Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Incitement watch: BDS group harasses synagogue-goers in the US while Arabic media sees Jewish plots everywhere

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Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz


Speaking at the annual Global Forum of the American Jewish Committee earlier this month, the US State Department's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, noted the worrying global rise in anti-Jewish sentiment around the world:

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is not history -- it is news. More than six decades after the end of the Second World War, anti-Semitism is alive and well. Centuries-old stereotypes and myths are conflated with current events to inject new life into the stale prejudices of the past. In many cases, myths and misinformation about Israel were indoctrinated into the minds of people by authoritarian regimes desperately seeking a pretext to remain in power. The myths and misinformation have outlived the regimes that propagated them. Undoing the damage that has been done doubtless will be the work of generations. But the enormity of the task only underscores its urgency.

As Forman went on to observe, this trend can be seen not only amongst 'traditional' antisemitic groups, such as the European extreme right. In fact, the recent growth in antisemitic activity has been concentrated largely in the Western extreme left, and in the Middle East.

American BDS movement harasses local Jewish congregation

Readers of this blog will no doubt be aware of the anti-Jewish hate speech recently seen on the Facebook page of a pro-BDS rally in Australia, as well as the dubious reasons given by some Greens MPs who support BDS for refusing to speak out against global antisemitism. It unfortunately comes as no surprise that this flirtation with racism in the BDS movement is not limited to Australian shores.

The latest incident to be exposed internationally comes from CU-Divest, a pro-BDS group at the University of Colorado in the US. Recently, CU-Divest has been involved in a fracas in the small city of Boulder, Colorado--home to the largest University of Colorado campus--over a now-failed proposal from a local BDS group for Boulder to form a sister-city relationship with the Palestinian city of Nablus ('Schem' in Hebrew).

The proposal was opposed by local Jewish groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, which exposed the organisers of the sister-city campaign for inter alia: falsely alleging that a number of predominantly (but not exclusively) Jewish officials in the Bush administration were dual Israeli-American citizens and accordingly accusing them of disloyalty; and equating Palestinian terrorism with Jewish resistance to the Nazis during the Holocaust.

In response, CU-Divest decided to harass members of the local Jewish community as they attended synagogue. To promote one of these "vigils", entitled 'Stop the Ongoing Nakba [catastrophe]: Protest Jewish Zionism', CU-Divest said of the local rabbi and other members of the congregation (apparently without any sense of irony) that:

They accuse local activists who want promote this people-to-people exchange program as being anti-Semitic. We need to tell the Jewish lobby to stop their bigotry...

The group also urged supporters to bring signs saying "Why do Palestinians have to pay for the Holocaust?" and "End the Jewish State". A photograph from another "vigil" shows CU-Divest members standing outside of the synagogue with a sign saying "What would Anne Frank say?"

The group claims that its aim was to foster dialogue between Boulder and the people of Nablus, with the goal of making peace. Standing outside an American synagogue accusing the Jews inside of making the Palestinians 'pay for the Holocaust' and calling for the end of the Jewish State seems like a rather perverse way of doing so. The use of that tactic rather undermines the claim that BDS is only about "legitimate criticism of Israel" rather than the targeting of Jews.

(via Avi Mayer)

Arabic miniseries on "Jewish betrayal and false promises"

Whilst Western anti-Israel extremists frequently dabble with various anti-Jewish slogans and themes, there is one particularly vicious Arabic chant that is heard with an alarming regularity at anti-Israel protests with a more Islamist bent (including in Australia): "Khaybar Khaybar, ya Yahud! Jaysh-i Muḥammad sawf-a ya'ūd!" which translates as "Khaybar Khaybar, oh Jews! The army of Mohammed is coming!"

The chant refers to the Battle of Khaybar, an event recanted in the Koran in which Mohammed conquered a Jewish town called Khaybar after a month-long siege, subsequently forcing the Jews of Khaybar to live as dhimmis (second class citizens) under Muslim rule, meaning that they were forced to pay a jizyah (humiliating tax) of half of everything that they produced. Another Muslim tradition has it that at the end of the Khaybar siege, "their warriors were killed; [and] the children and women were taken as captives." A few years later, all Jew were expelled from the area.

The evocation of that particular scene in the context of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is rather chilling. There is no parallel to draw between the situations, other than the idea of a Jewish community being conquered by a Muslim army, which is the general dream of Islamist terrorists.

As the Elder of Zion blog ('EoZ') has been following over the past few weeks, a new Egyptian television series telling the story of the Battle of Khaybar will be broadcast across the Arab world during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

As EoZ reported in March, before filming began for the show, members of the Khaybar production team had declared their intention to depict the "plots and temperament characterized by racism and treachery" of the Jews in ancient Arabia and "the extent of hostility between Jews and the Arabs from the days of Moses", as well as to discuss "Jewish betrayal and false promises."

Now that filming has been completed, the promotion of the series has begun. The series appears to be receiving heavy promotion across the Arabic media and is set to be broadcast on numerous television networks throughout the Arab world.

Its goal, however, remains clear. As reported by the Wall Street Journal's Sohrab Ahmari:

just in case there was any doubt about the intended political message, the show's screenwriter, Yousry El Gendy, has gone on the record with the online news outlet Alyoum Alsabea to declare: "This drama will focus on the Jewish community and will show their traits, ideas and their maliciousness. Also, it will show the enmity between Arabs and Jews since the time of Moses." Ahmed Maher, a popular actor playing one of the Jewish villains, told the Al-Balad newspaper that "Khaybar" sets out to depict Jews as "the ugliest slice of humans."

"The show will be on when most Egyptian families are staying at home for Ramadan doing nothing but watching TV," Mina Rezkalla, a U.S.-based Egyptian activist told me. "The goal is completely outward anti-Semitism."

In response, EoZ has started an online petition calling on prominent human rights NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to speak-out against the film. The campaign has yet to meet any success.

More Jewish plots in the Arabic media

As Forman observed in her remarks to the AJC, the theme of Jewish plots and deceptions is all too common in the Arabic media. Big-budget anti-Jewish productions like Khaybar are not a new phenomenon in the Arabic media, especially during Ramadan, the peak TV viewing time in the Middle East. Previous examples have included Ash-Shatat ("The Diaspora"),  a Syrian production aired in 2003, and "Horseman Without a Horse", an Egyptian production aired in 2002--both of which were based around the antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Sadly, this kind of material is not confined to fictional or 'historical' drama.

One recent example of this kind of crazed antisemitic conspiracy theorising in a different sphere, also picked up by EoZ, was an article in Qatari newspaper al-Watanwhich accused the Jews of being behind quite literally every evil under the sun:

Zionist bankers hold the reins of the dollar in the American continent which is behind all countries; Zionists have succeeded to make the U.S. dollar the basis of cash in the world, ...and also took over the means of copyright and the press, schools, universities and cinema companies and the role of science and laws in most major countries, and has become the gold that the Jews monopolized as the most powerful weapon to arouse public opinion and corrupting the youth, and the elimination of conscience and religions and nationalities, and so Jews founded the global economy on the basis of gold, not on the basis of the work force, production and other forms of wealth, with the creation of global economic crises all the time, and they are pleased with obedience to power of the Jewish world.

Further, given how pervasive this kind of material is, the tendency to blame the Jews for everything bad that ever happens has inevitably penetrated the top echelons of leadership in some Arab countries.

This was seen in a recent meeting, convened by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, in which Egyptian politicians from religious and secular parties discussed a dam being constructed by Ethiopia over the River Nile in order to fuel a new hydroelectric power plant.

The Middle East Media Research Institute ('MEMRI') has released a video depicting excerpts of the meeting, in which serious discussions about water security and diplomatic strategy were punctuated by allegations that the US and Israel were secretly behind the construction of the dam, which (or so it was claimed) is really intended to divert water to Israel through an underwater pipeline being built under the Red Sea.

Egypt is going through a very difficult period as its leaders struggle to keep its fracturing society together and rebuild its flailing economy. It is unlikely that those goals will be achieved so long as every problem can be blamed on some kind of Jewish/Israeli/American conspiracy.

The extent to which this kind of material seems to pervade the Middle East--where it even features in serious policy debate amongst lawmakers--should be extremely concerning to anyone who claims to be against racism and ethnic hatred in this world. Indeed, it is difficult to see how Arab-Israel enmity could ever be overcome in such a climate.

Regrettably, these issues seem to be consistently ignored by the many multinational human rights organisations operating in the region.

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