Antisemitism Egyptian-Style The true face of the "honest broker"

 

Is this the Egypt where we lived?
 


Institute of the World Jewish Congress Policy Dispatch

Antisemitism Egyptian-Style The true face of the "honest broker"
 


At issue:


Egypt has attempted to present itself as an honest broker in
negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and has sought
legitimacy for its diplomatic efforts in Washington and European
capitals. Egypt, of course, is manifestly unsuited to play the role of
mediator in the conflict. While Egypt and Israel maintain diplomatic
relations, one can at best speak of a cold peace between the two
countries. The state-controlled Egyptian media and Egyptian institutions
of higher learning are hotbeds of antisemitic invective that transcend
more than mere opposition to Israel's current policies. In both tone and
substance they are reminiscent of Nazi-era antisemitic publications. The
Jewish world cannot remain silent in the face of this vicious and
unremitting agitation.


An antisemitic "honest broker"?


The unprecedented wave of antisemitism that swept Western Europe in the
wake of the outbreak of the latest Intifada some two years ago has
diverted attention away from Egypt - which for decades has been one of
the world's leading centers of antisemitic propaganda. But despite the
fact that Jews have turned their eyes from happenings in Cairo and
Alexandria, the situation in that country - the largest and most
powerful member of the Arab League - remains unchanged. Egypt's
government controlled press continues to feed millions of Egyptian
readers a steady diet of antisemitic vitriol.

Those who believed that the peace accords between Egypt and Israel would
bring an end to the antisemitic invective in the Egyptian press were
sadly mistaken. Any visitor to Egypt cannot help but notice that the
newsstands openly display items, including leading daily newspapers,
that are as vile as Der Stuermer. The fact is that some Egyptian
publications even draw upon that sinister German paper for inspiration.

In recent years, Egypt has offered itself as a potential mediator
between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, claiming that it can could act
as an honest broker. Clearly, given its unabashed support for the
Palestinian side, which extends to expressions of understanding and
sympathy for the deeds of suicide bombers, Egypt is manifestly unsuited
for that role. Even if this were that not the case, how could Egypt's
leaders expect that an outstanding purveyor of state-sponsored
antisemitism would be accepted by anyone other than antisemites, as an
impartial arbiter?

Unfortunately, the Jewish world has not devoted the attention to this
phenomenon that it warrants. Those who did take up the issue were often
seen as raising questions about the solidity and sincerity of the peace
treaty signed between Egypt and Israel. Some claimed that once the
"inevitable" comprehensive peace was reached with the Arab world, the
anti-Jewish invective would surely cease. The fact that Egypt agreed to
sign a peace agreement with Israel, one in which it recouped the
oil-rich Sinai Peninsula, does not mean that the Jewish world should
turn a blind eye to the evil practices in that country. Furthermore,
Egypt's status as the second largest recipient of US aid (upwards of $2
billion a year), which continues despite its overtly antisemitic press,

should certainly be addressed
. One can hardly expect Israelis, or decent
people anywhere, to have confidence in Egypt's long-term intentions
toward the Jewish State, given this barrage of anti-Jewish vitriol. The
daily attacks on Jews and Israel do not build confidence. Certainly they
do nothing to endear Egyptians to the idea that peace with Israel is
possible and desirable. The unremitting campaign of demonization of Jews
and Israel produces just the opposite effect.



The blood libel, Egyptian-style


A close examination of the anti-Jewish publications on the Egyptian
street reveals very little original thought. On the contrary, many of
the motifs have their roots in traditional European antisemitism. A
recurring theme is that of the blood libel. The Egyptian daily Al-Akhbar
recently ran an article which claimed that Jews practice ritual murder.
Bad as that was, it was hardly an isolated incident.

This phenomenon has not gone entirely unnoticed. French legal
authorities in Paris recently charged Ibrahim Nafi, the chief editor of
Egypt's most important daily Al-Ahram and the chairman of the
Association of Arab Journalists, with incitement to antisemitism and
racist violence. On October 10, 2000, Al- Ahram carried an article
entitled: "Jewish Matzoth Are Made of Arab Blood", based on the infamous
Damascus blood libel of 1840. A broad array of Egyptian public figures
rallied round Nafi, who, it was claimed, was the target of "intellectual
terrorism" and "extortion by the Zionist lobby in France". Among those
who have been counted among Nafi's most vigorous defenders are Amr
Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League and Sayid Tantawi, Sheikh
of the Al Azar University. Sheikh Achmed Yasin, the Hamas "spiritual
leader," in Gaza is also a champion of Mr. Nafi.



Conspiracy Theories: How the Jews Caused 9/11


Another running theme in the Egyptian press is the suggestion of a
Jewish conspiracy aimed at achieving world domination. The Protocols of
the Elders of Zion are widely circulated in Arab translation, and often
serve as a primary source for many of the most scurrilous attacks on
Jews.

The conspiracy theme became especially evident after the terrible
September 11th attacks on New York and Washington. In Egypt, and
elsewhere in the Muslim world, the notion that Jews were responsible for
that tragedy spread like wildfire. It was claimed, for example, that
Jews who worked in the Twin Towers had received a special message that
cautioned them not to go to work that day, so that Jews stayed home en
bloc - thus sparing their lives. One, Gamal Ali Zahran, who teaches
political science at Suez Canal University, writing in Al-Ahram on
October 7, 2001, declared, "The Jews and the Israeli intelligence agency
Mossad are behind this vicious attack on the United States." This charge
appeared in numerous other Egyptian newspapers and is still widely
believed on the Egyptian street, just as it has gained credence
throughout the Islamic world.

It comes as no surprise, too, that Holocaust denial is rife in the
Egyptian media. On the one hand, there is the constantly repeated view
that the Holocaust, at least as the Jews portray it, never happened and
that the story of the Final Solution was invented in order to extort
money from the Germans. Thus, according to the article "The Holocaust,
Netanyahu and Me" that appeared in 1998 in Al-Akhbar, "[t]he Jews
invented the myth of mass extermination and the fabrication that 6
million Jews were put to death in Nazi ovensS the Holocaust is an
Israeli myth which was invented to blackmail the world." Sometimes those
peddling this theory draw upon the writings of the more notorious
Holocaust deniers in the United States and Europe. At the same time,
there is the repeated lamentation that Hitler did not succeed in wiping
out world Jewry. Nevertheless, admiration for Hitler is often expressed,
despite this failure. On April 29, 2002, a writer in Al-Akhbar discussed
the Holocaust. After claiming that the Jews have been "accursed from the
day the human race was created and from the day their mothers bore them"
and calling them a "virus", he declared that that the destruction of
European Jewry was actually "a huge Israeli plot". He went on to address
Hitler himself, writing: "If only you had done it, brother, if only it
had really happened, so that the world could sigh in relief [without]
their evil and sinS They always try to warp and destroy everything fair
and beautiful!! Basically, they are a model of moral ugliness,
debasement, and degradation. If only Allah would curse them more and
more, to the end of all generations. Amen."

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the Egyptian press has also
elected to draw on a notorious American antisemitic forgery that enjoys
wide currency in neo-Nazi and Holocaust denial circles. That document,
purportedly penned by Benjamin Franklin and reprinted in the Egyptian
weekly Akher Sa'ah, warns against the perils of allowing Jewish
immigration to the United States: "For more than 1,700 years we have
lamented their sorrowful state, namely that they have been driven out of
their motherland, but, gentlemen, if the civilized world today should
give them back Palestine, and their property, they would immediately
find pressing reasons why they could not return there. Why? Because they
are vampires, and vampires cannot live on other vampiresS They must live
among Christians and others who do not belong to their raceS. If they
are not excluded from the United States by the Constitution, within at
least 100 years, they shall stream into this country in such numbers
that they shall rule and destroy us and change our form of government
for which we Americans shed our blood and sacrifices our lives,
property, and personal freedomS. If the Jews are not excluded within 200
years, our children will be working in the fields to feed the Jews while
they remain in the counting houses, gleefully rubbing their hands." This
forged document originally appeared in a Nazi German publication in the
1930s.

Clearly, a significant number of Egyptians have not made their peace
with Israel nor abandoned the dream of its ultimate disappearance. In
June of this year, a conference entitled "After the Demise of Israel"
was organized by the "Egypt for Culture and Dialogue" group and held at
the offices of the Egyptian Press Syndicate. Speaker after speaker
called for the destruction of Israel. Mohammed Hesham, a professor at
Helwan University, declared that Israel will soon disappear "like the
racist regime in South Africa." That is by no means an isolated view
among Egyptian academics. The moderator of the seminar noted that
Egyptians "should probe ways on how to bring that date [the demise of
Israel] sooner rather than later."

Time and again, when the issue of antisemitism has been brought up with
the Egyptian government, including President Hosni Mubarak, it has been
explained that the government cannot control what is written in Egyptian
newspapers. This argument, however, is ridiculous, given the fact that
the Egyptian press is tightly muzzled and the government appoints the
editor of each of the three leading dailies, Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar and
Al-Gomhuriya. The Egyptian government also owns the printing houses in
which these newspapers are printed, and all are heavily censored. The
fact is that despite the quarter of a century that has elapsed since the
Camp David Accords, rampant antisemitism is still strong in Egypt.
Normalization between the two countries is far from becoming a reality
in the face of the anti-Jewish propaganda, which is everywhere to be
found, and one can only speak of a cold peace between Egypt and Israel.

World Jewry cannot remain indifferent to the fact that Egypt remains a
leading center of antisemitic invective - the poisonous fruits of which
are spread both in the Arab world and beyond.



*The World Jewish Congress is an international federation of Jewish
communities and organizations representing 80 nations on six continents,
and it serves as the multinational representative of world Jewry.
Founded in 1935 to fight the poison of hatred and intolerance of
Naziism, the WJC has been combatting the persecution of Jews around the
world for more than six decades, and today it is leading the fight for
material and moral restitution to the Jewish people of the greatest
theft and most heinous crime in recorded history.