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Anti-Semitism and the Arab Spring

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In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, expressions of explicit anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish sentiments are beginning to surge. In Middle East politics, it has long beem traditional to point a finger at Israel, "the Zionists" and "the Jews", who were blamed for all the problems of the Muslim and Arab worlds. "The Jews" were used by the regimes as a convenient distraction from their own peoples' misery and hardship, and its causes. Many had hoped that the Arab spring indicated a turn for the better and an end to this racist and counter-productive tradition, since intitially, Israel was hardly even mentioned as a cause for the fate of Arab societies. For once, the finger of blame was rightly being pointing at their own dictatorial regimes. Sadly, as prominent American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg has noted,

Now in Cairo, and across the Arab Middle East, Israel and the Jews are serving once again as universal boogeymen. Once dictators used anti-Semitism to divert their citizens' attention away from their own problems. Now expressions of the most ridiculous conspiracy theories seem to rise up organically.

This truth doesn't conform to the generally accepted narrative of the Arab Spring, but ignoring it won't make it disappear.

As Golberg goes on to note, in Libya the deposed dictator Gaddafi was said to be of Jewish origin and his regime was accused of acting in support of the Zionist cause. The fact that Gaddafi himself called for the destruction of Israel, persecuted the Jewish population in Libya and expressed antisemitic views does not seem to raise questions about this ridiculous rumor. After the fall of Gaddafi, a Libyan Jew returned to Libya in hope of restoring a synagogue in Tripoli. Soon he found himself surrounded by an angry and hostile mob, where locals were holding signs that read "There is no place for Jews in Libya." Yet another expression of hatred towards Jews is expressed in the lyrics of a popular rap song "The anger won't die, the one who will die is Qaddafi, his supporters and the Jews."

Meanwhile, in Syria the opposition is spreading a rumor that Assad, no friend of Israel and supporter of terror groups like Hamas and Hezbullah (both call Jihad against Jews), is a Jewish agent while the Syrian writer Osama Al-Malouhi wrote recently on an opposition website that Jews "want that sucker of Syrian blood to remain and continue to prey and suck blood. They not only want their security, but also to enjoy the sight of Syrian blood being spilled." He went on, "Asking myself why Jewish support of Bashar increased after they saw rivers of Syrian blood this mass-murderer spilled in Syrian towns, an old image leapt to my mind, of Jews bleeding people and using their blood to prepare matzas. Logic does not accept this, but the facts prove it."


This trend did not even skip Tunisia, where Rashid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Islamist party Ennahdha (which won 41% of the votes in the recent October elections and is often considered as "moderate") recently stated that he brings "glad tidings that the Arab region will get rid of the germ of Israel". The draft Tunisian constitution has a clause barring Tunisia from ever establishing relations with Israel, apparently even if peace is made with the Palestinians.

The truth is that Goldberg's brief op/ed would have been a long essay if he attempted to mention all the incidents of antisemitism being reported in the Arab world over recent weeks.

Arab media is filled with politicians and religious, academic and public figures who express racist and anti-Semitic views. For example, Tamer Mustafa, a "Zionism researcher" gave an interview to Al-Manar TV on October 12, 2011, in which he, somewhat ironically, argued that Jewish people are inherently racist :

"Racism is deeply rooted in the souls of the followers of the Jewish religion - especially since their exile to Iraq, or Babylon, in 586 BCE. There they wrote a new Torah, completely different from the Torah received by Moses. Into this Torah they inserted the spirit of racism, which spread like a virus in the mind of every Jew ever since. Let me mention three books as examples. One of them is the Torah that exists today, which is known as the Old Testament, especially by our Christian brothers. After World War II, a British minister said that this Torah was the 'most dangerous book on the face of this planet,' because it contains the loathsome virus of racism, which leads people to war." [...]

Mustafa claimed that it is not only Jewish theology is not the only problem as he continued to lay out an entire conspiracy theory:

"The Zionist movement operated against the Jews living in European countries, in order to force them to emigrate to Palestine. This movement perpetrated many crimes, even helping the Nazis to kill groups of Jews, so that the others would be forced to emigrate to Palestine. That is what happened. Then they established schools, and raised their new generations according to this abhorrent racist notion... When the Jews went to Europe, the first thing they did was to take over the media outlets there. They even took control of the curricula in Europe, or in the Christian West. They took control of the media, the curricula, and the capital. What is Man if not knowledge - in other words, schools - media, and money? These are the things that rule people. Whoever possesses these three things has the ability to control the behavior of others."

Disturbingly and paradoxically, after alleging that Zionists aided the Nazis, Mustafa went even further, to deny the Holocaust:

"A Frenchman called Jacque Roques [sic] wrote a dissertation about the Holocaust... He refuted all those lies, and got his Ph.D. from Sorbonne with distinction. However, the French minister of high education immediately received orders to revoke his Ph.D. Thus, Roques was denied his civil rights in his own country, France."

And Mustafa hardly unique! Egyptian cleric Amin Al-Ansari, apparently also a fan of conspiracy theories mixed with some good-old-fashioned anti-women attitudes, claimed in an interview to Al-Rahma TV on October 26, 2011 that Jews are manipulating women in order to maintain their power and control over the world:

"In The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, they say: 'Women benefit us. They help us, wherever they may be. Whenever a woman comes to our aid, we must not reject her, because we will definitely benefit from her.' If women use their clothing to do that - [Jews] benefit. If women use their makeup to do that - they benefit. If women use their moral values to do that - [Jews] benefit. If women aid them through their rebelliousness - they benefit. If women do so through any means - they benefit... Of course, when Zionism and Judaism benefit, it means the decline not only of Muslim women, but of humanity as a whole. As proof, whenever any woman extends her hand to them, they cut off this pure hand, and it becomes - Allah forbid - despicable... Look at the women of Hollywood, who extend their hands to the Jews... Marilyn Monroe once said... A woman once said to her: 'I'd like to be just like you. I'd like to become a famous actress like you.' Marilyn Monroe wrote to her - and this letter still exists: 'My girl, you'd be better off marrying a man who goes to work, then returns at the end of the day with the daily bread, and you will live happily with him, raising your children. It's better than being famous, but devoid of will and devoid of honor. Take a look at me. The Jews made me what I am, and now they are killing me.' [...]

It is not surprising that many of the harshest statements and manifestations of anti-Semitism come from Egypt, which has been a fertile ground for anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. Even liberal leaders and politicians seem convinced that Jews were conspiring against the Egyptian economy: "One suggested that George Soros, Benjamin Netanyahu and a certain "Dr. Rothschild" were working jointly to buy the Suez Canal from Egypt."


These views are widespread even among the most senior politicians in Egypt. Presidential candidate and owner of Al-Faraeen TV, Tawfiq Okasha, featured on his own television station on October 31, 2011 and revealed his own take on alleged Jewish control over the West and the global economy:

"The Jews, who devised the philosophy of the American economic system, placed a pyramid and an eye on the back of the dollar bill - symbols of global Freemasonry - thus turning the dollar into a commodity. This is a commodity that encompasses the world, and monitors the state of the world... The dollar, therefore, is not a regular currency. It is a commodity... The U.S. has adopted an economic policy which was established and is run by Jewish economic experts, in order to subordinate this policy to the philosophy of global Freemasonry, on the basis of the notion that the economy, of the dollar, or the dinar - or food, to be precise - are what enables them to maintain their grip upon the nations." [...]

His attitude towards Zionism is clear cut: "What I am saying is no lie. [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy is one of those Jews who adhere to the Zionist ideology, which is one of the worst ideologies..."

And the conspiracy theories are not limited to global economy. In a country where Christians are being persecuted, Okasha blames the Jews for the historical internal divisions in the christian faith:

"The thing is that the Jews - pay attention and focus on what I am saying... It was the Jews who created the various Christian denominations. Indeed. What was the purpose of this? What is the principle underlying their long-term strategic-political goal? It is to instigate conflict and strife within that religion... Our Christian brothers will not agree with what I am saying, but never mind. I am sorry, and hope they will not be mad at me. What I am saying is the truth. When Christianity began to spread, it spread among groups that did not speak the same language that was spoken by Jesus in the holy city of Jerusalem. Our Christian brothers say that God revealed to the disciples the languages of the peoples whom they summoned to join Christianity. This is wrong...The Christians say the disciples began to preach in the languages of the peoples. However, this is not true. The truth is the Jewish translators translated this, in order to distort the essence of the Christian faith, thus allowing its division into three denominations, in order to sow dissent among the Christians, and to make use of this when necessary." [...]

Anti-Semitism in Egypt in expressed not only through the media and public figures, it is also prevalent in daily life, as witnessed by BBC journalist Thomas Dinham while he was reporting from Cairo, who was attacked because he was thought to be Jewish: "Someone pushed me from behind with such force that I nearly fell over. Turning around, I found myself surrounded by five men, one of whom tried to punch me in the face. I stopped the attack by pointing out how shameful it was for a Muslim to assault a guest in his country, especially during Ramadan... I was appalled by the apology offered by one of my assailants. ‘Sorry,' he said contritely, offering his hand, ‘we thought you were a Jew.'" Apparently, had Dinham really was Jewish, it would have been a good enough justification for assault, and no apology would have been required.

Meanwhile, in a speech on the eve of elections, spiritual leader Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Egypt's venerable Al-Azhar Universiy and thus the most senior religious authority in the Sunni Islamic world, blamed Jews for attempting to to prevent Islamic and Egyptian unity by controlling one of Islam's holy sites. He said:

"In order to build Egypt, we must be one. Politics is insufficient. Faith in Allah is the basis for everything... The al-Aqsa Mosque is currently under an offensive by the Jews...we shall not allow the Zionists to Judaize al-Quds (Jerusalem.) We are telling Israel and Europe that we shall not allow even one stone to be moved there."


Anti- Semitism is openly encouraged by the Muslim Brotherhood, who look poised to win a significant victory in the parliamentary elections in Egypt, having already dominated the first stage. In one incident a Muslim Brotherhood rally in a central mosque in Cairo turned into an anti-Israel protest. The antisemitic undertone was unmistakable as the crowd (of approximately 5000 people) chanted "one day kill all Jews" and "Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, judgment day has come." The rally took place around the anniversary of the United Nations' partition plan in 1947, one of the legal bases for the establishment of the state of Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinian guest speakers explicitly called for Jihad the liberation of the whole of Palestine, reciting a Quranic quote saying that "one day we shall kill all the Jews".

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