The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is decades old, and it often seems as though there is no end in sight. Following the breakdown of the Quartet’s “roadmap” peace plan and the resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen, the hope for peace appears even more distant as time passes.
Just weeks ago, Saudi Arabia’s religious police declared Barbie dolls a threat to morality. The religious police, officially titled “The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,” posted that “Jewish Barbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West. Let us beware of her dangers and be careful.” Speaking from the Islamic holy city of Medina, an official claimed, erroneously, that Barbie was actually modeled after a real-life Jewish woman.
In April 2001, the Saudi Arabian crown placed a similar ban on Pokmon, the Japanese card game. Religious leaders claimed that the trading cards were part of a much larger “Zionist conspiracy” aimed at luring Muslim children into immoral activities such as gambling. Sheikh Yussef Qardawi, the mufti of Qatar, issued a similar fatwa, or religious edict, against the Pokmon cards.
Finding sinister Jewish designs to befoul Islam in the playthings of children reveals a recurrent trend that has been increasing in force over the last few years in the Middle East: that of Arab anti-Semitism.
Just last Easter, an Egyptian newspaper, Al Shaab, wrote that “Jews carry out human sacrifices to please their bloodthirsty God,” and that during the Passover feast, Jews must use the blood of a non-Jewish child to perform their ‘ceremonies.’ This is a horrifying revival of the classic European anti-Semitism canard of blood libel.
Many in the Arab world have little familiarity with Judaism or contact with Jews. Bizarre images of them are crafted by government officials, schoolteachers and state-sponsored newspaper columns, often centering around the theme that Jews are bloodthirsty, greedy, hook-nosed killers.
Dr. Nabil Hilmi, a dean at the al-Zaqaziq University in Egypt, very recently sat down with interviewers from the highly respected and circulated Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram al-Arabi to explain his mounting lawsuit against “all the Jews of the world.” Hilmi, allied with several other Egyptian lawyers, seeks compensation for tons of gold stolen during the massive Jewish exodus out of Egypt 5,759 years ago. The alleged theft was recorded in the Book of Exodus. Hilmi explained that a caravan of over 600,000 Jews, trailed by a hoard of donkeys loaded with stolen goods and over 660,000 pounds of gold, fled Egypt. Given that the value of gold doubles every twenty years and the reasonable interest rate is five percent, “the debt is very large,” concluded Hilmi, assessing it to be hundreds of trillions of dollars.
Just as outrageous and frightening was the well-known Palestinian writer Ahsan al-Agha during a cultural program broadcast one month ago on Palestinian Authority Television. “It is well known that every year the Jews exaggerate what the Nazis did to them. They claim there were six million killed, but precise scientific research establishes that there were no more than 400,000.” Some Arab historians have even suggested that Jews conspired with Nazis to create the Holocaust in order to gain sympathy from the world in order to obtain a Jewish state.
The presence of the Israeli military in the West Bank and Gaza provides the perfect excuse for suicide bombers and their apologists – but there can be no doubt that virulent anti-Semitism and incitement are what fuel them, and certainly fill the heads of the bombers.
It’s high time for the building blocks of hate to be dismantled and for tolerance – not anti-Semitism – to be preached throughout the Arab world.