ARAB COUNTRIES 2002-3
Scholars and journalists visiting the Middle East reported increasingly on the prevalence and intensification of
antisemitism among Muslims. “Stay in a five-star hotel anywhere from Jordan to Iran,” wrote the journalist Susan Sachs, “and
you can buy the infamous forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
Arab newspapers abound with antisemitic imagery, and textbooks as well as
popular culture nurture hatred of Jews, she asserted.1 A significant
number of young generation artists have disseminated the message that up until
now has been promoted by fundamentalist movements, claimed Israeli commentator
Ehud Ya`ari. Its essence is not confined to the nationalist, territorial
struggle, but presents the entire Jewish people as a threat to the rest of the
world.2 British commentator Harold Evans agrees that the “frenzied,
vociferous, paranoid, vicious and prolific” antisemitism throughout Muslim
countries “is only incidentally connected to the Palestinian conflict.” The
fanaticism that has been fomented, he said “adds up to the dehumanization of
this comprehensive dehumanization was the sign banning entry of Jews to a
restaurant in Amman or the one banning entry of “dogs, insects and Jews” to a
pharmacy in a Cairo suburb.4 Zionism has become “a barbaric,
destructive beast,” wrote Halim Barakat, a professor of Palestinian origin at
Georgetown University, who described the rise of Zionism in terms of the 16th century
legend of the “golem” of Prague, the clay statue which came to life with an
unprecedented destructive force. Worshipping “an avenging God,” the present
leadership of Zionism behaves like a golem since its goals justify the means. The
younger Israeli generations are brought up to become “strong Jews who take
revenge by destroying themselves while destroying others” and not “humanly weak
Jews who respect the rights of others and contribute to civilization.”5
There were no new trends in Arab antisemitism but the
solidification of existing ones, discerned in the wake of al-Aqsa intifada and
the attacks of 11 September
2001. The main motifs
convergence of antisemitism with anti-Americanism;
victims to executioners” – the equation of Israeli actions with Nazi atrocities;
glorification of martyrdom and sanctioning of killing;
of the myths of The Protocols and the blood libel.
the convergence of Antisemitism with Anti-Americanism
The linkage between anti-Americanism and antisemitism, which reached a
peak following the September 11 (2001) attacks, received a fresh boost from
subsequent events, primarily the American war against Afghanistan, the Iraq crisis
followed by the war on Iraq and the continued low-intensity war between
Palestinians and Israelis (see also General Analysis). In an article in
the Jordanian daily al-Ra’y, Palestinian commentator As`ad `Abd
al-Rahman compared the Arab debate on whether it was feasible to fight the “American
bull” in the 1960s to the ongoing discourse since the September 11 attacks. In
both, he stressed, there was “an Israeli/Zionist dimension – since Israel is always present in the ‘confrontation’."6
American Jews were blamed for manipulating the US and pushing it into a crusader war against Muslims in
order to satisfy Israeli interests. President Bush’s State of the Nation
address defining the “axis of evil,” composed of North Korea, Iraq and Iran, triggered a strong reaction in the Arab world. “Where is the power of
evil,” asked Salama Ahmad Salama in al-Ahram, accusing Bush of using the
language of bin Ladin and ignoring or even supporting the “real terrorist”
actions of Israeli PM Sharon. Washington is
subservient to the influence of the Jewish vote and therefore neglects its commitment
to moral values and principles, wrote Jalal Dawidar in al-Akhbar. Editor
of al-Quds al`Arabi `Abd al-Bari `Atwan, who compared Bush’s speech to
Hitler’s threat to Poland and Czechoslovakia, attacked Bush for declaring war
on half of the world to satisfy the interests of the Hebrew state.7
`Abd al-`Aziz Muhammad claimed in the Egyptian opposition paper al-Wafd
that the US had been zionized. Moreover, he said, American Zionism preceded the
Zionism of the Jews and Israel, alluding to the Protestant
conviction of the return of the Jews to their homeland. The American psyche had
endorsed expansion of the state by exterminating the Indians, the original
owners of the land, or by purchasing the land, he charged, and the same
mentality characterized the return of the Jews to the “Promised Land.”8
The equation of Zionism with Nazism and racism was extended
to the comparison of America with Nazism and the swastika, which
used to adorn Netanyahu’s or Sharon’s forehead, appeared on Bush’s forehead as
well. Sharon and Bush were depicted as a perfect match, bloodthirsty
war-mongers, who shared a similar lust for vengeance.9 On 26
January, veteran Egyptian journalist Anis Mansur alleged in his daily column
that the US treatment of al-Qa`ida prisoners in Guantanamo Bay prison was “worse
than what Hitler did to his rivals from among the Jews and Christians.”10
In a Friday sermon delivered during the month of Ramadan before
the war on Iraq, in the Mother of All Battles Mosque in Baghdad, Shaykh Bakr
`Abd al-Raziq al-Samaray referred to the challenge posed to the Islamic nation
by the forces of the infidels – Jews, Crusaders, Americans and Britons. They –
the “descendants of pigs and apes” – are “the real terrorists,” but they cannot
threaten Muhammad and his descendants since God is behind them.11 Trying
to explain the American-British conspiracy against Iraq and the Muslim nation, writer
Muhammad `Isa Dawud claimed that Iraqi president Saddam Husayn was the Islamic
mythological anti-Christ (al-masih al-dajjal), whom, it was believed,
would emerge from Iraq and bring about a resurrection of the Muslim umma.
The first phase in the plans of the anti-Christ, he wrote, was the conquest of Kuwait in August 1990, causing the second
Gulf war, the siege and the sanctions on Iraq.
The Prophet Muhammad, he claimed, predicted this siege but also the victory
over America and the West, including the
purification of al-Aqsa of the Jews.12
Over 200 religious scholars convened in Amman in November and reiterated the absolute ban on any
kind of cooperation with the Zionist entity and the American administration. Any
aggression against any part of the Arab or Islamic land is an aggression
against the Muslim umma, they ruled and hence jihad against the Jews and
all aggressors is a personal duty (fardh `ayn) incumbent on every
Muslim, male and female.13
year after the bombing of the World Trade Center, the canard that 11 September
was a Jewish plot and that 4,000 Jews had absented themselves from the Twin Towers
on that day was still prevalent. In fact, it became an unshakable conviction in
most Muslim countries, as a Gallup Poll revealed. Most interviewees in nine
predominantly Muslim countries rejected the idea that Arabs or Muslims were
responsible for the bombings.14 Could an operation of such magnitude
be carried out so accurately by an Islamic group receiving orders from a cave
in Afghanistan, wondered Mursi `Atallah in the Egyptian al-Ahram al-Masa’,
despite all the evidence accumulated.15 The attacks were planned by
Jews, it was argued, in order to provide them with an excuse to blame Islam for
being a radical and terrorist religion and to destroy the Muslim world.16
Moreover, some papers even predicted another terrorist attack by “the Zionist
entity” inside the US in order to push the latter into a war against Iraq.17
reinforce this thesis, Arab papers of all ideological trends extensively quoted
western sources propagating similar views, such as US supremacists Lyndon
LaRouche and David Duke, French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy and French journalist
Thierry Meyssan.18 The Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-Up
(ZCCF), founded in Abu Dhabi in 1999 under the auspices of the Arab League, was
instrumental in presenting their ideas in academic guise. The center organizes
conferences and lectures with the participation of Arab and foreign
intellectuals, journalists and politicians. It also runs a website which
reports on its activities. Several lectures and symposiums held during the year
dealt with the September 11 events, Zionism and the Jews. Meyssan, author of The
Frightening Deceit (L’effroyable Imposture) who was hosted by the
center, repeated his theory about American involvement in the September 11 attacks
in support of Islamic terrorists. In mid-June the center organized a symposium
on “The Jews in the Arab World,” which was intended to diffuse “international
Zionist propaganda intended to inculcate hatred in the hearts of Arabs and
Muslims toward the Jews.” Two months later, at the end of August, another
seminar was held on “Semitism,” “to expose the fallacious claims and concocted
legends of the Zionists and to counter their nefarious propaganda against Arabs
and Muslims after the September 11 events, in particular.” Muhammad Khalifa
al-Murar, executive director of the center accused the Jews of being the
enemies of all nations, cheats and self-seekers, who resorted to churning out
lies that they were Semites and were being persecuted, in order “to cover their
heinous crimes… against the Palestinian people.” Ahmad Salim Jarad, head of the
Israeli Affairs desk in the Arab League spoke of “the misleading concepts of
antisemitism and terrorism exploited by Israel.” The September 11 events “have
complicated the Arab-Israeli conflict,” charged Egyptian scholar Muhammad
Khalifa Hasan, director of the Center of Oriental Studies at Cairo University.
He asserted that they were fabricated “because we still do not possess solid
proof of the real perpetrators and their true objectives.” They led to the
labeling of Arabs and Muslims as terrorists, he insisted, and “instead of
treating the Palestinian problem as a political issue,” it was reduced to an
issue of terrorism. The conference issued several recommendations, including a
call to revise the term “antisemitism” and highlighting the fact that “Semitism
includes Arab people as well and under no circumstances can it be restricted to
Jews the majority of whom are not of Semitic origin.”
conference evoked strong Jewish denunciations. Abraham Foxman, director of the
Anti-Defamation League, considered it part “of a major effort to de-legitimize Israel
and the Jewish people, and accused the Arab League of rendering “a level of
legitimacy to this garbage” by its participation. The Wiesenthal Center sent a
protest letter to Arab League President `Amru Musa. Yad VaShem Chairman Avner
Shalev also condemned the conference for exploiting the issue of the Holocaust “as
a platform for political and racist arguments.” In response, the Arab League
distanced itself from anti-Jewish statements made in the seminar. In November
the Zayed Center published a study focusing on Christian attitudes towards
Zionism and the religious dimensions of the Arab-Israeli conflict, urging Arabs
to communicate with Christians around the world in order “to highlight the
dangers posed to their religion by Zionism.” Palestinian Minister of Islamic Endowments
Shaykh Yusuf Salama was also hosted by the center in November and December. Speaking
of the spiritual and historical significance of Jerusalem and Palestine for the
Arabs and Muslims, he undermined Jewish historical claims to Joseph’s Tomb [the
tomb in Nablus which was attacked at the beginning of al-Aqsa intifada, see ASW
2000/1] and Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem, and “regretted the complicity of
Zionist and Christian extremists in leading US policy against Islam and
an article entitled “The Holocaust: The Jewish Origin and the American
Replica,” `Abd al-`Alim Muhammad argued in al-Ahram that the attacks of
September 11 were “the holocaust of the 21st century.” They had created a new
climate and a new narrative of western supremacy along the lines of the Jewish
Holocaust, he charged, enabling the US to exploit the world and extort it
emotionally while dividing it into supporters of the American narrative and
deniers. Although there was no Arab objection to the Jewish narrative of the Holocaust,
he concluded, “we oppose and criticize Jewish and Israeli victims of the
Holocaust who perpetrate a ‘holocaust’ against the Palestinian people, not by
gas chambers but by killing, destroying and uprooting.” A similar view was
expressed by Ahmad Taha al-Naqr in al-Akhbar.20
April, a US House of Representatives subcommittee heard experts on increasing antisemitism
and anti-American incitement in the Arab world. “If allowed to flourish,”
Abraham Foxman warned, it could become “one of the most destructive forces
unleashed in this new century.”21 Congressman Tom Lantos, in a forward
to MEMRI’s special report on the alleged perpetration of the September attacks
by Jews, wrote that the Arab world had not come to terms with the fact that
Arabs planned and executed “the evil deeds,” using Jews as scapegoats for
problems of their own making. “Such is the classic utility the antisemite finds
in his antisemitism,” he concluded.22 US ambassador to Cairo David
Welch also responded to similar assertions casting doubt on the culpability of
al-Qa`ida and implicating the American government or the Jews, published in the
Egyptian media on the first anniversary of the attacks. “Disregard of the facts
in such serious matters can tarnish the reputation of the Egyptian media in the
eyes of the world,” he suggested in an article in al-Ahram. The article
evoked harsh criticism and even calls to declare him persona non grata by
Egyptian writers, intellectuals and journalists, who were particularly offended
by what was perceived as a condescending attitude toward them and an intrusion
in their affairs. Some, like Mustafa Bakri editor of the opposition weekly al-Usbu`,
raised the issue of alleged crimes and human rights violations perpetrated by
the US against Arabs and Muslims, and its unqualified support of “the Zionist
entity” despite the latter’s deeds against the Palestinians. Egyptian writer
Nabil Sharaf al-Din, on the other hand, acknowledged in an article in the
London-based pan-Arab al-Quds al-`Arabi, the cycle of hatred on both
sides. The American right, he said, had published a book containing all manner of
accusations against Arabs and Muslims, whereas in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar,
the US is portrayed as “the mother of all evils,” “an owl.” They seek its
demise and do not hide their joy for the September 11 attacks perpetrated by “a
bunch of mujahidin,” disciples of Usama bin Ladin.23
“From victims to executioners” – comparing
Israeli military actions TO Nazi atrocities
Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, which reached its peak with the siege on
Arafat’s compound in Ramallah in January and Operation Defensive Shield in
March-April leading to the redeployment of the IDF in the Palestinian Authority’s
(PA) territories, spurred a hardening of rhetoric against Israel, Zionism and
the US. While the war against Iraq and the September 11 events triggered
anti-American sentiments accompanied also by the manifestation of anti-Jewish
sentiments, the situation was reversed in the discourse on the intifada: anti-Israel,
anti-Zionist and antisemitic rhetoric led to anti-American manifestations.
Demonstrators in Arab capitals bore banners presenting Sharon as a butcher and
Bush as his dog. They burned Israeli and American flags and called for severing
all diplomatic relations with Israel and all remaining signs of normalization.
In fact, the Cairo Association for Peace was disbanded by a court ruling in
September.24 Israel was accused of conducting a premeditated war of
extermination against the Palestinian people, “before the eyes of the world, in
scenes reminiscent of the barbaric acts of the Nazis.”25 “Silence
means a repetition of the 1948 disaster [the Palestinian nakba] in a new
form,” wrote Qasim Kasir in the Lebanese daily al-Mustaqbal. The
equation of the present suffering inflicted on the Palestinians and the nakba
was repeatedly made by various writers, especially after the fierce battle
which took place in the Jenin camp in mid-April.26 “Sharon applies
himself assiduously to the Shylockian task of dismembering the Palestinians,
but there is no regional or international judge standing up to demand that he
does not spill a single drop of blood, and reminding him that the Palestinian
Antonio is not a debtor but a creditor,” wrote Jalal al-Mashta.27
Other writers also protested against the international silence, especially that
of the US, which was interpreted as condoning Israel’s policies. The US is
fully responsible for Sharon’s crimes, asserted Ahmad Taha al-Naqr in al-Akhbar.28
Egyptian poet and commentator Ahmad `Abd al-Mu`ti Hijjazi went so far as to
compare the massacre of the Indians in Manhattan to the 1948 massacre of Deir Yasin.
The method, he said, was the same, and the crimes were derived from the
philosophies, the principles, the moral beliefs, the inventions and the
achievements of western civilization.29
themes of the Arab discourse comparing the Palestinian tragedy to the Holocaust
and equating Zionism and Nazism were frequently raised in countless articles in
Arab newpapers, sermons, television programs and Internet sites. “What is
taking place in the Palestinian territories is a crime against humanity,” said
an editorial in the Qatari daily al-Raya.30 Zionist crimes
are the worst crimes ever committed, claimed Yusuf Jad al-Haq in the Syrian
daily Tishrin, whereas the lie of the Holocaust continues to be firmly
established in the western mind and serves as “a milk cow.”31 Arab
American Ray Hanania, who spoke in Chicago before members of the association of
Arab journalists in the US, pointed to Israel as the real source of terrorism
and charged that Sharon’s attacks on the Palestinians “mirror the acts of the
Nazis” during the 1930s.32 Palestinian intellectual and Colombia
University professor Edward Said, assumed that “there is a value in seeing
analogies and perhaps hidden similarities” between calamities, and claimed that
the Palestinians under Israeli occupation “are as powerless as Jews were in the
1940s.”33 The world was mutely watching the emergence of a “small
Third Reich” in Israel led by “a little Hitler,” who pursues in the Palestinian
territories the Nazi practices of “persecution, ethnic cleansing and racial
discrimination out of a superiority complex,” wrote Muhammad Ka`ush in a
Jordanian opposition paper.34 Anis Mansur also considered Sharon “a
new Hitler.” By voting for him, Israel “had decided to commit suicide and to
crucify itself with its own hands,” arousing Islamic, Christian and even Jewish
wrath. Hatred toward Israel increases daily, he wrote in another column, and
nowadays whenever the Jews speak of their Holocaust, people remember the
holocaust committed by them against the Palestinian people, and they find
themselves increasingly strangled as a minority among 400 million Arabs and
over a billion Muslims. Although they do not blow themselves up, he reiterated
few months later, they create the circumstances for their extermination, as
they did when they drove Hitler to kill them. Sharon’s crime is worse than
Hitler’s because “he takes revenge on the Arabs for what Hitler did.”35
Referring to the Israeli reaction Nobel Laureate Jose Saramagu’s comment that
the siege of Ramallah reminded him of Auschwitz, Baha’ Tahir also thought that
Israeli conduct against the Palestinians exceeded German Nazi crimes against
military operation in the Jenin refugee camp in April was met with strong
resistance and therefore caused casualties on both sides and great damage to
the camp. Since reporters were not allowed to join the combat forces, rumors
spread concerning alleged massacres and atrocities committed by the Israeli
army. Even after a UN investigation committee established that no such acts had
been perpetrated, the myth persisted, especially in the Arab media. Jenin
became not only a symbol of resistance but a catchword for Israeli Nazi
behavior. Israel was accused of war crimes, burning bodies, and attacking and
executing prisoners.37 “If Jenin was not a real holocaust what are
holocausts?” wrote former Egyptian ambassador to Yemen Khalid Mahmud al-Kumi.38
The Egyptian weekly Ruz al-Yusuf published a pictorial article entitled “Hitler’s
crematoria and Sharon slaughterhouses.” Pictures of Nazi soldiers, Jewish
children behind wire fences, Jewish women with the yellow Star of David and
Hitler saluting were juxtaposed with photos of Israeli soldiers beating young
Palestinians, wounded Palestinian women and Sharon saluting, accompanied by captions
such as: “What is the Arabs’ crime that the Israelis unleash on them their obsession
with Nazism? The Nazis are the ones who persecuted them, not the Palestinians.”
The Kuwaiti weekly al-Mujtama` published an article in the same vein,
entitled “When ‘the Victim’ Plays the Role of Executioner: The Cloning of
journalist and author of a book on Jewish jokes `Adil Hammuda repeated some
typical Jewish jokes about the Nazis in an article in Al-Ahram, demonstrating
that the Nazis were innocent and naive in comparison to the Jews. Hitler, he
said, hated the Jews and did not trust them. In Mein Kampf he expressed
his belief that the Jews wanted to establish a state not out of national
awareness but in order to create a central organization to deceive the world.
When Hitler wanted to get rid of them, no one wanted them and they were sent to
hell, he concluded. But “the Jews did not learn their lesson and turned from
victims into executioners, from oven fuel into oven owners, and from detainees into
criminals. No matter how great their arrogance, their day will come.”40
an attempt to understand Israeli behavior, `Adil Shafi`I al-Khatib, a member of
the Arab Writers Association, assumed that the Jews were indeed driven by fear,
the result of a long history of persecution and deportation. Thus, Israel acted
aggressively out of fear, but when it committed aggression, its fears only grew.
The only way for Israel to escape from this predicament was to cure itself of
its fears by curbing its ambitions and its offenses. One of the most malicious
articles published in the aftermath of the Jenin affair was written by Fatima
`Abdallah Mahmud, who described the Jews as an accursed people who wrought
catastrophe on the human race. Hitler himself, she said, was “no more than a
modest pupil in the world of murder and bloodshed.” Addressing Hitler, she
complained “from the bottom of my heart, if you only had done it, brother, if
only it had really happened, so that the world would have been relieved of their
evils and crimes.”41
of comparing the Palestinian tragedy to the Holocaust and equating Zionism with
Nazism contained many references, as in the case of Fatima’s article, to both denial
and justification of the Holocaust, despite the apparent contradiction between
Glorifying Martyrdom and Sanctioning Killing
In 2002 and the first
half of 2003, incitement against Israel continued unabated in the Palestinian
media especially in TV programs and broadcasted sermons. Jews were labeled “conceited,”
“arrogant” and “treacherous” and warned that they would be punished on Judgment
Day.43 The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Mein Kampf
and other books defaming Jews, Israel and Zionism were seized by the IDF in
April in the PA’s offices in Bethlehem and Ramallah and in May aboard an
Egyptian cargo ship. One of the books found in Arafat’s palace in Bethlehem was
Zionazism. Fight it before It Kills You (al-sahyunaziya. Qatiluha
qabla an taqtulukum), by Mustafa Akhmis, who presented it personally with a
written dedication to Arafat’s close associate Yusuf `Abdallah. The book,
dedicated to the martyrs of the Palestinian revolution, refuted Jewish history
and the origins of contemporary Jewry, denied the Holocaust and described
Zionism as “the eighth crusade” planned by imperialist countries.44
was praised, sanctified and encouraged, despite the continuing academic
juridical debate among religious scholars (see ASW 2001/2). “You raised
our heads high,” wrote Saudi columnist Khalil Ibrahim al-Sa`dat to the
perpetrators of the suicide attack on Passover eve in the Park Hotel, Netanya.46
Chairman of the Arab Psychiatrists’ Association `Adil Sadiq from the Department
of Psychiatry at `Ayn Shams University, Cairo, described “as a professional
psychiatrist” the height of bliss reached by the martyr when he ended the
countdown and exploded. “He has a sense of flying, because he knows for certain
that he is not dead. It is a transition to another, more beautiful, world,” he
explained, adding, “no one in the western world sacrifices his life for his
homeland.”46 Gazan psychiatrist `Iyad Sarraj explained that martyrs’
(shuhada’) enjoyed an “unparalleled status in Palestinian society,” and
parents encouraged this goal. Suicide bombings perceived as martyrdom
operations are considered “the most sublime means of battle that the
Palestinian people have created,” or “the highest form of jihad.” The Jerusalem
Media and Communication Center (JMCC), a Palestinian research organization,
found in a May-June survey that a majority of 68 percent supported suicide
bombings. Jamila Shanti, head of the Women’s Activities division of Hamas, also
admitted that the issue of martyrdom had gained much popularity. A new children
magazine, The Conqueror (al-Fatih), published by Hamas,
reportedly included stories of the heroism of Palestinian martyrs. Martyrs’
families, too, enjoyed an elevated status due to substantial financial support
from Iraq and Saudi Arabia.47
phenomenon – female suicide bombers – triggered a debate on whether this was
permitted in Islam. Shanti condoned the participation of women in jihad, and
asserted that “there is no difference between the martyrdom of sisters and the
martyrdom of brothers, because the enemy does not differentiate between firing
on men and firing on women.” However, Hamas spiritual leader Shaykh Ahmad Yasin
preferred to see women performing their traditional role of supporting the
fighters, especially since Islam set restrictions, requiring a female fighter
to be accompanied by a chaperon if she went out to wage jihad. However, several
women blew themselves up in suicide operations and in Egypt books commemorating
their memory were published.48
question of religious legitimization of suicide attacks continued to be
debated, especially in view of the devastation of Palestinian life as a result
of Israeli retaliation and the growing awareness of the negative impact they
had on world opinion, especially after the September 11 attacks. The
contradictory statements made by Shaykh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, shaykh
al-Azhar, the highest Sunni authority, are indicative of the confusion. He
ruled against suicide attacks, but after coming under attack he changed his
mind and justified any such attack on Israelis as occupiers and hence
considered suicide bombers martyrs, who according to Islamic conviction enjoyed
special privileges in the hereafter.49
despite their fundamental worldview, condoning the targeting of Israelis and
even Jews worldwide (see ASW 2000/1), Islamist scholars and Palestinian
Islamists insisted that they were not fighting Jews because they were Jews. Prominent
`Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade member Salah Mustafa Muhammad Shahada explained
in an interview that his organization fought Jews “because they are occupying
our lands” and not because of their faith.50 A similar view was
expressed by Islamist scholar Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi in an interview to the
Qatar-based al-Jazira satellite TV. Qaradawi who consistently gave religious sanction
to suicide attacks against any Israeli target, explained in response to a
question on the traditional enmity between Muslims and Jews according to the
Qur’an, that it was “not a call to fight them. Rather, it is a way of exposing their
history, values, and manners, so one can use caution when dealing with them.”51
for Palestinian Islamist organizations rejected the Israeli and American
definition of terrorism, which linked them to the September 11 attacks. “The US
description of martyrdom operations as terrorism is false and libelous,” said Shaykh
Yusuf Jum`a Salama. The final statement of the conference of foreign ministers
of the Islamic Conference Organization (ICO), issued in Kuala Lumpur at the end
of March, rejected any linkage between terrorism (which was considered
despicable) and the Palestinian resistance, which was striving to exercise the Palestinians’
However, despite these attempts to deflect any links between
the Palestinian militants and the international Islamist front identified with
Usama bin Ladin and al-Qa`ida, there were increasing indications during the
year of attempts by al-Qa`ida, Hizballah and Iran to penetrate their ranks.53
Moreover, al-Qa`ida was giving Palestine higher priority – a trend reflected in
several statements by bin Ladin and his aides and in two attacks, one against an
old Jewish synagogue in Tunisia and another against an Israeli target in Mombassa.
Al-Qa`ida’s vision was clearly expressed by its spokesmen and
members. Zakariya Musawi, the suspect charged with conspiring in the September
11 attacks, called in an Alexandria, Virginia, court for the destruction of the
US and of the Jewish people and Israel.54 America, in collaboration
with the Jews, led the moral, ideological, political and economic corruption in
the world and disseminated evil and licentiousness, charged Ayman al-Zawahiri,
the Egyptian jihad leader and bin Ladin’s top aide. The Jews, he continued in
an article published in the London-based Saudi paper al-Sharq al-Awsat,
with the support and blessing of the Americans, carried out the most vicious
crimes against Palestinians. Jihad against Americans, Jews and anyone who follows
their path is the only way to fight their evils and bring about the triumph of
Islam, he concluded.55 Similar messages attributed to bin Ladin were
published in Arab papers and websites or broadcast on al-Jazira Qatari
satellite television on several occasions during the year. The gist of the
messages was: “Seeking to kill Americans and Jews everywhere in the world is
one of the greatest duties” for Muslims and the “most preferred by Allah.” The
Jews of today, he said in his message broadcast on 11 February 2003 on the eve of the Iraq
war, were the same ones that lied and tried to trick the Creator, killed the
Prophets and broke their promises. The Jews were the lords of usury and leaders
of treachery, who believed that humans were their slaves. In conclusion, he
repeated the oft-quoted saying (hadith) about Judgement Day, according
to which Jews would hide behind rocks and trees, which would call on the
Muslims to come and kill them. This hadith, he stressed, indicated that
the battle would be face to face and that the Muslims would emerge victorious
in their jihad against the Crusaders and the Jews.56
these appeals to Arabs and Muslims, no differentiation was made between Jews
and Israelis. They were all legitimate targets for the jihad war that Islamists
were instigating against the Judeo-Christian alliance. Although al-Qa`ida had suffered
great losses since the US launched its war against terrorism, scattered cells
were still active and new members were being recruited, posing a real danger to
Jews and Israelis. Calls to target Jews worldwide were reiterated in Friday
sermons on the eve of the Iraq war in Iraqi mosques as well as at other Arab
gatherings and demonstrations, which indeed precipitated action.
On 11 April 2002 a truck loaded with gasoline and explosives blew up in an alley leading to
the old synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, killing two Jews, 11 German tourists, the
truck driver and a police officer. Worshippers in the synagogue were unhurt. A
group named the Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places, linked to
al-Qa`ida and to Islamist cells in Europe and Canada, took responsibility for
the attack. At the beginning of June al-Qa`ida spokesman Sulayman Abu Ghith proudly
confirmed the group’s complicity in the attack in a message published on al-Nidaa
Internet site.57 This, in fact, was the first strike against a
Jewish target since the 1994 attack in Argentina. Following this incident,
other acts of vandalism and arson were perpetrated, creating a growing feeling
of insecurity among the Tunisian Jewish community of about 2,000. In April and
May, there were also four stabbings of Jews in Casablanca, Morocco.
28 November al-Qa`ida perpetrated another attack in Mombassa, Kenya. Missiles
were shot at an Israeli plane while it was taking off, but missed. However, a
ground attack on the nearby Paradise Hotel killed over ten Kenyans and three
Israelis, wounded several others and caused heavy damage. In communiqués
posted on its associated websites, al-Qa`ida viewed the attack as another link
in the chain against the “alliance of Jews and Crusaders,” and as “a gift for
Spreading the Myths of the Protocols and the Blood Libel
demonization of Israel and Zionism and hence of Jews intensified the
popularization of antisemitic motifs. Ehud Ya`ari concluded that significant numbers
of young Arab artists had “volunteered their services to sharpen and stylize”
the negative message about Israelis and Jews.59
of the most successful summer movies in Egypt was The Mafia, a thriller
pitting the Egyptians – the good guys – against a Jewish terrorist organization
– the bad guys – who planned to assassinate the Pope. A new educational
television program, “The Sons of Noah” reportedly explores the historical and
geographical roots of Semitism. Jamal al-Sha`ir, head of the educational
channel, said that the first chapter deals with Hitler’s persecution of the
Jews, “known as the Holocaust,” exploited by the Jews to emotionally extort the
Nafi`, in one of his daily columns, and few months later Wajih Abu Zikra in an
article in al-Akhbar, reported that Israelis were removing the organs of
Palestinians killed in fighting in order to give them to Jews in need of
transplants.61 The eighth edition of The Matzah of Zion by
Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass, based on the 1840 Damascus blood libel
was among the most popular books at the Syrian international book fair, held in
October. The new edition includes, according to al-Hayat, a new chapter
- a translation of the book The Young Martyr of Prague, on the murder of
a teenager in Prague in 1694. Due to great demand, the Tlass Publishing House
decided to translate the book into English, French and Italian. Tlass refuted
accusations that he is antisemitic, and the official Syrian response was that
Syrians are neither racist nor anti-Jewish, but anti-Zionist.62
describing the alleged use of human blood in Jewish rituals were published in the
Saudi paper al-Riyadh in March and in the Iraqi daily al-Thawra
on 3 May. Following American protests to the Saudis, the editor of the paper
apologized and fired the author, Umayma Ahmad al-Jalahma of King Faysal University
The Case of Ibrahim
Nafi`: The blood libel was the cause for a lawsuit filed against al-Ahram
editor-in- chief and chairman of the Arab Press Syndicate Ibrahim Nafi` in a
Paris court by the International League against Racism and Antisemitism
(LICRA), identified in the Arab media as a “Paris-based Jewish group.” On 28 October 2000, the paper published an article by Egyptian columnist `Adil Hammuda
entitled “A Jewish Pie from Arab Blood.” The author narrated the Damascus blood
libel, and concluded that it was a true ongoing story in light of Israeli
aggression against Palestinian children (see ASW 2000/1). The suit, filed
a year and half later, deemed the article antisemitic and accused the paper of “inciting
hatred and racist violence.” Nafi` was to appear in court on 9 August 2002, but
in accordance with existing agreements between the French and the Egyptian
governments, he was interrogated by an Egyptian judicial body whose findings
were sent to the French court by the end of that year.64
case drew angry responses from the Arab world and the support of individuals
and organizations who vowed to stand by Nafi` and repel attempts to silence
criticism of Israel.65 Nafi` wrote a lengthy article on 1 August entitled
“The Myth of Antisemitism in the Egyptian Press.” He accused the “Zionist right”
in the US and Europe of launching “periodic venomous campaigns against Egypt,
its leadership, and its political and intellectual figures,” as well as antisemitism.
These allegations, he claimed, were “an obvious attempt at extortion,” employed
whenever there was a chance for unified Arab action or when Egypt performed its
role as the leading Arab country. Reiterating the notion that Arabs as Semites
cannot be antisemites, he examined one by one articles mentioned in a report on
antisemitism in the Egyptian press and circulated among foreign diplomatic
delegations in Cairo by “unnamed Zionist circles.” All the charges raised
against Israel in these articles, he claimed – committing war crimes, genocide
of the Palestinian people and terrorism, violation of human rights, and
equating Israeli policies with Nazism – could not be considered antisemitic or
racist. They constituted legitimate criticism of Israeli policies and reflected
an attempt to abuse the freedom of expression of the Egyptian press, especially
when compared to racist utterances of Jewish fundamentalists or of Israeli
politicians from the right and left. Moreover, he added, Egypt and the Arab
world did not share the European experience with Nazism. “For us [Nazism] means
no more than a racist movement which committed abhorrent crimes in Europe, and
hence, it is the right of any writer or any intellectual to see the
similarities between Sharon’s policies and Nazi policies.”66
case, which reminded several commentators of the trial of Holocaust denier
Roger Garaudy in February 1998 (see ASW 1998/9), was seen by Egyptian
politicians and commentators as politically motivated and a continuation “of Israel’s
relentless efforts to win sympathy by invoking the charge of antisemitism.”
Israelis “exploit historic events that have resonance for Europeans,” added Egyptian
expert on Israeli affairs `Imad Jad, to undermine criticism against Israel.
There was general agreement that:
the affair reflected Zionist attempts “to drag Arab
opinion leaders to the courts on unsubstantiated charges” in order to tarnish the
Arab and Muslim reputation and particularly that of Egypt for its
support of the Palestinian cause;
the French court subpoena was illegal and it could
not judge citizens of another country;
al-Ahram would “meet the challenge” in
defense of the free press and freedom of expression and thought; and
Arabs should organize a movement to combat Zionist
racism, file counter lawsuits and pursue Israeli religious and political
figures who defame Arabs.67
Horseman without a
Horse: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were the inspiration of Egyptian co-author and producer
Muhammad Subhi for the notorious 41-part television series Horseman without
a Horse. The series was aired over six weeks, from 6 November, in the prime
time holiday month of Ramadan. The main theme of the series purports to relate
the history of the family of the hero, Hafiz Najib, a journalist and activist
in the Arab national movement. Through his eyes the history of the Middle East
and of Arab nationalism and resistance to Ottoman and British rule from the
mid-19th century till 1948 [the establishment of the State of Israel] unfolds.
The subplot, which occupies several segments, alludes to The Protocols.
A group of stereotypical orthodox Jewish elders is depicted discussing the
establishment of a Jewish state with British help, and conniving to prevent
publication of a copy of The Protocols smuggled into Egypt. Hafiz insists
on finding the copy in order to establish whether the Protocols are true. Despite
the Jews’ efforts to thwart him, he finds it and orders its translation into
Arabic. During these episodes the gist of their contents is exposed. Jews are
portrayed as the enemies of mankind who seek to take over the world through the
use of money, murder, sex and other despicable means, and Zionism is portrayed as
part of “The Elders of Zion” conspiracy. The question of authenticity remains
unresolved, leaving the viewers to decide for themselves.68
before its screening, the series aroused strong protests by Jewish
organizations and by the American State Department, which perceived it as continuing
a pattern of antisemitic incitement in the Egyptian media. The American Congress
even threatened to cut off aid to Egypt and US ambassador in Egypt David Welch
raised his country’s concerns with Egyptian Minister of Information Safwat
al-Sharif. Al-Sharif refuted the allegations that the series was antisemitic,
and Government Spokesman Nabil `Uthman issued a statement at the beginning of
November saying that prejudging a program before it was aired indicated “an
immature” attitude and was a form of “intellectual and emotional terrorism.”
There is, he admitted, a long history of controversy between Egypt and America
over antisemitism. President Husni Mubarak also defended the series in response
to a letter of protest submitted by Israeli President Moshe Katzav, claiming
that it was not based on the infamous Protocols, but was “an artistic
interpretation of history.”69 Following this uproar, Egyptian
television decided to replace the original opening sequence declaring that some
of the events were real and some imaginary, with a statement explaining that
the series was not intended to prove the authenticity of The Protocols.
Six countries, among them Bahrain and the Spanish Arabic channel, yielded to
pressure and withdrew the program, which in Egypt reportedly attracted a very
who also performs the hero’s role, accused the Israeli lobby of manufacturing
mayhem by misrepresenting the extent to which the program deals with The
Protocols and denied the charges of antisemitism. His research, he
maintained, proved that 19 of the 24 protocols had been put into practice. He
expressed his satisfaction that he was capable of revealing “the great
conspiracy aimed at swallowing our beloved nation,” and boasted that if the
production “terrified Zionists, we will produce further series.”71
protests and condemnations before and during the screening of the series
sparked a lively discourse in the Arab, particularly Egyptian, media on The
Protocols, on Arab attitudes toward Jews and on Arab antisemitism. In many
ways this was a continuation of the earlier debates that erupted following the
indictment of Ibrahim Nafi’ and after the publication of a David Welch’s
critical article in September (see above), all of which gave rise to
expressions of national sentiments which rejected outside interference in Arab
affairs and stressed that Arabs should not be expected to act objectively when
Jews were involved. Most Egyptians were reportedly relieved to see that their
government had not surrendered to Washington’s threats to cut off aid. Defending
the right of freedom of expression, supporters of the series also bristled at
what they called the hypocrisy of the “land of the free,” which, while
ostensibly lauding its own uncensored media, demanded that the Egyptian
government censor the privately owned network which produced it. They perceived
the strong reaction to the program as a Zionist orchestrated attack against
Arabs and Muslims, and specifically against Egypt, the leading Arab country.
Zaynab al-Imam expressed in al-Ahram her gratitude to all those who took
part in the production, and especially to its hero (Subhi), for “grasping the
importance of art as a weapon to be used culturally and consciously.” It is an
effective weapon, she continued, which “does not spill blood but enlighten the
minds.” Many others shared her viewpoint.72
diplomatic wrangles elicited renewed interest in The Protocols. They
were published in full in the opposition weekly al-`Arabi73
and a new edition of the book in Arabic was printed to satisfy demand.74
`Abd al-`Aziz al-Suwayd urged Arab publishers, in the Saudi daily al-Riyadh,
to issue them in inexpensive popular editions without profit considerations.
Those who relied on “this important book” and accepted the conspiracy theory
are accused of being “stupid, reactionary and uncivilized,” in order to clear
the name of the Jews from past and present misdeeds, he said. They are also
charged with being antisemites, an allegation used by the Jews as a shield
behind which they realized most of their achievements. Among these he listed
their exoneration by the Pope in 1965 for the killing of Jesus and abrogation
of the decision equating Zionism and racism at the 2001 UN conference in Durban
(see ASW 2001/2).75
an interview Shaykh al-Azhar Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi also refuted the charge
of antisemitism, arguing that it was invented by the Jews “as a means of
pressuring Arabs and Muslims and implementing their conspiracies in the Arab
and Muslim countries.” “I have proven that we were Semites even before they
were,” he explained, and “it is inconceivable for anyone to show hostility
toward himself.” 76
Salim compared The Protocols to Machiavelli’s The Prince,
claiming that the two books had had a more destructive influence on the history
of mankind than any other work.77 Yet, among supporters of the
series, the issue of The Protocols’ authenticity was irrelevant in view
of Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.78 Al-Akhbar
editor Wajih Abu Zikra, who persistently pursued an anti-Zionist rhetoric
verging on antisemitism, best expressed this view in his article “The Truth of
the Protocols of Zion.” He alleged that some of the guidelines of The Protocols
were actually being applied, such as the principle of transfer and control of
the media. A similar view was voiced by Egyptian General (Res.) and strategic
expert Husam Suwaylam.79 Political Science Professor at Hilwan
University Ahmad `Abbas `Abd al-Badi` claimed that The Protocols included
all the dimensions of the Zionist plan and provided “a quick look” at “the
hatred and rancor” that international Zionism concealed.80 Hala Fu’ad,
in an article entitled “The Complete Story of the Protocols of the Elders of
Zion,” resorted to early Arabic versions in her discussion. She quoted Lebanese
author `Ajjaj Nuwayhidh, who wrote the introduction to one of the Arabic
translations of The Protocols, as well as Egyptian author `Abbas Mahmud
al-`Aqqad in his introduction to the 1951 version, in order to claim that they
were written by the Jews. This contradicted the argument raised by some
writers, she said, that since Palestine and the intention to establish a Jewish
state were not mentioned in The Protocols, they could have been written
debate, however, was not monolithic. As the controversy heightened and the
pressure intensified, it revealed a growing sense of unease among Egyptian and
other Arab intellectuals, scholars and writers. Their criticism focused on
several issues: the series which purported to present historical truths, actually
distorted the facts; The Protocols were a forgery and relying on them in
the struggle against Israel and Zionism was counter-productive. Saudi columnist
Dawud al-Shiryan challenged in his editorial “Freedom in Distress” in al-Sharq
al-Awsat, the oft-cited argument regarding the right of freedom of
expression, and stressed that as long as the Arab media remain “official,” the
US and others would continue to interfere in its affairs.82 The Egyptian
Organization for Human Rights condemned the transmission of the series, saying
that while freedom of expression and artistic freedom must be protected, they
should not be exploited “to disseminate facts and events that incite hatred
based on religion, race, color or gender.” It also pointed out that most
historians confirmed that The Protocols were a forgery, and called on
Arab television channels that intended to broadcast the series to make this
fact clear to viewers.83 The daughter of the hero Hafiz Najib, said
that her father’s diaries mentioned neither The Protocols nor Israel.84
Egyptian intellectual Salah `Isa, interviewed by Amira Huweidy, described the
work as “another commercial attempt to greedily invest in our national issues… in
order to provoke the audience into a frenzy of exaggerated applause.” He even
accused the government of manipulating the debate, saying that “by allegedly
refusing to succumb to American-Israeli pressure, the government looks better
and we are left to believe that we have achieved a victory of sorts.”85
Similarly, after watching the program Faruq Juwayda thought that there was much
ado about nothing, and accused the Arabs of fighting their wars with television
expert on Jewish studies known for his anti-Zionist stand, `Abd al-Wahhab
al-Masiri, wrote an article for al-`Arabi as an introduction to the
paper’s publication of The Protocols, asserting that they were a Russian
forgery. Referring to some of the accusations found in them, he explained that
they did not reflect criticism of the Jews but were an expression of “the sense
of crisis of European man at the end of the 19th century” as a result of secularization
and modernization. He challenged the notion that emerged from The Protocols
of the enormous power of the Jews, stressing that since 586 BC they had lived
as religious minorities. Using The Protocols to combat Zionism, he
maintained, was unethical and racist, since it categorized people according to
an absolute materialistic and secular principle and not according to their
deeds. Even if they were authentic, those using them would lose their
credibility in western public opinion because people in the West believe them
to be a fake. Dissemination of The Protocols internationally served Zionist
interests, and in the Arab world the ruling élite utilized them as a
tool to justify Arab weakness and incompetence. The Talmud and the Qabala
contain much more evidence of the conspiratorial and racist character of Jewish
Fendy, an Egyptian intellectual living in the US, accused Subhi of being an
antisemite, who used The Protocols in an attempt to sensationalize for material
gain. But his main criticism was directed at Arab writers and speakers who
argued that Arabs were Semites and spoke of freedom of expression. When Arabs
respond to the accusation of antisemitism with this argument, he claimed, “the
West laughs,” because historically, “the ‘semitism’ in the term antisemitism”
concerns the Jews and is associated with the Holocaust. Naturally, the Arabs
were not the victims of Nazism, therefore when they resort to this argument
they reveal their stupidity and “an attempt to push themselves into another
history.” The Arabs are as aware as anyone else that this issue pertains to
Jewish history in Nazi Germany and Europe; why then did they insist on using
the word as an academic anthropological term that has nothing to do with the
gas chambers, he asked. Moreover, he asked, why did they prefer to declare war
against “the dead Jews, ‘the so called Jews of the Protocols,’ when they have a
war with a live Israeli?” Arabs should not necessarily accept the Jews’
allegations against them, but they should understand the context in order to
deal with them. The issue of antisemitism in the West is a very serious one, he
concluded.88 Muhammad Sid Ahmad, a veteran Egyptian leftist attacked
the publication of The Protocols by al-`Arabi, and warned that
the confusion between Zionism and Judaism in the Arab world, so that “anti-Zionism
is coming to acquire anti-Jewish connotations,” was dangerous and harmful to
Jews and Arabs alike.89
the most comprehensive response to the series and the charge of Arab
antisemitism was the well-publicized article of Usama al-Baz, personal advisor
to Egyptian President Mubarak. In an apologetic three-part article, he offered
an analysis of the history of antisemitism, debunking the myth of The
Protocols, the blood libel and Holocaust denial. He concluded with
practical suggestions for Arabs, Muslims, Israel and its supporters that could
lead to better understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict and to its solution. Frequent
usage of inhuman, racist and outmoded accusations by the Arabs, he maintained,
only harmed their interests and criticism of Israel and Zionism should not be
confused with attacks on Jews and Judaism. Touching upon The Protocols,
he explained that most of the evidence confirmed that they were fabricated. He
pointed to two aspects to prove his claim. First, most of the topics raised in
them were Russian, reflecting the views of the Russian ruling class. Second,
they made the Jews simultaneously responsible for good and evil, for revolution
and counter-revolution, for capitalism and communism. He also stressed that “Hitler
used The Protocols to incite the German people against the Jews, and to
claim that they were conspiring against him,” and were striving to destroy the
German economy and the German state in collaboration with foreign elements. He
did this in order to achieve his aspirations and to cleanse Germany and the
occupied countries of their Jews, which led to “the extermination of a large
number of European Jews and their physical destruction.” He also suggested that
Arabs should differentiate between Zionists and Jews, cease attributing to Jews
conspiratorial traits and expressing sympathy for Hitler and Nazism, and avoid
the pitfalls of antisemitic slurs when criticizing Israel.90
article sparked a new debate, again exposing two camps. One supported al-Baz’
thesis, admitting that the Arab discourse on the conflict was replete with
antisemitic motifs and agreeing that it was the wrong weapon. The second opposed
his interpretation, rejecting the notion of Arab antisemitism and any
reconciliation with the existence of Israel.91 Professor of Hebrew
Studies at al-Shams University Layla Ibrahim Abu al-Majd praised al-Baz for his
learned analysis but took issue with his suggestion to differentiate between
Zionism and Judaism. He claimed that since the establishment of the State of
Israel the term antisemitism implied anti-Zionism and there was no way to make
a distinction between them.92
The hardening of
rhetoric and the rise in incitement, as well as the culture of hate cherished
over the years not only breed hatred but reflect a prevailing mood in the Arab
world in relation to Israel, the US and perhaps western civilization as a whole.
Scott Macleod reported from Cairo that some critics believed that the Arab
reflex to blame Jews was rooted in military humiliations, economic stagnation
and repressive rule. “Arab society is broken in back and spirit,” he quoted
Fawwaz Turki, a columnist for the Saudi daily Arab News, who considered
this the reason for the flourishing of conspiracy theories. “It is comforting
to say, ‘It is not our fault’,” he explained. Notwithstanding, Macleod also
reported that a study of Egypt’s press concluded that “while antisemitism
existed, it was by no means prevalent,” and that the Egyptian media’s daily
barrage of criticism of Israel “is not an expression of antisemitism but of
strong political disagreement.”93
Yet, veteran historian of Islam and the Middle East Bernard
Lewis is concerned that the “Arab strain of racism, untruths and hatred against
Jews and Israel is not only more virulent than its
European counterpart, but is not counterbalanced by true scholarship or
competing reason.” As a result, he believes, attitudes and beliefs “long
discredited in the modernity of western countries take root with gullible,
impressionable Middle Eastern audiences from a pre-modern culture.”94
The linkage between antisemitic invective and its translation
into action made particularly by Islamists led observers and researchers to the
conclusion that Arab/Islamic antisemitism bore the “malignancy of genocidal
antisemitism.” Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based
think tank, asserted that terrorism and antisemitism were part of the same
totalitarian ideology of militant Islam, and hence should not be looked at in
isolation. Robert Wistrich, head of the Vidal
Sassoon Center for the Study of Antisemitism, considers Islamic fundamentalism the biggest
threat to the world since Nazism; he also believes that Arab antisemitism
constitutes the “single biggest impediment to peace in the Middle East.”95 The London-based
former Hamas activist and director of the Institute of Islamic Political
Thought Azzam Tamimi refuted Wistrich’s warnings, suggesting that Palestinians
and other Arabs and Muslims in the West refrain from proposing a final solution
and concentrate on demonstrating the “sinister nature of Zionism.” “The Zionist
state, by its very nature,” is unviable in the long run, he said, reiterating
the conclusions reached by a conference held in Johannesburg [no date mentioned] under the banner of “Justice for Palestine.” Therefore, the ultimate objective
should be to set in motion “a global movement for combating Zionism similar to
the international anti-apartheid movement.”96
Arab writers claimed that antisemitic language in the Arab
media did not occur in a vacuum.97 Palestinian journalist Khalid
Amayrah attributed it to “Israel’s
murderous oppression of the Palestinian people.” Zionists and their supporters
should not be surprised, he said, about the proliferation of antisemitism among
Arabs and Muslims.98 The confusion of certain verses of the Qur’an
attacking the Jews of that day, commented Professor of Islamic Studies at
George Washington University Sayyid Husayn Nasr, is “a modern development, less
theological than emotional, and leaves as a casualty a long tradition of amity
between Islam and Judaism.”99
Usama al-Baz’s article was the first admission and
condemnation of antisemitism in the Arab world and, coming from an official of
his stature had special significance. If accompanied by changes in the language
of discourse toward Israel and in education, it might also lead
to a change in patterns of thought and in the general mood of the “Arab street.”
It might also undermine the ground under the feet of Islamic extremism and
delegitimize genocidal antisemitism. Al-Baz was not alone in his criticism, and
he was not only responding to American and Jewish pressures. In the aftermath
of September 11 and almost three years since the outbreak of the intifada, the
Arab-Muslim world, as Thomas Friedman noted, had entered a phase of
introspection, after the first stages of shock and denial.100 “As was
the case after the defeat of 1967, self-criticism has once again crept into the
Arab political and intellectual discourse,” wrote As`ad `Abd al-Rahman.101
Despite the continued demonization of the West and particularly the US and the
continued denial of Muslim responsibility for September 11, “a genuine polemic
against the harm the terrorists are doing to their own people” is emerging,
wrote Salman Rushdie.102 A glimpse into this debate is provided by
articles such as those of `Abd al-Hamid al-Bakkush, former Libyan prime minister,
who attacked the Arab fixation with the US; al-Sharq al-Awsat editor
`Abd al-Rahman al-Rasid attacked Arab support for European neo-Nazis and
racists merely because they shared the Arab view on Israel or the war in Iraq; a
Muslim intellectual and grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in
Egypt criticized antisemitism among Muslims in France; and Arab liberals such
as Qatari Professor `Abd al-Hamid al-Ansari, Tunisian intellectual `Afif
al-Akhdar and Egyptian author Amin al-Mahdi attacked the brand of Islam that
encouraged extremism and issued religious edicts justifying terrorism and
1. New York Times (NYT), 27 April 2002.
2. Jerusalem Report, 16 Dec. 2002.
3. The Times, 28 June 2002.
4. Yediot Aharonot, 8 May 2002.
5. al-Hayat, 11 April 2002.
6. al-Ra’y, 25 Jan. 2002.
7. al-Akhbar, al-Quds al-`Arabi, 1 Feb.; al-Ahram,
2 Feb. See also: MEMRI, Special Dispatch no. 341, 5 Feb.; al-`Arabi,
1 Dec. 2002.
8. al-Wafd, 24 Jan. 2002.
9. al-Watan, 17 March; Oct., 14 April; al-Usbu`,
30 Sept.; al-Ahram, 16 Oct.; al-Safir, 21 Nov.; Oct., 24 Nov.; Ma`ariv,
2 Dec. 2002.
al-Ahram, 26 Jan. 2002.
MEMRI, Special Dispatch no. 438, 8 Nov. 2002.
al-Midan, 2 Jan. 2003.
al-Sabil, 5 Nov. 2002.
14. NYT, 15 Feb.; Time, 17 June; The Times,
28 June 2002.
al-Ahram al-Masa’, 4, 5 Aug. 2002.
www.lailatalqadr.com/15 July; Saudi
Gazette, 24 May; Asrar al-Quds, no. 34, April, as quoted in MEMRI,
“The Events of Sept. 11 and the Arab Media: The New Antisemitic Myth,” Special
Report, No. 9, 13 Sept. 2002.
al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), 6 Sept.; al-Quds, 9 Sept., as quoted in MEMRI,
“The Events of Sept. 11 and the Arab Media,” op. cit.
18. al-`Arab al-Yawm, 7, 8 Jan.; al-Watan
(Saudi Arabia), 7 March; Akhir Sa`a, 29 May; al-Hayat, 30 Sept.; Bahrain
Tribune, 16 Nov.; Gulf News, 26 Nov.; Review, Dec. See also, MEMRI,
“The Events of Sept. 11 and the Arab Media, op. cit.
“The Jews in the Arab World,” 17 June, Eminent Arab Scholars Speak at Seminar
on Semitism, 28 Aug.; “Palestinian Minster of Endowments and Preacher of
al-Aqsa at ZCCF, 20 Nov. - www.zccf.org.ae/LECTURES/E2-lectures;
Khaleej Times, CNSNews, 29 Aug.; Gulf News, 30 Aug., 23 Nov.,
7 Dec.; Los Angeles Times, 31 Aug., 1 Sept. 2002.
al-Ahram, 18 Jan.; al-Akhbar, 22 Feb. 2002.
JTA, 19 April 2002.
Tom Lantos, MEMRI Special Report, No. 8, 10 Sept. 2002.
al-Ahram, 20 Sept.; al-Usbu`, 23 Sept.; al-Quds al-`Arabi,
26 Sept. See also MEMRI, “US Ambassador to Cairo Takes on Conspiracy
Theories in the Egyptian Press,” Special Dispatch, no. 423, 1 Oct. 2002.
Ha`aretz, 31 March; 2, 4, 5, 8 April; al-Usbu`, 30 Sept.; al-Sabil,
5, 19 Nov. 2002.
Tishrin, 2 April 2002.
al-Mustaqbal, 22 Jan. (Mideast Mirror); Ha`aretz, 5 April;
al-Ahram Weekly, 11 April 2002.
al-Hayat, 22 Jan. 2002 (Mideast Mirror).
al-Ahram, 19 Jan.; al-Wafd, al-Quds al-`Arabi, 22 Jan. (Mideast
Mirror); al-Akhbar, 22 Feb.; al-`Arab al-Yawm, 5 March; al-Sabil,
21 May 2002.
al-Ahram, 5 June 2002.
al-Raya, 22 Jan. 2002 (Mideast Mirror).
Tishrin, 7 Jan. 2002.
Statement from the National Arab Journalists Association on the Terrorist Acts
of the Government of Israel, 19 Jan. 2002 (MSANEWS). For further comparisons
see, al-Hayat, 7 Aug. 2002.
al-Ahram Weekly, 26 Sept., al-Hayat, 30 Sept. 2002.
al-`Arab al-Yawm, 5 March. See also Rif`at Sayyid Ahmad, “Sharon,
Netanyahu and Mofaz Alliance - The New Nazis in Israel,” 13 Nov. 2002 - www.alarabonline.org.
al-Ahram, 13, 19 March, 1 July 2002.
al-Musawar, 12 April; See also al-Ahram al-`Arabi, 26 Oct. 2002.
al-Ahram, 20 April; al-Quds al-`Arabi, 23 April; Ruz al-Yusuf,
3, 10 May 2002.
al-Ahram, 5 June 2002.
Ruz al-Yusuf, 13 April; al-Mujtama`, 22 June 2002.
al-Ahram, 20 April 2002.
al-Akhbar, 29 April. See also MEMRI, Special Dispatch, No. 375, 3 May 2002.
Additional articles on Holocaust denial see also: Tishrin, 28 Feb.; al-Akhbar,
9, 18 April, 21 June; al-Ahram al-`Arabi, 26 Oct. 2002.
AP, 9 Feb. (Yahoo News); Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin, 14
April, 4 Nov., 2, 11, 15 Dec. 2002.
Ha`aretz, 9 May 2002.
al-Jazira (Saudi Arabia), 1 April - MEMRI, dispatch no. 367, 12 April 2002.
46. al-Quds al-`Arabi, 23 April - MEMRI, Special
Dispatch, No. 373, 30 April; The Times, 28 June 2002.
MEMRI, Inquiry and Analysis, No. 83, 12 Feb.; MEMRI, Special
Dispatch, No. 363, 7 April; Ha`aretz, 27, 29 March, 1 April, 16 June; Yediot
Aharonot, 4 April, 1 May; NYT, 15 April; al-Ayyam (PA), 4
June - MEMRI, Inquiry and Analysis, No. 100, 4 July; Jerusalem Post (JP),
18 June; Ma`ariv, 18 Oct. 2002.
al-`Arab al-Yawm, 9 Feb.; Ha`aretz, 10 Feb., 8 March; MEMRI,
Inquiry and Analysis, No. 83, 12 Feb. Egyptian editor of al-Ahram Hebdo,
Muhammad Salmawi, published a book on the first Palestinian female suicide
bomber Wafa’ Idris and other Palestinian stories in 2002, see Reuven Erlich
(ed.), ‘“Hate Industry” in Egypt under Official Patronage’, Information
Bulletin No. 7 (Jan. 2003).
al-Sabil, 29 Jan., 12 May; al-`Arab al-Yawm, 10 Feb., 17 March; MEMRI,
Special Dispatch, No. 363, 7 April; al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), 22 March 2002.
Islam Online, 27 May (www.islamonline.net). See also MEMRI, Special Dispatch, No. 403, 24 July 2002. Shehada was assassinated in July.
Islam Online, 4 June (www.islamonline.net).
See also an extensive interview with Qaradawi in al-Ahram al-`Arabi, 26 Oct. 2002.
al-Akhbar, 27 Feb.; Reuters, 31 March (news.ajeeb.com/ViewArticle.asp);
MEMRI, Inquiry and Analysis, No. 100, 4 July 2002.
Ma`ariv, 15 Nov. 2002.
NYT, 23 April 2002.
al-Sharq al-Awsat, 7 June. See also MEMRI, Special Dispatch, No.
388, 12 June 2002.
Ma`ariv, 23 May, 15 Oct., 8 Dec.; Washington Times, 8 July; JP,
11 July; USA Today, 9 July; Yediot Aharonot, 14 Nov., 6, 8 Dec.; Ha’aretz,
6 Dec. 2002; al-Jazira, 11 Feb.; al-Quds al-`Arabi, 21 Feb.; MEMRI,
Special Dispatch, No. 476, 5 March 2003.
Ha’aretz, 12, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23 April, 24 June; NYT, 13, 15
April, 23 June, 6 Nov.; Ma`ariv, 14 April; Yediot Aharonot, 14,
18 April; Washington Post (WP), 17 April; al-Sharq al-Awsat,
25 April; al-Hayat, 2 June 2002.
Ma`ariv, 29 Nov., 1 Dec.; Yediot Aharonot, 29 Nov., 1, 3 Dec.;
“On the Two Mombassa Attacks against the Jews,” 2 Dec. (forum.fwaed.net); Ha’aretz, 3 Dec.; MEMRI,
Special Alert, No. 5, 4 Dec. 2002.
New York Daily News, 8 Dec.; Jerusalem Report, 16 Dec. 2002.
al-Ahram, 14 Sept.; Ma`ariv, 15 Oct. 2002.
19 Jan.; al-Akhbar, 10 May; Time, 17 June 2002.
al-Hayat, 15 May, 21 Oct.; JP, 1 Oct.; Ha`aretz, 30 Oct.
See also MEMRI, Inquiry and Analysis, No. 99, 28 June; Special Dispatch,
No. 432, 22 Oct. 2002.
al-Riyadh, 3, 10 March; LA Times, 20 March; MEMRI, Special
Dispatch, No. 354, 357, 13, 21 March; al-Thawra (Baghdad), 3 May 2002.
al-Ahram, 31 July, 31 Dec.; al-Ahram Weekly, 8 Aug. 2002.
al-Ahram, 4, 6, 7 Aug.; MEMRI, Inquiry and Analysis, No. 107, 6 Sept. 2002, No. 135, 23 April 2003.
al-Ahram, 1 Aug. 2002.
al-Ahram, 4, 6, 7 Aug.; MEMRI, Inquiry and Analysis, No. 107, 6 Sept. 2002.
Ma`ariv, 31 Oct., 4 Nov.; NYT, 1 Nov.; WP, 5, 9, 15, 26 Nov.;
Palestinian Media Watch, 6, 12, 14, 15, 17, 21, 24, 26 Nov.; MEMRI,
Inquiry and Analysis, No. 113, 20 Nov.; ABC News, 21 Nov. 2002.
BBC News, 1 Nov.; al-Musawwar, 8 Nov.; WP, 9 Nov.; The Times,
15 Nov.; Ha’aretz, 26 Nov. 2002.
al-Sharq al-Awsat, 3 Nov.; al-Safir, 25 Nov. 2002; Yigal Carmon, “Harbingers of Change in the Antisemitic Discourse in the Arab World,” MEMRI,
Inquiry and Analysis series, No. 135, 23 April 2003.
NYT, 23 Oct., 20, 27 Nov.; al-Sharq al-Awsat, 1 Nov.; al-Jumhuriya,
2 Nov.; Middle East Online, 2 Nov. (www.middle-eastonline.com); al-Usbu`,
4 Nov.; Yediot Aharonot, 27 Nov. See also, MEMRI, Inquiry
and Analysis series, No. 109 - 8 Nov. 2002.
al-Ahram, 6 Nov.; al-Sharq al-Awsat, 8 Nov.; MEMRI,
Inquiry and Analysis series, No. 113, 114 - 20 Nov., 10 Dec.; al-Wafd,
26 Dec. 2002; al-Ahali, 1 Jan. 2003; Carmon, “Harbingers of Change.”
al-`Arabi, 24 Nov.; 1 Dec. 2002.
Carmon, “Harbingers of Change.”
75. al-Riyadh, 5 Nov. 2002.
Akhir Sa`a, 20 Nov. 2002.
`Aqidati, 5 Nov. 2002.
al-Usbu` al-Adabi, 2 Nov.; al-Musawwar, 8 Nov.; al-Sharq
al-Awsat, 11 Nov. (Mideast Mirror); Akhir Sa`a, 13 Nov. 2002.
al-Hayat, 11 Dec.; al-Akhbar, 24 Dec. 2002.
al-Ahram, 11 Dec. 2002.
Akhir Sa`a, 13 Nov. 2002.
al-Hayat, 1, 3, 6 Nov.; al-Ahram, 6 Nov.; al-Safir, 25 Nov.;
al-Wafd, 5, 19 Dec.; al-Musawwar, 20 Dec. 2002.
al-Sharq al-Awsat, 19 Nov. 2002.
al-Musawwar, 15 Nov. 2002.
al-Ahram Weekly, 7 Nov. 2002.
al-Ahram, 29 Nov. 2002.
al-`Arabi, 24 Nov. 2002. Masiri published a two-part article in the same
vein in al-Ahram, 2, 9 Jan. 2003.
al-Sharq al-Awsat, 11 Nov.; CounterPunch, 13 Nov. 2002 (www.counterpunch.org).
al-Ahram, al-Ahram Weekly, 12 Dec. 2002.
al-Ahram, 23-25 Dec.; Ha’aretz, 27 Dec.; Yediot Aharonot,
28, 29 Dec.; WP, 30 Dec. 2002. See also MEMRI, Special Dispatch,
No. 454 3 Jan. 2002; Carmon, “Harbingers of Change.”
al-Ahram, 28, 31 Dec. 2002; al-Midan, 2 Jan. 2003.
al-Ahram, 4 Jan. 2003.
Time, 17 June 2002.
94. Israelinsider, 10 Jan. (web.israelinsider.com/bin/en.jsp).
Ha’aretz, JTA, 7 May 2002.
96. Azzam Tamimi, “Winning the Battle of Arguments,” 30 Sept. 2002 (MSANEWS).
al-Ahram Weekly, 8 Aug. 2002.
Khalid Amayreh, “Jewish Islamophobia, Persecution of Palestinians Is Breeding Anti-Semitism
among Muslims, 27 Nov. 2002 (MSANEWS).
99. NYT, 27 April 2002.
NYT, 8 Jan. 2003.
al-Ra’y, 25 Jan. 2002.
WP, 28 June 2002.
al-Hayat, 13 Jan., 12 Feb., 14 July, 9 Sept.; Ha’aretz, 18 Jan.,
16, 26 May; al-Sharq al-Awsat, 24 April 2002