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Resurrecting an Ancient Face of Evil

Resurrecting an Ancient Face of Evil

Virulent anti-Semitism is alive and well, and proliferates across the Arab world.


The Holocaust had begun to feel like ancient history, but the urgent new focus on the Middle East reminds us all how virulent anti-Semitism lives as a force in the world.

Just as the Nazis forged a militant fanatical hatred of Jews, Islamic fanatics have forged a modern theory of hatred, illustrated by similar Nazi-like depictions of Jews.

In "Peace: The Arabian Caricature: A Study of Anti-Semitic Imagery," Arieh Stav, director of the Ariel Center for Policy Research in Tel Aviv, documents the vicious anti-Semitic cartoons that proliferate in the Arab world with public and official endorsement. Historically, these caricatures are not unique to the Arab world, but what this book makes clear is that in the Middle East today they are commonplace, generating stereotypes of evil, fusing anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism.

In the present crisis, the portrait of the Jew in the Middle East emerges as an ugly and perverse mix of theological, moral, racial, social and political negatives. If you think these images are pushed only by the usual suspects, such as Syria and Iraq, think again. They proliferate across the spectrum of our so-called allies in the coalition, including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. These caricatures are all the more powerful because they're graphically dramatic and symbolic in countries where many people cannot read.

Jews in the Middle East are described as a cancer in the body of the Arab world, a malignant tumor that must be surgically removed.

Jews were forced to wear a yellow patch with a six-pointed star in "sophisticated" Europe, identifying them as vermin that had to be exterminated. In the Middle East, the Jews of Israel are caricatured as snakes and cockroaches, to be similarly annihilated.

Eastern European Jews were frequently described in metaphors of disease, to be eliminated lest they infect the larger society. Jews in the Middle East are described as a cancer in the body of the Arab world, a malignant tumor that must be surgically removed.

Stav's book, written two years ago, illustrates how popular cartoons generate violent attitudes toward Israel in general and Jews in particular. Just as in Germany, where Jews over the years sometimes earned reprieve from prejudice, Jews have enjoyed occasional protection from Muslim rulers in the past. But it's naive to think that anti-Semitism isn't a driving force of modern Islamist terrorism.

One of the stubborn rumors that circulated among Muslims immediately after Sept. 11 (and among certain other Israel-bashers) was that the airplane attacks were initiated by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. The rumor was accompanied by the kind of lie that lent both specificity and credibility, that 4,000 Jews who worked in the World Trade Center were warned not to show up for work, and escaped the catastrophe.

The rumor was quickly squelched in this country when many of the dead and missing were identified as Jews. But the rumor has the legs of "unshakable truth" for Muslims in the streets of Cairo, Jerusalem, Riyadh, even London. More than half a century ago, anti-Semitism was indelibly imbedded in the psyche of the Third Reich, which led inexorably to the Holocaust. But in recent years, the Germans have worked tirelessly to document that terrible past and its government has spoken out boldly about the threat of Islamist terrorism. Many Germans are humiliated that they unwittingly gave shelter to several of the terrorists who flew the death planes.

When Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder returned home after meeting George Bush in Washington this month after surveying the destruction of the terrorists, he suggested that Germany is now prepared to enter a new phase in its post-World War II history, to send its army abroad "in defense of freedom and human rights." This is not likely to thrill millions of Europeans, but it shows where German sentiment lies.

He expressed the "unreserved solidarity" of his government behind the United States. He has endured criticism from the Green Party's pacifist wing and part of his coalition, which has demanded a pause in the bombing of Afghanistan.

Many of the Greens, however, including Joschka Fischer, the German foreign secretary, remain mindful not only of the free world's vulnerability to the terrorists if they are not stopped, but of the terrible treatment women, children and minorities suffer daily at the hands of the Taliban.

These Germans have learned from their country's history and rediscovered a conscious awareness that both words and deeds are needed to fight against evil. They remind us all that this is no time to be a passive bystander.

This article originally appeared in The Washington Times on October 22, 2001.

October 27, 2001

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Brad Ponsart, November 6, 2011 9:21 PM

The Next Generation

I am a living witness to the effects national policies of educational curriculum can have on a generation. I was the last generation of Canadian high school students taught holocaust studies in the public school system. The impact of the imagery, of Nazis filming there fellows jesting, laughing and toasting one another over piles of their own nations civilians corpses, Hitler's propaganda machine and subsequent transportation of Jews from within and without Germany to the concentration camps, left a lasting impression. The following year in highschool holocaust education and films were removed from the public education system in Canada. Within a couple of years James Keegstra, and Ernst Zundel, filled the vacuum left behind with holocaust denial diatribe and disinformation, and antisemitism began to quickly proliferate. They were cut off from publishing their dribble within Canada, but the internet and world wide web began, and they found a new medium through which to promulgate their hate speech. The arab world became a fresh and willing field in which to plant their seed. Bookstores in Canada began selling copies of Mein Kamf, featuring it prominently within the front display cases of their franchises, and removed any materials that would provide an antidote. Today "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," is the most popular publication worldwide, the majority of copies being sold in Muslim nations to their education systems, and being taught as an accurate historical document. Public television in these nations now focus on youth and feature cartoons vilifying Jews and teaching holocaust denial, with no noticeable dissension from within Islam. I see nothing present to stem the rise of antisemitism worldwide, rather the opposite with recent inroads into Thailand and Southeast Asia.

(4) , March 5, 2002 12:00 AM

I am from a muslim background. I must shamefully admit that anti-semitism exists in the muslim world. The mass of the muslim population, uneducated and bound by a superstitious adherance to religion, with the unfortunate addition of the use of propaganda by those who take advatage of the beautiful muslim faith to further their own agendas, has led most muslims to harbour a slight disapproval of every action taken by powerful members of the Jewish faith. However, the situation does not yet rival anything like that of NAZI Germany, and can be remedied with proper education.

I pray to the god that we all believe in that this disgusting stain on the face of Islam will be irradicated rather than expanded.

(3) Beverly Corey, November 2, 2001 12:00 AM

I am just amazed

I have to agree with this article. I am not Jewish nor do I understand much of the Jewish background. I do hope Israel will not give anymore of her territory up. I am praying for you.

(2) Milton Evans, October 29, 2001 12:00 AM

Excellent article on the facts about antisemitism displayed in the world of Islam today. Most Americans are completly oblivious of this fact.

(1) Ken Noble, October 28, 2001 12:00 AM

A recent article I read in The Jewish Press outlined how the technical know how behind most of Soddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program were being developed by German engineers and companies with the full knowedge of the German Government (even after U.S. protests) Winston Churchill was quoted as saying "I know my huns" Jews should know and never underestimate there amalakites.

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