Should Arabs Who Peddle Anti-Semitic Nonsense Be Taken Seriously?

News Abroad

Mr. Cravatts writes frequently on law, politics, housing, public policy issues, and real estate development.

The recent injudicious comments by Raymond Baaklini, Lebanon's Canadian ambassador, suggesting that Canada's foreign policy was being influenced by the "90 per cent of the mass media . . . controlled by Jews or Zionists" was a shocking, but not entirely unusual observation. In fact, it echoed a well-worn myth about Jewish control: it has been nearly one hundred years since the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a forged, notorious screed purporting to expose a plot for Jewish domination of the world, crawled onto the world stage.

Though widely recognized for what it is--a malevolent adaptation of earlier pamphlet, "Dialogues in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu," published by the French satirist Maurice Joly--the Protocols has perpetuated Jewish conspiracy theories and served as the foundation for anti-Semitic feelings worldwide.

Now the Protocols is finding new life, and acceptance, in the Arab world, signaling what Bernard Lewis, a historian of Islam and the Middle East, has called the ''Islamization of anti-Semitism,''--an adaptation of the European anti-Jewish hatreds and myths for the new purpose of deriding and debasing Israel and Zionism.

One clear example of the new use of old anti-Semitism was last November's airing, on state-sanctioned Egyptian television, of "Horse Without a Horseman," a forty-one part soap opera that featured the supposed discovery and translation the Protocols, as well as scenes of bearded "elders" plotting the control of world by Jews. While the airing of the series, during the feast of Ramadan, brought vocal protests from Western governments, the fictional program apparently found wide Arab audiences willing to suspend disbelief-including Hala Sarhan, vice president of Dream TV, the independent channel that produced the series. "In a way, don't [Jews] dominate?" Sarhan mused in the New York Times. "Of course, what we read from the 'Protocols,' it says it's a kind of conspiracy. They want to control; they want to dominate . . . ."

The temper of those attitudes was generally echoed in the Egyptian press, most of which gave unqualified support to the veracity of the series and rallied against efforts to suppress or apologize for it. A column titled "No to Ideological Terrorism," which appeared in the government daily Al-Akhbar, editorialized, for instance, that "those who cast doubts upon the authenticity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion argue that it was the Russian Czar Nikolai II's [secret police] who compiled them . . . The most important question is: in practice, doesn't Zionism seek to take over the world with money, murder, sex, and the [other] most despicable of means, primarily in our generation?"

Al Ahram, Egypt's largest newspaper, contained more restrained, but equally fallacious material in a recent article on Jewish influence. "A compilation of the 'investigative' work of four reporters on Jewish control of the world," the piece conclusively announced, "states that Jews have become the political decision-makers and control the media in most capitals of the world . . . and says that the main apparatus for the Jews to control the world is the international Jewish lobby which works for Israel."

In November, the Egyptian publication Aqidati alluded to the same "book of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to which the Jews deny any connection . . . but always when a crime occurs, the finger is pointed towards the one who stands to gain from it. The Jews have gained from all that happened to the human race even in ancient times. They ignited the fire of wars from ancient times; it was they who today control all the great political forces in the world, which act for their benefit everywhere . . . ."

In such a highly-charged intellectual atmosphere, where attitudes are fomented through hatred and misrepresentation, it is not surprising that other Middle Eastern countries share beliefs in Jewish conspiracies and strong anti-Semitic views as well. Palestinian terror group Hamas includes a reference to the Protocols in its own charter, for example. "With their money [Jews] formed secret societies," it reads, "in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests."

"Antisemitism," wrote Stephen Eric Bronner, author of the engaging book A Rumor About the Jews, "is the stupid answer to a serious question: how does history operate behind our backs?" The Protocols gives a perverse and paranoiac view of the way history operates, in this case with the "other," the Jews, at the helm of governments, religion, the press, and the financial markets. Until Arabs can walk away from the old myths and lies, until they stop disseminating disinformation as a tool in their political struggle, they will still inhabit a world in which such theories can be taken seriously at all.

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abed nahar - 4/13/2006

السلام عليكم
انا عابد نهار فنان و رسام تشكيلى مصرى و معجب جدا بشخصية الدكتورة هالة سرحان و اتمنى منها ان تلقى نظرة على بعض من لوحاتى الفنية و ان تنال على اعجابها
و هذا الموقع الخاص بى يحتوى على بعض اعمالى
كما اريد البريد الالكترونى الخاص بالدكتورة هالة سرحان او البريد الالكترونى ببرنامجها الخاص بروتانا
و هذا هو بريدى الالكترونى
و فى حال اعجابها بلوحاتى اتمنى منها الرد و التشجيع المنتظر و المتوقع منها دائماً كما اتمنى النقد ايضاً فالنقد اساس النجاح خاصةً اذا كان نقد شخصية مثل شخصية الدكتورة هالة
و لكم فائق الاحترام
و اتمنى الرد
تحياتى لكم
عابد نهار

dina youssef noeman - 7/29/2004

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SAFIA - 7/19/2004

je voudraiss avoir une adresse ou je pourer ecrire et contacter Dr hala sarhan pour divers sujet

safia from Algeria

el-fakir fatima zahra - 7/30/2003

j'ai l'honneur de vous ecrire pr vous demander l'adresse ou bien l'email de hala sarhan pour un projet interessant a etudier .

Richard L. Cravatts - 4/7/2003

Just for clarification: when I submitted this article, the title I gave it was "An Old Play Book of Hate Reappears in the Middle East and Canada." The title finally used was created by the editors at History News Network, and could be interpreted as overly broad. I was focusing only on those individuals and media outlets who are using some of the old anti-Semitic conspiracy theories again as part of their current assault on Israel and Zionism.

Josh Greenland - 4/5/2003

"I think the author was calling on Arabs who
don't perpetrate this stuff not to passively accept it. At least
I hope that that's his intent."

That's the problem with Cravitt's essay. We have to guess, think or hope we understand his intent. He doesn't make it clear. If he handed this in as an assignment and I was his instructor, I'd make him re-do it due to its general lack of organization and clarity.

kvetch - 3/31/2003

I think there's a more generous reading. "Until Arabs can walk away
from the old myths" means that the audiences that are being presented with the Nazified view of history that their State-
controlled media and leaders present must reject this sort of
thing (not that easy to do when it's pervasive in dictatorships).
If someone offers me a plate of rat poison for lunch, I can "walk
away" from it. That doesn't mean I ever served it.
I don't believe in generalizing about Arabs, Jews,
or Americans, but I think the author was calling on Arabs who
don't perpetrate this stuff not to passively accept it. At least
I hope that that's his intent.

Josh Greenland - 3/30/2003

The title may specify only only some Arabs, but the final sentence of the Cravitts' essay quoted by "T. Herzl" didn't qualify Arabs in any way. And this sentence accuses whole Arab countries of believing in anti-Semitic falsehoods: "In such a highly-charged intellectual atmosphere, where attitudes are fomented through hatred and misrepresentation, it is not surprising that other Middle Eastern countries share beliefs in Jewish conspiracies and strong anti-Semitic views as well."

The title sounds bigotted as well. It fails the word substitution test: what if it were changed to Should Jews Who Peddle Anti-Arab Nonsense Be Taken Seriously? Sounds like hateful stuff in that version. So why is the author's original title okay?

Why does the author ask if ARABS who peddle anti-Semitic nonsense should be taken seriously? And what does he mean by taking someone seriously? Is he saying that Arabs who push anti-Semitic positions should be dismissed or ignored, regardless of their political power or influence? Or is he saying that whole ARAB COUNTRIES' wishes, aspirations and grievances should be ignored, if these countries are one of those that are wholly anti-Semitic as the author implies?

His focus on Arabs makes me wonder if he has an anti-Arab agenda. Why not title his essay Should People Who Peddle Anti-Semitic Nonsense Be Taken Seriously? Are Arab anti-Semites somehow more reprehensible than other anti-Semites in the author's mind?

He has a valid point about the repackaging of European anti-Semitic ideas for Arab audiences, but after showing that certain powerful Arab people and groups are pushing hoary anti-Semitic drivel, he doesn't explain what it means to take someone seriously and doesn't do anything other than task all Arabs with rejecting the old bigotries which he never proved they all held. This seems like a reverse image of anti-Semitic conspiracism, where a few prominent Jewish people are pointed out, and then it is immediately concluded that society or an important part of it is controlled by "The Jews." I don't agree with "T. Herzl" that Cravitts' essay is typical of those on HNN, but I do think it's logically shoddy and that it stinks of a hidden agenda.

Akbar - 3/28/2003

I think it's crystal clear from the title of Cravatt's article that he is talking about arabs who spread anti-semitic lies, not ALL arabs. If you had read the title, perhaps you would have to suggest someone else take your class in Hypocrisy 101. I'm sure there is someone else out there who you can call a bigot though.

T. Herzl - 3/24/2003

Hypocrisy 101 courtesy of Cravatts:

"Until Arabs can walk away from the old myths and lies, until THEY stop DISSEMINATING disinformation as a tool in THEIR political struggle, they will still inhabit a world in which such theories can be taken seriously"

Not some Arabs, not misguided Arabs, not violent and deceitful Arabs. ARABS without qualification.

In other words ALL Arabs are collectively at fault because some Arabs make unfounded and hateful claims about all Jews.

This sort of garbage is all too typical of this website.