Institute of the World Jewish Congress Policy Dispatch
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 thisphenomenon that it warrants. Those who did take up the issue were oftenseen as raising questions about the solidity and sincerity of the peacetreaty signed between Egypt and Israel. Some claimed that once the"inevitable" comprehensive peace was reached with the Arab world, theanti-Jewish invective would surely cease. The fact that Egypt agreed tosign a peace agreement with Israel, one in which it recouped theoil-rich Sinai Peninsula, does not mean that the Jewish world shouldturn a blind eye to the evil practices in that country. Furthermore,Egypt's status as the second largest recipient of US aid (upwards of $2billion a year), which continues despite its overtly antisemitic press,should certainly be addressed. One can hardly expect Israelis, or decentpeople anywhere, to have confidence in Egypt's long-term intentionstoward the Jewish State, given this barrage of anti-Jewish vitriol. Thedaily attacks on Jews and Israel do not build confidence. Certainly theydo nothing to endear Egyptians to the idea that peace with Israel ispossible and desirable. The unremitting campaign of demonization of Jewsand 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. Are curring 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 allied 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, Sheikhof 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 enbloc - 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 6million Jews were put to death in Nazi ovens 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 vampires 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 the1930s.
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.