps, explained Na‘im Abu Hummus, deputy minister of education, is because “Israel’s borders are not yet defined.” Nevertheless, some Palestinian educators have criticized the books as simplistic and inadequate. Ibrahim Abu Lughod, a Palestinian academic who headed a committee funded by UNESCO on reforming the education system, was disappointed by the books. The failure of the textbooks to deal with Israel, he said, “is symptomatic of a larger failure of the new curriculum. The traditional system of rote learning was not replaced with a more analytical approach, and this, he insisted, “is far more worrisome to me as a Palestinian and an educator than the textbooks’ omissions on Israel, Jews and peacemaking” (Ha’aretz, 4 Sept. 2000; 2 Jan. 2001; WP, 5 Sept.; LA Times, 18 Feb. 2001).

PA Undersecretary of Planning and International Cooperation Anis al-Qaq, who led a delegation in April to a symposium on “How to Strengthen Peace through Education,” in Cyprus, admitted that it would be “difficult to remove anti-Israel expressions from the Arab curricula.” Nevertheless, he favored including the subject of the Holocaust in the school curriculum. “We cannot be proud of anything, until we know about the subject,” he said. Al-Qaq’s remarks provoked angry reactions, as well as outright rejection (al-Quds al-‘Arabi, 11 April; see also MEMRI, dispatch no. 187, 21 Feb. 2001). Reiterating a traditional Arab argument, Musa al-Zu‘but, chairman of the Education Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), denied any attempt to include the history of the Holocaust in the Palestinian curriculum. “The Holocaust has been exaggerated in order to present the Jews as victims of a great crime,” he said. “If the purpose is to express sympathy, this is useless for us since we are the ones who suffered as a result.” Chairman of the Political Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Ziyad Abu ‘Amr added: “We are in dire need of studying our own heritage” (al-Risala, 13 April). Another PLC member and Fatah leader Hatim ‘Abd al-Qadir considered teaching the Holocaust “a great danger to the developing Palestinian mentality.” The Jews, he said, should learn first about the Palestinian disaster which is still alive, whereas “the so-called Holocaust has already been moved into the museum of history.” Palestinian intellectual ‘Abdallah Hourani warned of the trendy “culture of peace” derived from globalization and promoted by the US, which seeks “to erase the memory of nations and efface their national heritage and history, as well as any opposition to foreign ideological or cultural invasion.” Al-Qaq, he suggested, should have noted the doubts raised about the Holocaust by leading European intellectuals (al-Istiqlal, 20 April). Egyptian leftist Ahmad Baha’ al-Din completely rejected Holocaust education since Arabs “had no part in the Holocaust” (al-’Arabi, 20 April).

Debating the Holocaust

The fact that the Holocaust continues to generate both sympathy and international support for Israel is a deep cause of Arab frustration. But, “while once used primarily in the effort to create sympathy for Palestinian ‘victims’, the Holocaust weapon has now become a form of political aggression,” wrote Gerald Steinberg (JP, 10 March). Nevertheless, a more open and less monolithic discourse on the Holocaust is developing, involving a growing circle of writers, and continuing a trend which became evident in the mid-1990s (see ASW 1997/8, 1998/9).

The traditional Arab approach toward the Holocaust, reflected in numerous articles and statements, has not basically changed. It rejects the so-called Zionist narrative on the Holocaust, which focuses only on Jewish suffering during World War II, has inflated its dimensions and turned it into a myth. It accuses the Zionists of cooperating with the Nazis in the extermination of Jews, and charges Israel with exploiting it to extort the West and justify its crimes against the Palestinians (see for instance: al-Sha‘b, 11 April, 9 May; al-Watan al-‘Arabi, 14 April; al-‘Arabi, May; Ruz al-Yusuf, 18 Aug.).

The book The Holocaust between Confirmation and Denial, by Ramsis ‘Awadh, published in Egypt in 2000, discusses sections of Norman Finkelstein’s book The Holocaust Industry, Deborah Lipstadt’s Denying the Holocaust and the trial proceedings of British Holocaust denier David Irving. The book tries to prove that in the last two decades the Holocaust has become a debatable issue. Hence, the author suggests that the Arabs should “draw lessons from the historical and cultural conflict with Israel” and propose measures to counter the Jewish-Israeli Holocaust campaign (Ramsis ‘Awadh, al-hulucast bayna al-inkar wal-ta’kid, Cairo, 2000, p. 9). The Leuchter Report, a pseudo-scientific document which allegedly proves that Zyklon B was not used to exterminate human beings, was translated into Arabic and sold at the International Book Fair in Cairo in January 2001 (al-Sha‘b, 16 May; Yedi‘ot Aharonot, 23 Feb. 2001). Finkelstein’s book, which accused the leadership of Jewish organizations of turning the Holocaust into a profitable industry, has been also translated into Arabic and discussed in several articles in the Arab press (al-Hayat, 30 Jan.; 29 Sept.; al-Sharq al-Awsat, 18 Aug.; al-Ra’y, 5 Aug.).

These motifs representing the Holocaust appeared repeatedly during the year. A Hamas press release explained that the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust in January (see Sweden) “aimed at forging history by hiding the truth about the so-called Holocaust.” The Zionist entity used “psychological and ideological terrorism” through the conference and the “Nazi Holocaust story,” the statement asserted and called upon states that participated in the conference to revise their positions and renounce their “sympathetic understanding of Zionist arrogance and continuing blackmail” (Press Release, “On the Stockholm Conference concerning the So-called Jewish Holocaust,” 3 Feb.; Reuven Paz, “Palestinian Holocaust Denial,” PeaceWatch 255, 21 April). Al-Hayat editor ‘Abd al-Wahhab Badrakhan considered the conference a of the “Holocbusiness,” and depicted Holocaust studies “as an injection in the blood or the head” of the student. In the future, he concluded, Arab countries would be required to amend their curriculum “to produce a new generation that would accept Israel and its crimes against humanity” (al-Hayat, 30 Jan.). Egyptian writers repeatedly quoted Roger Garaudy on the Holocaust (see also ASW 1998/9), and his criticism of the conference as perpetrating racial discrimination by focusing only on Jewish suffering (al-Ahram, 8 Feb.; al-Akhbar, 10 March).

The furore aroused by the success of Jörg Haider’s party in the 1999 elections and its inclusion in the coalition government formed at the beginning of 2000, was interpreted in Arab commentaries as “Western hypocrisy” and interference in Austrian internal affairs. Haider was described as a victim of yet another Israeli campaign against those who defy the “Zionist narrative” and resist brainwashing. Israel points an accusing finger at the Austrian government, Egyptian Fakhri Labib wrote in the leftist paper al-Ahali, in order to divert attention from its own crimes and right-wing parties. Editor of the Palestinian daily al-Hayat al-Jadida Hafiz al-Barghuti also likened the European right with the Israeli extreme right, whose hatred of the Arabs was similar to Haider’s hostility toward all foreigners, and not only Jews. Muhammad Awwal, assistant professor at California State University, wondered why Western leaders did not punish Israel when former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had formed a coalition with the Moledet party, “that openly called for mass deportation of all Palestinians from Israel and the occupied territories.” Several writers paralleled the uproar against Haider to the Jewish reaction to the election of Kurt Waldheim as Austrian president in 1988, and contended that Israel and its policy of blackmail were contributing to the rise of neo-Nazism in Europe (al-‘Ahd, 4 Feb.; al-Hayat al-Jadida, 5 Feb.; al-Hayat, 6, 19, 24 Feb.; al-Akhbar, 6, 7, 8 Feb.; al-Ahram, 6 Feb.; Mohammad Auwal, “Cruel Joke of the West: Hugging Bloody Putin, Decrying Rhetorical Haider,” 7 Feb. – iviews.com; Akhbar al-Yawm, 12 Feb.; al-Jumhuriyya, 22 Feb.; al-Ahali, 15 March; Filastin al-Muslima, March; October, 2 July; see also MEMRI, dispatch no. 77, 16 March).

Similar views were voiced in response to David Irving’s trial in London, which ended in June (see ASW 1999/2000). Most Arab writers defended Irving, seeing the Jewish attack on him as a campaign to silence dissension and limit the basic right of freedom of expression, as in the case of French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy in 1996–98. Egyptian columnist Ahmad Bahjat, told al-Ahram Weekly, that he believed it was the duty of writers, intellectuals and historians to seek out the truth. Jews, he said, “should not be upset if some question the number of Jewish victims of Nazi Germany because, regardless of whether they were 300,000, 600,000 or six million, the Holocaust remains a crime.” Another Egyptian writer, Nabil Omar, argued that “the mythology of the Holocaust is the brainchild of those who stand to gain from it.” ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Masiri, author of the Encyclopedia on Jews, Judaism and Zionism, confided that as a Muslim he does not deny the Holocaust, because it is a human and ethical issue. But, he questions “the Zionist theory of right,” which constructs the Holocaust and the right on Palestine as a “sacred Jewish history,” that cannot be questioned or “put into a historical or human perspective.” In interviews with both al-Ahram in April and the Qatari satellite channel al-Jazira, Irving criticized the passive stand of the Arabs in his case. Implying that there was a natural affinity between his cause and that of the Arabs, he asserted that “Arabs are their own enemies,” since they lacked a sense of identity (al-Ahram, 25, 26 Jan.; 16 April; al-Akhbar, 26 Jan.; al-Hayat, 31 Jan.; al-Sha‘b, 8 Feb.; al-‘Arabi, 9 Feb.; October, 7 May; al-Ahram Weekly, 11 May).

Two other issues also highlighted the Holocaust: the Pope’s visit, first, to Egypt in February, then to Jordan, Israel and the PA between 20 and 26 March, and the Vatican declaration of 12 March, “Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past” (see ASW 1999/2000). Two major themes emerged in the Arab reaction. One depicted the quest for forgiveness as “a selective apology,” expressed dismay at the Pope’s failure to mention the Arabs or Muslims who had “endured sufferings at the hand of the Church,” and demanded a specific apology for “two centuries of aggression against the Muslim east” by the Crusaders (al-Ahram Weekly, 16 March). Egyptian pro-Islamist writer Fahmi Huwaydi argued that the Pope “gave precedence to the Jews over all others, as ‘first class’ victims.” The document is “shameful” on two counts, for “not only failing to condemn and apologize for what was done, but also denying responsibility for it” (al-Ahram, 22 March). It seemed that the Arabs, and particularly the Palestinians, were competing with Israel for the Pope’s sympathy. A month before the 12 March declaration, the Palestinians made an unprecedented political gain. On 15 February, during a visit to the Vatican, PA Chairman Yasir Arafat signed an agreement between the PLO and the Holy See, recognizing the special status of Jerusalem and the legitimate right of self-determination for the Palestinian people (al-Hayat, 16, 20, 27 Feb.; 7, 18 March).

In light of this rivalry, Palestinians were concerned about the political implications of his visit to Israel. Accordingly, the second theme in the Arab reaction was the expressed fear of Israeli exploitation of the visit to gain legitimacy for the occupation. “Apologizing to the Jews for the Holocaust is one thing,” wrote al-Hayat editor Badrakhan, “but apologizing to Israel for it is something totally different” (al-Hayat, 22 March). PLO representative to the Holy See ‘Afif Safieh, hoped that the Pope’s message would not be exploited by the “Israeli state and its powerful machine to grant Israel immunity from legitimate criticism from here to eternity.” Safieh, like other Palestinian writers, trusted that the Pope’s apology would prompt Israel to conduct its “own self-examination and soul searching,” admit the injustices it had inflicted on the Palestinians and issue a historical apology to pave the way for peace and reconciliation. Arafat had reportedly concluded an article he wrote for the Italian newspaper La Repubblica with similar expectations (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 20, 23 March; al-Ahram Weekly, 30 March). Hizballah’s organ al-‘Ahd, was concerned by the imbalance in the Pope’s attitude, complaining that he spoke in two languages, one for the Jews and the other for the Arabs (al-‘Ahd, 24 March; see also al-Ahram, 23 Feb.; al-Hayat, 18, 19 March, 8 April; Ha’aretz, 21 March; al-Sha‘b, 21 March, 14 April; al-Hayat al-Jadida, 22, 23 March; al-Ahali, 29 March; al-Sabil, 11 April; al-Liwa’, 27 Sept.).

The statement of the mufti of Jerusalem, Shaykh Sabri ‘Ikrama, made a day prior to his meeting with the Pope, received the greatest attention. The Holocaust, he said, had been exaggerated by Israel to gain international support. While insisting that he did not deny the Holocaust, he asked why “this Holocaust in particular” was more important? “When it comes to our cause, nobody pays attention,” he said and repeated the traditional Arab position that the Holocaust was not the Muslims’ problem. “It’s not my fault that Hitler hated the Jews,” he stated, adding “they hate them just about everywhere” (AP, 25 March; NYT, Ha’aretz, 26 March; IHT, 3 May).

The debate on the Holocaust also contained theses which challenged the traditional Arab representation (see ASW 1997/8; 1998/9). Some writers suggested an alternative reading of the Holocaust, mainly because they believed that the traditional approach was detrimental to the Arabs and weakened their cause. Palestinian writer Khalid al-Hurub, based in London, argued that drawing lessons from the Holocaust would be a sublime goal, were it not for the Jewish organizations’ attempts to exploit it. There was excessive preoccupatwith the Holocaust, which had been the end result of brute racism. Hence, despite the growing centrality of the Holocaust in Western consciousness, racism toward the Other was increasing, he contended. Al-Hurub opposes the legal limitation of Holocaust denial and advocates freedom of speech, fearing that the trend of shattering sacred myths most prevalent in the West would also impinge upon the Holocaust (al-Hayat, 18 Feb.). Similarly, Dalal al-Baziri reproached the Arabs for ignoring the anti-Semitic core in Nazism, which considered the Arabs, too, the scum of nations. The Arabs, he said, should ask themselves several questions. “If the Holocaust was a historical fact, how does it affect our cause?” “Does the veracity of this event negate the depiction of Zionism as executioners?” “Shouldn’t we understand for ourselves and not through intermediaries the dimensions of the Holocaust?.” He, therefore, called on the Arabs to conduct independent research on the Holocaust and Jewish history in Europe. Such studies would establish them as “the present victims of past victims,” he maintained (al-Hayat, 30 April). Another Palestinian writer, Marwan Bishara attacked the link made by the Arabs between the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel, which, he claimed, implied they accepted the Zionist narrative (al-Hayat, 6 April). In their article “Universalizing the Holocaust,” which won them the “Common Ground Award for Journalism in the Middle East,” Lebanese author and commentator Hazim Saghiya and North African writer Salah Bashir defined the Holocaust as “the most complex and intractable knot in the Middle East conflict.” They considered the “dissociation between acknowledgement of the Holocaust and what Israel is doing” the starting point for the development of a discourse aimed at proving that “the Holocaust does not free the Jewish state or the Jews of accountability” for the Palestinian tragedy. “If the memory of the Holocaust,” they claimed, comes between the Jews and “their capacity to coexist with other peoples at whose expense the ‘Jewish question’ was solved, it will be a victory for Hitlerism after its defeat” (Ha’aretz, 21 Feb.).

Several Arab writers criticized the Arab defense of Haider. Egyptian journalist and intellectual Ahmad Sid Ahmad viewed the Arab attempt to downplay the threat that Haider represented as “extremely dangerous.” The Arab stand, he said, “should not necessarily be the opposite of that taken by Israel.” Haider’s rise, he warned, was “chillingly similar” to Hitler’s,” and he was a populist hero who exploited his countrymen’s “insecurities and xenophobia” (al-Ahram Weekly, 17 Feb.). Lebanese editor Joseph Samaha, rejected the Arab depiction of Israel as a Nazi state despite its deeds (al-Hayat, 5 March). According to chief editor of Egypt’s al-Ahram strategic report Wahid ‘Abd al-Majid, the Arab belief that Israel had mobilized the campaign against Haider was an extension of the myth about international Zionism controlling the media, finance and the world economy (al-Hayat, 18 Feb.), and Lebanese writer and researcher Raghid al-Sulh, warned that “Jörg Haider will not help the Arabs” (al-Hayat, 5 March). Syrian poet and journalist Sa‘id ‘Ali Ahmadi (Adonis), who supported the European condemnation of Haider and the European extreme right, was scorned by the Association of Arab Writers (al-Hayat, 5 March; al-Ahali, 22 March).

Arab intellectuals and writers, such as Egyptians Rida Hilal, ‘Abd al-Mun‘im Sa‘id, Khalid al-Mubarak, and columnists Joseph Samaha and Jihad al-Khazin criticized Arab identification with Western Holocaust revisionists and their acceptance as natural allies. This stand, they said, played into the hands of Israel and ignored the racist tendencies of those historians who target Jews and Muslims alike. Instead, the Arabs need to stress the irony of the fact that the Jews, “after surviving Nazi atrocities, have themselves become oppressors” (al-Hayat, 15, 16, 22, 30 April; JP, al-Ahram al-‘Arabi, 2 May; al-Ahram Weekly, 11 May). It is in the Arab interest, concluded Joseph Samaha, “for the world to universalize some sort of moral limitation to any oppression or vile action.” This would enable the Arabs “to benefit from any apology for a crime committed against the Jews or others” (al-Hayat, 2 April). Perhaps, in an attempt to profit from the lessons of the Holocaust, Egypt, Morocco and the PA submitted a last-minute request to participate in the Stockholm International Forum (al-Hayat, 28 Jan.).

This notion that the Arabs should join the international community in drawing lessons from the Holocaust was also behind many articles linking the Holocaust and the nakba. “The nakba is the moral heir of the Holocaust,” wrote Samaha (al-Hayat, 21 May), while Palestinian academic Ghada Karmi, accused the West and Israel of “nakba denial” (al-Ahram Weekly, 6 April). Israel, these articles contended, should acknowledge its responsibility for the Palestinian tragedy, apologize for it and pay compensation, exactly as the Germans did (al-Hayat, 29 Jan.; 19 Feb.; 15 April; al-Liwa’, 23 Feb.; al-Ahram al-‘Arabi, 15 April). Following the Pope’s visit to Yad Vashem, the Palestinians proposed building a parallel nakba museum, as “a mute expression” which would play a similar role in convincing the world of their tragedy (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 25 March).


The al-Aqsa intifada, which broke out at the end of September following the visit of then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, to the Temple Mount (al-haram al-sharif – the area of the holy mosques), unleashed an unprecedented wave of incitement and anti-Semitic manifestations throughout the Arab world and among Arab and Muslim communities worldwide (see General Analysis and country chapters ).

The following analysis is by no means a comprehensive account of the intifada. It deals neither with its causes nor with its evolution, but focuses on anti-Israel and anti-Jewish manifestations in Arab and Muslim reactions during the first three months.

Popular and Official Arab Expressions of Support and Solidarity

The intifada engendered solidarity with the Palestinian cause throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, and encouraged Arab and Muslim leaders to convene urgent summits in support of the Palestinians. Two levels of defense of the Palestinian cause could be discerned in the Arab reaction: a popular one, encompassing a spontaneous and organized response, and an official one, reflecting Arab government positions and actions. They complemented but also contradicted each other, indicating a gap between the prevailing extreme anti-Israeli mood of the Arab masses and the cautious pragmatic approach of Arab regimes.

On 21–22 October Arab leaders convened in Cairo for an emergency summit of the Arab League in response to the outbreak of the intifada. The summit concluded its meetings with a condemnation of Israel’s “gruesome atrocities” against the Palestinians, and proposed a war crimes tribunal to prosecute right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon and others. But the summit stopped short of ordering any immediate, across-the-board economic or diplomatic actions against Israel, as some hard-line member countries had demanded (Washington Post, NYT, 23 Oct. 2000).

These decisions reflected the Arab leaders’ wish to avoid plunging the entire region into a spiral of violence (Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 Oct. 2000), on the one hand, and to create a balance between the popular demand for anti-Israel action while simultaneously maintaining public order and national interests, on the other (Jordan Times, 25 Oct. 2000). The outcome of the summit was widely criticized, mainly by the Palestinian media and by Iraq, whose president Saddam Husayn sought to capitalize on the intifada to establish himself as the champion of the Palestinian cause (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 10, 21, 23, 24 Oct.; al-Jumhuriyya, 23 Oct.; MEMRI, dispatch no. 143, 25 Oct.)

On 12–14 November the Islamic Conference Organization (ICO), a body comprising 56 Muslim states, convened in Doha, Qatar, and discussed the Arab and Muslim reaction to the al-Aqsa intifada. “Al-defines once more the Islamic solidarity path,” wrote al-Quds al-‘Arabi (al-Hayat, 11, 13 Nov.; al-Quds al-‘Arabi, 14 Nov.), but despite the harsh anti-Israeli rhetoric, the conference resolutions basically echoed those of the Arab summit.

Between the two conferences Morocco and Tunisia had closed their diplomatic missions in Israel; Oman had shut its trade office immediately after the Arab summit; Qatar eventually bowed to Saudi and Iranian pressure in order to save the ICO summit it was to host. After this summit Egypt recalled its ambassador to Israel and Jordan refrained from sending its new one, but neither succumbed to pressure to close the Israeli embassies in their capitals.

Both the Arab summit in Cairo and the ICO summit in Qatar resolved to provide financial support for the Palestinian intifada and to establish two funds: the al-Aqsa Fund and the al-Intifada Fund. Iraq decided to award $10,000 to families of martyrs and $1,000 each for the wounded, and Iran opened a special account for volunteer donations (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 9 Oct.; IRNA, 22 Oct.; Jerusalem Report, 4 Dec. 2000; Yedi‘ot Aharonot, 13 Dec. 2000; Ha’aretz, 2 Jan. 2001). But, for the most part, Arab governments have not fulfilled their pledges of financial assistance, and have “continued to combine rhetorical belligerency with practical self-restraint” (Mark Heller, “After the Elections: Ariel Sharon and the Challenge of the Intifada,” Tel Aviv Notes, no. 12, 21 Feb. 2001. Internet version).

The declarations of the two meetings were criticized by Palestinian writers, who described them as “a big, fat zero” (Palestine Times 114, Dec. 2000), aimed at calming the Arab public’s rage, weakening the PA, and “suffocating the intifada and increasing the pressure on the Palestinian people” (Al-Manar, 11 Dec. – MEMRI, dispatch no. 178, 16 Jan. 2001).

Tens of thousands of people of all walks of life in the Arab and Muslim worlds participated in demonstrations and marches to vent their fury at Israel and the United States. Carrying banners equating the swastika with the Star of David and chanting “Death to Israel,” they called for jihad and burned Israeli and American flags (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 1–27 Oct.; al-Liwa’, 4 Oct.; al-‘Iraq, 5 Oct.; The Economist, 7 Oct.; JP, 17 Oct.; Ha’aretz, 9, 17, 18, 25 Oct.; Filastin al-Muslima, Nov.). Demonstrations were also held in Saudi Arabia, where they are usually forbidden. Several demonstrations were dispersed by police when they threatened to violate public order, such as in Jordan, where protesters tried to march on to the Israeli embassy. Syrian police used tear gas to disperse some 2,000 angry demonstrators who had tried to reach the US embassy in Damascus. Clashes between security forces and university students occurred also in Cairo and Alexandria (IAP-Net, “Imam of Mecca’s Grand Sacred Mosque Calls For Jihad against Zionist Carnage,” 10 Oct.; Arabia News, 13 Oct.; al-Ahram Weekly, 19 Oct.; al-Haramain, an electronic publication by dissident Saudi Islamists based in London, no. 47, 5 Nov.). At Cairo University, the Muslim Brotherhood used a mobile phone to broadcast the address of Shaykh Ahmad Yasin, leader of Hamas in Gaza, during a demonstration on 16 October (Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 Oct. 2000). At a rally in Tehran, head of Hamas politburo Khalid Mash‘al declared that the State of Israel had to be destroyed, and praised Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah ‘Ali Khamene’i, who had called for the Islamic world to unleash jihad on the Jewish state (Agence France Presse, al-Hayat al-Jadida, 5 Oct. 2000).

In Egypt intellectuals, artists and professional syndicates, traditionally known for their anti-normalization position, held rallies and sit-ins, flew the Palestinian flag at theaters and observed a one-minute silence in honor of Palestinian martyrs. They also submitted petitions to President Mubarak and to government ministers, requesting a ban on the entry of Israeli tourists into Egypt; the dismissal of Israeli agricultural experts; the closure of the Israeli embassy in Cairo; and bringing to an end all steps toward normalization with Israel. A group of approximately 20 NGOs and 20 individuals formed the Egyptian Popular Committee for Solidarity with the intifada to encourage Palestinians and Egyptians to coordinate action, such as donations of blood and money, preparing lists for the boycott of Israeli products and organizing petitions. (Al-Ahram Weekly, 19 Oct. 2000). On the eve of the Arab summit three Egyptian bodies – the Anti-normalization Committee, a large group of intellectuals and journalists, including ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Masiri and Muhammad Salim al-‘Awa, and the General Federation of Entertainers Syndicates – published statements calling on the summit to support the intifada with money, arms and manpower; reduce relations with “the imperialist state that supports Israel”; end all forms of normalization and all forms of Israeli political, economic and cultural presence in Arab lands; use Arab oil to protect Arab blood; and rekindle the Joint Arab Defense Agreement (Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 Oct. 2000). On 23 November, the Popular Committee submitted a petition to the UN secretary general in the same vein (Press Release, 23 Nov. 2000 – MSANEWS).

The demonstrations were directed against the US, too, not only because of its allegedly biased role as a mediator in the peace process, but also as a result of the perceived identification of the US as the leader of an anti-Islamic and anti-Arab struggle in collaboration with Israel and Zionism. “The recent demonstration of rage,” wrote London-based Palestinian Islamist ‘Azzam Tamimi, was an “expression of hostility and hatred for a project that is seen by Arabs and Muslims alike as an imperialist invasion aimed at sustaining the weakness and even paralysis of the Muslim umma” (‘Azzam Tamimi, “The Days of Rage and the Beginning of the End,” 8 Nov. – MSANEWS).

Acts of Vandalism against Jewish Sites

The outbreak of the intifada provoked a wave of violent incidents against Jews worldwide and acts of vandalism against Jewish sites, perpetrated at least in part by members of Muslim communities in the West (see General Analysis and country chapters). Whereas these attacks were generally viewed as anti-Semitic, terrorist acts carried out against the Israeli population, whether within Israel or in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, were considered anti-Israel expressions which reflected the state of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Hence, they were not dealt with in our reports, unless they were clearly anti-Semitic. Terrorist acts within Israel and the territories were also carried out during the intifada, as well as unprecedented acts of vandalism against Jewish holy sites in the West Bank. The first such act was perpetrated after the withdrawal of IDF troops from Joseph’s Tomb, a Jewish holy site in Nablus, on 7 October. Tens of Palestinians entered the site and proceeded to loot it. They then demolished the five-room building, and set the tomb on fire, torching the study rooms and burning thousands of Jewish prayer books. Although the PA minister of information issued a statement expressing regret for the act and a commitment to renovate the site and maintain the security of those who wished to pray there, the tomb, which is considered by the Palestinians to contain the remains of a holy shaykh, was turned into a mosque. The incident was reported in the Palestinian papers as an act of liberation. According to al-Hayat al-Jadida, “the occupying army withdrew from the site of Prophet Joseph, and the citizens prayed their evening prayer there, rejoicing in its liberation.” Another commentator wondered whether the liberation of Bilal bin Rabah mosque (Rachel’s Tomb) was also possible (al-Hayat al-Jadida, Ha’aretz, 8 Oct.; al-Ayyam, 10 Oct.). Hamas issued a statement also rejoicing in the “liberation” of the site and called for the establishment of a committee to “purify” it and restore it as a mosque (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 9 Oct.). The Palestinians, however, said the mob’s anger had little to do with anti-Semitism and more to do with the killing of two Palestinian boys by Israeli so(WP, 28 Oct.).

The oldsynagogue in Jericho, built in the early Islamic era, was torched on 12 October. The synagogue had been under the jurisdiction of the PA, which was committed to safeguarding it under the Oslo accords (Ha’aretz, 13 Oct.). The Tiferet Avot synagogue in Efrat, a settlement in the vicinity of Hebron, was vandalized on 27 October. Swastikas and Arabic graffiti – “Hitler exterminates germs” and “Hizballah will remain a thorn in your throats” – were sprayed on the walls (Ha’aretz, 29 Oct.). The cemetery in Kibbutz Giv‘at Oz was desecrated and swastikas were painted on the tombs (Ma‘ariv, 24 Dec.).

Acts of vandalism were also carried out against American and British targets in Egypt. In an act symbolizing opposition to US support of Israel, protesters smashed a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet (Al-Ahram Weekly, 19 Oct. 2000). In mid-October, Egyptian students attacked the Cairo branch of Sainsburys, a British chain supposedly owned by Jews, damaging stores and slightly injuring some of the firm’s 3,000 employees (Electronic Telegraph, 17 Oct.; 27 Dec. 2000; Ha’aretz, 3 Jan. 2001).

Incitement and anti-Semitic Expressions

Besides popular demonstrations and violence, the intifada led to the radicalization of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric – inflammatory declarations by Arab leaders, Friday sermons encouraging jihad and sanctifying martyrdom, calls for an Arab boycott of Israel and American goods, TV programs mobilizing the masses, newspaper articles featuring anti-Semitic motifs and Holocaust denial, and an Internet war.

Incitement by Arab Leaders. Since the beginning of the peace process in the early 1990s, overt anti-Semitic expressions in Arab countries had been confined to leaders of Islamist movements, and to the press, whereas political leaders generally refrained from making statements that could be interpreted as being anti-Semitic. As the intifada escalated, the rhetoric of Arab leaders grew more extreme, especially during the Arab summit and the ICO conference. The most notorious statements were made by Syrian President Bashshar al-Asad, who aligned himself with Iraqi President Saddam Husayn and Iranian leader Ayatollah ‘Ali Khamene’i. During the ICO summit in November Asad likened Israelis to Nazis, asserting that Israelis were perpetrating “a new Nazism with no precedent in history” (Ha’aretz, 14 Nov.; JP, 17 Nov.).

Two months later, he referred to the conflict as “a struggle between truth and falsehood; between the spirit of tolerance and peace of Islam and the Zionist path of racism and aggression.” He described Israeli leaders as “racist gangs,” and Israel as “a state based on loathsome racist values and hatred of Arabs and Islam” (Special Dispatch, No. 177, 12 Jan. 2001 [MEMRI]). The terminology used by Asad reflected the Islamist discourse and ideology which defined the contours of the rhetoric during the intifada.

Soon after the intifada began, Iraq’s foreign minister denounced Israel as “a midget entity, a usurper, and a claw of colonialism.” A few days later, Saddam asserted that “an end must be put to Zionism,” and declared his intention to create a “Jerusalem army” of 21 divisions that would liberate Palestine “from the river to the sea” and rescue it from “Zionism and its accursed deformed entity” (Iraqi TV, 2, 3 Oct [BBC]; al-‘Iraq, 3, 13, 14 Oct.; Al-Hayat al-Jadida, 5, 18 Oct.; Washington Times, 17 Oct. 2000; Ofra Bengio, “The Iraqi-Palestinian-Israeli Triangle,” Tel Aviv Notes, no. 14, 8 March 2001). The Iraqi government decided on 2 December that “the only solution to the Middle East crisis would be the departure of the Jews from the fabricated, usurper entity of Israel” (Iraqi TV, 2 Dec [BBC]).

Encouraging Jihad and Sanctifying Martyrdom. “From infancy, Palestinians are inculcated with the virus of nationalism and the burden of revenge,” wrote Middle East analyst Chris Hedges, and “Martyrdom is the only route offered to those who want to achieve a measure, however brief, of recognition and glory” (Chris Hedges, “The New Palestinian Revolt,” Foreign Affairs, Jan./Feb. 2001 [Aqidah Islamic Information Service]). Friday sermons at mosques throughout the Arab world were dominated by angry denunciations of Israeli brutality and calls for jihad, which was viewed as a religious duty incumbent upon all Muslims, while the conflict was seen as a struggle between truth and falsehood (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 14, 15, 21, 22, 24 Oct. 2000). Following Friday noon prayers, reported al-Ahram Weekly, worshippers poured onto the streets to chant slogans of resistance (al-Ahram Weekly, 19 Oct. 2000).

Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abdallah al-Subayl, imam and khatib (Friday prayers’ speaker) of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, called on Muslims worldwide to perform jihad against “the enemies of God and Islam and humanity,” and to stop “Zionist oppression and carnage against the Palestinians.” Subayl evoked several verses from the Qur‘an, which permit the oppressed and the victims to retaliate against oppressors and aggressors (IAP-Net, “Imam of Mecca’s Grand Sacred Mosque Calls for Jihad against Zionist Carnage,” 10 Oct. 2000). Egypt’s Shaykh al-Azhar Muhammad Tantawi also called for jihad against Israel “as long as the Jews attack us, violate our rights and shed our blood” (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 10, 11, 12 Oct.). Iraqi clerics, for their part, issued a fatwa calling for jihad (al-‘Iraq, 12 Oct.; al-Hayat al-Jadida, 15 Oct.).

Hamas put out statements in which it encouraged the Palestinian people to pursue the intifada, and called on Arabs and Muslims worldwide to support it financially and morally (3, 15, 26 Oct. – palestine-info.org). Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders also warned that they would carry out terror attacks against Israelis (al-Hayat al-Jadida; La Stampa, 14 Oct [BBC]). Shaykh Ahmad Yasin reiterated that “Israel is a foreign body, imposed by force and will be eliminated by force” (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 11 Oct.), and a Hamas statement of 9 November depicted the “occupying Jews” as “enemies of humanity” and “monsters in the shape of human beings.”

Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah in Gaza considered war inevitable, “part of a final, apocalyptic battle that will drive the Jews off Islamic soil.” The intifada, he believed would spread throughout the entire Arab world, uniting all the Muslims behind the Palestinian struggle. “All the Jews who came here from other countries… must now go back. Those that are from Palestine can stay, as long as they are peaceful,” he asserted (Chris Hedges, “The New Palestinian Revolt,” Foreign Affairs, Jan./Feb. 2001 [Aqidah Islamic Information Service]).

Ahmad Abu Halabiyya, former acting rector of the Islamic University in Gaza, delivered a Friday sermon, broadcast live on the PA’s official television channel, in which he called on his co-religionists “to have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are… Fight them where you are… kill them… and those Americans who are like them. They are all in the same trench against the Arabs and the Muslims because they established Israel here, in the beating heart of the Arab world, in Palestine.” Halabiyya, who is also a member of the PA- appointed Fatwa Council, quoted a Qur’anic verse often used by Islamists: “Oh, you who believe, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies, for they are allies of one another. Who from among you takes them as allies will indeed be one of them” (MEMRI, dispatch no. 138, 14 Oct.; Yedi‘ot Aharonot, 16 Oct.; NYP, 22 Oct.).

Shaykh Omar ‘Abd al-Rahman, the spiritual leader of Egypt’s largest Islamic militant group al-Jama‘a al-Islamiyya, imprisoned in the US for his involvement in the bombing of the New York Trade Center in 1993, called on Muslims to kill Jews worldwide. “Jihad is now a duty for the entire umma until Palestine and the al-Aqsa mosque are liberated and Jews are either pushed into their graves or back where they came from,” he said (CNN, 5 Oct.).

The leader of the Pakistani Islamist movement Hizb al-Mujahidin, Sayyid Tasawar Gardezi criticized “the hypocrisy of Muslim rulers and the fake leadership of the Muslims.” He also declared that a contingent of mujahidin was ready to leave for Pa, since it was a religious and naobligation to take part in jihadi movements and the struggle aimed at freeing the Muslims (Pakistan, 18 Oct. 2000).

Although it is difficult to assess the impact of such calls, it can be safely assumed that they resonated in the minds of youngsters sent to perpetrate suicide attacks against Jews (Ibrahim Alloush, “A Report from the Street Battles of Amman,” Free Arab Voice, 6 Oct. 2000.)

Mobilizing through TV Programs. The Arab and the Palestinian media played a crucial mobilizational role during the intifada, “providing a constant flow of reportage on events, interspersed with nationalistic music and iconography.” In the first weeks of the intifada, Friday sermons, which emphasized Muslim-Jewish antagonism were broadcast widely on Palestinian TV. Arab satellite TV, particularly al-Jazira, provided regular commentary from Palestinian and Arab analysts, political thinkers and leaders, which helped define the meaning and the goals of the intifada for the local population (Rema Hamami and Salim Tamari, “Anatomy of Another Rebellion,” MERIP [Middle East Research and Information Project] 4, Winter 2000, p. 1; NYT, 24 Oct.; Ha’aretz, 25 Oct. 2000).

“The quantity and intensity of libels and false accusations increased during the intifada, with the aim of presenting Israel and Jews as evil, treacherous enemies that pose a mortal danger to the Palestinians, to Islam, and to all that is holy to them,” wrote Itamar Marcus. The intent of this campaign, he claimed, “is to intensify the hostile atmosphere toward Israel and is consistent with the PA’s policy of fostering hatred toward Israel” (see PMW, 31 Oct. 2000; 25 Feb. 2001).

anti-Semitic Motifs and Holocaust Denial in the Arab Media. The Arab press exacerbated anti-Israel incitement by radicalizing the terminology used to describe the intifada and by repeating Qur’anic verses urging unity and steadfastness. The incidents on the Temple Mount at the outbreak of the intifada were depicted as a massacre (majzara) and slaughter (mazbaha). Devotion to the intifada was seen as a “blood oath” (bay‘at al-damm). During the first weeks of the intifada the Palestinian daily al-Hayat al-Jadida ran a slogan in bold red letters at the head of each page reading: “The masses continue to pledge their blood for al-Aqsa” (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 30 Sept.; 4, 9 Oct. 2000). In addition to this kind of incitement, the Arab press published articles and caricatures, replete with anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial motifs. Ariel Sharon, who was blamed for igniting the intifada, was grossly attacked in the Arab media. In one cartoon he was depicted as an elephant on which a stereotypical Jew with a beard and a long nose was sitting, guiding him toward al-Aqsa mosque (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 1 Oct.).

Jordanian journalist, Rami Khouri considered Sharon “the embodiment of the Ugly Jew, the violent, tormented, perpetually provocative braggart,” although he warned against confusing Sharon’s “brand of sick, racist, militaristic, blood-curdling Zionism” with “normal human perspectives of the Jewish or Israeli people” (Jordan Times, 4 Oct.). An Egyptian writer referred to him as “the Nero of Sabra and Shatila,” who had entered the Haram al-Sharif on a mission of “humiliation” (al-Ahram Weekly, 19 Oct.), and Palestinian papers referred to him as “the general of death” (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 4 Oct.).

A carricature published in a Palestinian daily (which appeared irregularly after the outbreak of the intifada), depicted Palestine as an innocent girl crucified on a cross, with an arrow in her chest which bore the American flag at one end and the Israeli flag at the other, observed by Orthodox Jewish figures at the foot of the cross (al-intifada, 11 Dec. – www.pinonline.net).

Egyptian mainstream papers made an unprecedented number of references to Israel as a Nazi model state, and to Zionism as a racist ideology (al-Ahram, 13, 23 Oct.; 2 Nov.; al-Ahram Weekly, 12 Oct.; Akhbar al-Yawm, 14 Oct.). An Iraqi daily published an article by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ghaffar al-’Abbasi on “the image of the Jews portrayed in the Qur’an as a treacherous people,” reiterating that Jews should not be trusted because of their scheming, treachery, love of money, violation of agreements and arrogance (al-’Iraq, 20 Oct.).

The accusation that Jews used the blood of Christians to make Passover matzot, resurfaced. In a television debate on the Qatari al-Jazira channel on 24 October, Palestinian Liberation Army Mufti Shaykh Colonel Nadir al-Tamimi, claimed that there can be no peace with the Jews because they suck the blood of Arabs for use on the holidays of Passover and Purim. Al-Tamimi also called for the overthrow of Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, prompting the Egyptian government to call for a boycott of the Qatari channel and to close its offices in Egypt. However, the Egyptian press was in agreement with al-Tamimi about the Jews’ use of Arab blood for religious worship. The semi-official daily al-Ahram, published in October a full-page article by columnist ‘Adil Hammuda accusing the Jews of using the blood of slain Palestinian children for the preparation of Passover matzot. “Every time I see the children of the stones in occupied Palestine as they spring like blood from the arteries, I remember my grandfather who used to gather all the neighborhood children in his home in Alexandria to give them candy and tell them the tale of the Jew who slaughtered a boy and made Passover matzah from his blood.” Hammuda revealed that he had thought his grandfather’s story was a fairy tale. But when he matured, he realized that it was true, and that all the details were recorded in the Islamic religious courts in Damascus (al-Ahram, 28 Oct.; see also MEMRI, dispatch no. 150, 6 Nov.). A month later, an article in the Jordanian Islamist weekly al-Liwa’ quoted an American study, allegedly confirming the Jewish ritual of killing of a child at least once a year for drinking his blood (al-Liwa’, 13 Dec.).

Although not new, accusations of blood libel resurfaced with the increase of Palestinian-Israeli tensions. In response to Hammuda’s article, the ADL called on Egyptian President Mubarak to publicly condemn propagation of the blood libel and anti-Semitic incitement in the Egyptian press (Press Release, 7 Nov.). It issued a similar call to the PA, following an anti-Israel rally in Ramallah, during which a donkey draped with a tallith (Jewish prayer shawl) and clothes sprayed with swastikas and Stars of David, was paraded through the crowd (New Jersey Jewish News, 18 Jan. 2001).

Palestinian commentator Khalid Amayreh attacked Israelis and Zionists as blood-suckers, following the death of the 11-year old Palestinian child Muhammad al-Durra, in Gaza, during an exchange of fire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian rioters in October. “The haunting specter of the murder, which, more or less, epitomizes Israel’s long standing treatment of Palestinians, Lebanese and other Arabs… testifies to the brutal ugliness of the Zionist mentality and its callous disregard for the sanctity of human life,” he wrote and went on to describe the Israeli soldier as “a vile thug, a sadist, a Zionist SS soldier,” who kills for joy (IAP-Net, 3 Oct. 2000).

The Egyptian weekly October published in December a two-part series entitled “The Jewish Personality and Israeli Action.” The author, General (Res.) Hasan Suwaylam, discussed at length the “Jewish personality” from ancient history to modern times. “Historians, race-studies professors and sociologists agree that humanity… has never known a race such as the Jewish race in which so many base and loathsome qualities have been gathered,” explained Suwaylam. “The Jews had a quality which distinguished them from others: whenever they gathered in a particular place and felt comfortable there, they turned the place into a den of evil… There is no difference between yesterday’s Jew and those of today, or between the Jewish and the Israeli personality, as some claim. This is because Israel, as a state, is nothing but a receiving vessel for all of the Jews in the world… Zionism is the political and colonialist aspect of tJewish faith. Therefore, an investigation ofthe traits of the Jewish personality… is a fundamental step in our war against it.” According to Suwaylam, “Jewish characteristics” included violation of agreements, paranoia and “reliance on lies as a means to achieve goals” (October, 26 Nov.; 3, 10 Dec.; see also MEMRI, dispatch no. 166, 19 Dec. 2000).

Palestinian columnist Hasan Khadr attacked the Arab depiction of the Jews, accusing them of misrepresenting the Islamic legacy. The meaning of the call “Khaybar, Khaybar, Oh Jews [Khaybar, an oasis in the Arabian Peninsula settled by Jews, symbolizing their defeat at the hands of Muhammad in 628]!,” he argued, had been turned into a political slogan in order to prove that the conflict between Muslims and Jews was religiously-based and that as in the historic precedent, Muslim armies would return to take their revenge. But in fact, said Khadr, Muslims had traditionally been tolerant toward Jews, and relations between Muslims and Jews had prospered for centuries. Khadr presumed that the problem with Judaism had begun with the identification between religion and nationalism made by Zionism, despite the fact that Jews had different origins and identities. Moreover, there was an agreement between Zionists and anti-Semites to seek permanent Jewish traits that did not change over the years under diverse geographic and cultural conditions. Thus, use of the slogan not only indicated acceptance of the Zionist claim on the continuity of the Jewish race but jeopardized the moral superiority of Muslims, and above all, threatened to turn a national conflict into a religious one (al-Ayyam, 7 Nov.).

Holocaust denial was also a recurring theme in the Arab media. Jarir al-Kidwa, an education adviser to Yasir ‘Arafat, branded the claims that Jews were murdered in the Holocaust baseless lies fabricated to evoke world sympathy. There was “no Dachau, no Auschwitz,” he said. “[They] were disinfecting sites” (Jewish Week, 20 Dec. 2000). In the Palestinian TV program “Pages from our History,” broadcast on 29 November, ‘Isam Sisalim, history lecturer at the Islamic University in Gaza, considered an expert on Jews and Judaism, accused the Jews of inventing the lie of extermination in order to justify the establishment of Israel, a “foreign entity, implanted as a cancer” in the Arab land. “[The Jews] always portrayed themselves as victims, and they built a center for heroism and Holocaust. Whose heroism? Holocaust? Heroism is our nation’s, the holocaust was against our people…We were the victims, but we shall not remain victims forever” (PATV, 29 Nov. – PMW). During a workshop at the Islamic University on the occasion of anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Sisalim contended that the declaration had no legal or historic basis, and that the Jews, “an international gang,” had succeeded in extorting British consent (al-Ayyam, 6 Nov.).

An article published in Palestine Times, raised a similar accusation, describing Zionist Jews as “God’s Lying People,” whose lies are readily accepted in the West, “where the mass media are controlled by Jews” (PT 114, Dec. 2000). Taysir Khalaf, a Palestinian writer living in Doha, referred to the “huge ‘Holocaust’ empire” as not just a question of hegemony over the media or an anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias, but “a dangerous, destructive malady nesting in the minds of the ‘chosen people’, who strive to control the consciousness of humanity, and to reconstruct human values according to the Zionist point of view” (al-Quds al-‘Arabi, 14 Nov.).

Egyptian writer, Muhsin Hasanayn wrote that Hitler was a baby compared to the “terrorist Sharon.” He equated the “imagined stories” of the extermination of the Jews by Hitler with the “real ongoing holocausts” perpetrated by “Israel’s Nazis.” Aware of the anger the term aroused in Israelis, he claimed there was no other term to match their deeds. “So die in your anger, oh Nazis, sons of Nazis, descendants of Nazis!” (October, 8 Oct.). Hasan Suwaylam also discussed the Holocaust in his article on the Jewish personality, mentioned above, maintaining that the Jews’ approach to the Holocaust manifested a deep-rooted characteristic of the Jewish personality – lying. The Holocaust, he alleged, was a huge lie which they had managed to market around the world. Through this lie, they had extorted many countries, “even though many have proved that [the Holocaust] was not practically possible… Today, nobody in Europe may doubt the Holocaust or accuse the Jews of extortion, without finding himself in jail” (October, 26 Nov.; 3, 10 Dec.; see also MEMRI, dispatch no. 166, 19 Dec. 2000). Jordanian writer Muhammad al-Qadha argued that the real holocaust was that of the Palestinian people, who have been experiencing a policy of murder, massacre and racial transfer for hundreds of years (al-Ra’y, 13 Nov.).

Analyzing the incitement and anti-Semitic manifestations during the intifada, Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of the New York City Jewish Week, contended that they indicated that “the Jews have no historic ties to the land; that Israel, the enemy, must be destroyed; and that the peace process is temporary, and a means to achieving the ultimate goal of replacing the Jewish state with Palestine.” The renewed intifada, then, is not about borders or settlements or contested holy places. It is about a complete denial of Jewish history, including any claim to Jerusalem’s Western Wall as a site holy to the Jewish people (Jewish Week, 20 Dec. 2000).

The Internet War. The struggle for world public opinion during the intifada highlighted the Internet as a new battleground between Arabs and Israelis. In October, Israelis crashed the server of Hizballah’s website by flooding it with requests. Hizballah responded by attacking Israeli government sites, including those of the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office. Hackers also attacked AIPAC’s site, causing damage to lists and records. A Jordanian journalist explained that the hackers were using their skills for “patriotic purposes, seeking vengeance for crimes committed against the Palestinian people” (Star 20, 2 Nov. – MSANEWS; al-Ayyam, 6 Nov.).

Pictures of martyrs, demonstrators and grieving mothers filled the Palestinian sites. An American Muslim site circulated in November the first chapter of Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic book The International Jew, a move criticized by American Muslim Bilal Cleland, who described Ford as “a filthy exploiter of millions of poor,” and claimed that “this sort of rubbish” does not weaken Zionism. “Zionism relies upon the fear of many Jews of anti-Semitism… [This] policy… does not help the Muslims as it strengthens Jewish support and Western post-Holocaust opinion behind the Israeli state” (MSANEWS).


The al-Aqsa intifada proved the power of the religious dimension as a mobilizing force of Arab and Muslim masses. Only a symbol such as the sacred Islamic site of al-Aqsa in Jerusalem could have sparked off such an aggressive Muslim reaction. But after the first spontaneous tide of demonstrations, violent acts against Jewish targets worldwide and harsh anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric, the struggle reverted to the Palestinian-Israeli scene. The Palestinian issue remained the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian people remained the main bearers of the burden. The Islamists who had succeeded in inculcating their perception of the struggle against Israel and the Jews among more moderate and secular Arabs and Muslims, and in radicalizing the Arab discourse, failed to incite an all-out jihad. As already indicated (see ASW 1999/2000), the Arab media and popular sentiment against Israel are much more belligerent than the Arab governments, on whom they exert pressure to radicalize their positions in dealing with Israel.

Most Arab analysts share the view that the intifada has revived “a spirit of pan-Arabism among the Arab public,” and discredited the US as an honest broker (al-Quds al-‘Arabi, 27 Nov. [Mideast Mirror]). According to Egyptian pro-Islamist commentator Fahmi Huwaydi, the intifada destroyed the myths of the Arab-Israeli confand proved that conviction and will could prevailover military strength, as was the case in Algeria and Vietnam (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 18 Oct.). However, few voices criticized Arab leaders such as Saddam Husayn for exploiting the Palestinian issue for their own interests (al-Hayat, 7 Dec.). Those who did, saw the intifada as a revolt not only against Oslo but also against “a group of responsible Palestinians who should admit their mistakes” (al-Hayat, 12 Dec.). In an interview with the Arab-Israeli weekly Kul al-‘Arab, published on 17 November, Hussam Khadhr, a Palestinian Legislative Council member affiliated with the Fatah movement, harshly condemned the PA’s actions in the intifada. PA citizens, he said, “feel that [civil] institutions are not being built and there is no struggle against corruption. These feelings led to an accumulation of [tension] which was unloaded in the struggle against the occupation” (MEMRI, dispatch no. 154, 21 Nov.).

Palestinian official Mar‘i ‘Abd al-Rahman, also criticized the “irresponsible positions” and the escalation of the Palestinian rhetoric. He claimed that the voices calling for the destruction of Israel proved a lack of understanding of “the Israeli enemy and the Jewish problem” and were detrimental to the Palestinian cause (al-Ittihad, 4 Dec. – MEMRI, dispatch no. 163, 11 Dec.).

Few Arab writers or intellectuals, supporters of peace with Israel, spoke out during the intifada to deplore violence and defend peace. MIFTAH, a Palestinian group for the promotion of global dialogue and democracy, issued a statement in mid-November to the Israeli public, expressing concern “that the conflict has, at times, dangerously spiraled, into an ethnic/religious one, such as the pogroms against Arab citizens of Nazareth, the lynching of the two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah and the numerous mob attacks on synagogues and mosques have shown” (online petition, 16 Nov. 2000).

Egyptian playwright ‘Ali Salim and author Amin al-Mahdi were concerned by the deterioration of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In an interview to al-Ahram al-‘Arabi, Salim criticized the Arab tendency to think justice was only on their side. He refused “to repent” for his position on peace, insisting that all parties were responsible for what was happening, and lashed out at the Arab media for inflaming the crisis and inciting the public (al-Ahram al-‘Arabi, 21 Oct.; see also MEMRI, dispatch no. 145, 31 Oct.).

Amin al-Mahdi also blamed the media for creating an atmosphere of violence by using fundamentalist rhetoric. “Fundamentalist slogans have appeared, while justice, humanism and human rights have been forsaken,” he claimed. The rejection of the Israeli prime minister’s proposals at Camp David in July and the outbreak of the intifada were seen by al-Mahdi as “the latest of missed opportunities for peace” in the history of the conflict. The Arabs “have been incessantly and hopelessly reproducing the same historical moment for the past 50 years,” he contended, and with the intifada, they had completed what Sharon had begun, supporting “an indirect alliance between the forces of Zionist expansion and Arab fascism.”

Al-Mahdi, known for his harsh criticism of Arab society (see ASW 1999/2000), wrote bluntly: “The Arab mind has proved itself repeatedly to be merely a religious mind.” Thus, the struggle for Palestinian rights has become transformed from “a rational action into an expression of hate and violence. Political emotions have taken the place of reason; the glory of suicide, killing and disrespect for human life have prevailed.” The Arab mentality, he concluded, “has not realized that even imperfect peace agreements are preferable to war… because true peace is democracy, co-existence, development and modernization – things that the authoritarian Arab regimes are not ready for” (al-Hayat, 6 Dec., 2000; Ha’aretz, 19 Jan. 2001).

The proliferation of anti-Semitic expressions triggered a debate over their significance for the Arab attitude toward the Jews and Israel. “For anyone still disposed to credit the standard Muslim-Arab contention that, so far as Palestine is concerned, Arabs have never had anything against Judaism or Jews but only against Zionism and Zionists, this fall’s anti-Israel riots should have gone far to dispel any remaining illusions. And if not the riots themselves, or the wanton destruction of ancient Jewish sites in Nablus and Jericho, then the words accompanying them; and if not the words shouted by frenzied mobs, then the presumably more reflective words articulated by leaders and dignitaries,” asserted Efraim Karsh, head of Mediterranean studies at King’s College, University of London (Efraim Karsh, “Intifada II: The Long Trail of Arab anti-Semitism,” Commentary, Dec. 2000, p. 49). Pointing to the Islamic roots of anti-Jewish bigotry, Karsh contends that Arab anti-Zionism “has invariably reflected a hatred well beyond the ‘normal’ level of hostility to be expected of a prolonged and bitter conflict,” and seems to suggest that it is “a manifestation of longstanding prejudice that has been brought out into the open by the vicissitudes of the Arab-Israeli conflict” (Karsh, p. 50). Israeli scholar Raphael Israeli from the Middle East Department at the Hebrew University also wondered whether the virulence of Arab utterances against Israel and the Jews were “indicative of the predisposition of the Arab masses to absorb [such rhetoric]” (Raphael Israeli, Arab and Islamic anti-Semitism, ACPR Policy Paper, No. 104 [Ariel Center for Policy Research], March 2000, p. 15).

Daniel Pipes and Gary Rosenblatt argued that Israelis “have clearly chosen to de-emphasize or even ignore” the phenomenon of Arab rejectionism and rhetoric which were dismissed by Shimon Peres as “only words” (Daniel Pipes, “Israel’s Moment of Truth,” Commentary, Feb. 2000, p. 23; Jewish Week, 20 Dec.).

These views are not shared by all scholars who deal with Arab anti-Semitism. Nissim Rejwan, a Middle East scholar who published a critique of the late Yehoshafat Harkabi’s prognosis of the Arab-Israeli conflict, referred to the anti-Semitic pronouncements as “empty rhetoric of the weak and helpless.” He ultimately rejected the use of the term anti-Semitism to describe Arab attitudes toward Israelis and Jews, claiming that the term was loaded with European-Christian connotations totally alien to the culture of the region (Nissim Rejwan, Arab Aims and Israeli Attitudes: A Critique of Yehoshafat Harkabi’s Prognosis of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Davis Occasional Papers, The Leonard Davis Institute, Jerusalem, 2000).

The debate over the term as well as the discussion of the impact of anti-Semitic rhetoric on the Arab attitude towards Israel and the Jews is likely to continue. Perhaps the definition of the term should be expanded to reflect more accurately the Arab portrayal of Israelis and Jews, which has so smoothly combined imported European anti-Semitic motifs with old Islamic tracts against the Jews.

Source - http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw2000-1/arab.htm


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