ADL: Egyptian Anti-Semitism "Diminished But Still Potent" Hateful TV Series Spurred a Public Debate

New York, NY, June 30, 2003 … Anti-Semitism remains deeply ingrained in Egyptian society, finding expression in the mass media, popular literature and public statements while remaining virtually unchallenged by government leaders. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported today that the level of anti-Semitism in Egypt "is diminished but still potent."

Since the international outcry over last year's airing on Egyptian television of an anti-Jewish drama based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the infamous anti-Semitic forgery, important public discussions on anti-Semitism have taken place, leading to calls to condemn anti-Semitism and for Egyptians to avoid such manifestations. At the same time, vicious and hateful anti-Semitic caricatures have continued to appear in the opposition and government press.

"While anti-Semitism continues to be a serious problem in Egypt, we have seen a diminishment in the level and intensity which we find very encouraging, and hope it continues," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Anti-Semitism in Egypt is diminished, but still potent."

This month the quasi-opposition daily Al Wafd published a series scathing cartoons portraying the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, as a bloodsucking Satanic figure with horns, fangs and a large swastika necktie. The official legitimization of anti-Semitic materials continues. In 2002, Egypt's first lady Suzanne Mubarak and a number of government ministries endorsed a book series to promote public literacy. The series included books with anti-Semitic statements and the glorification of suicide bombers.

"It is unacceptable that books containing such incendiary and hate-filled anti-Jewish material had the imprimatur of the first lady of Egypt," said Mr. Foxman. "The book series demonstrates the deep-rooted acceptance of anti-Jewish hate in Egypt."

ADL, which monitors anti-Semitism in the Muslim and Arab world, has made available recent examples from Egypt, including images from Al Wafd and anti-Semitic literature, online.

Significant Statements and Discussions

Anti-Semitism in the Egyptian media became the focus of international attention with the broadcast of Horseman Without a Horse in November and December 2002. The 41-part dramatic series called up deeply offensive, stereotypical images of Jews while telling an apocryphal story of the appearance of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Egypt.

The series, which was strongly condemned by a number of foreign governments, including the U.S., spurred important public discussions on anti-Semitism in Egypt. These have included:
  • A condemnation of the series by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, which on November 17, 2002 called on the producers of the series to declare the Protocols a forgery.
  • Osama El-Baz, the influential advisor to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, wrote a three-part series on anti-Semitism for Al-Ahram in December 2002. The articles, which condemned anti-Semitism, including Holocaust denial and the use of the Protocols, were reprinted in the weekly Al-Ahram English edition in January 2003.
  • Al-Ahram reported on a debate on anti-Semitism in the People's Assembly in June 2003. The debate began as a report on discussions on promoting tolerance in religious teachings.

Background: Anti-Semitism in Egypt

Over the past decades, caricatures in the Egyptian media have regularly feature anti-Semitic depictions of Jews as stooped, hook-nosed, money-hungry and conspiratorial. Israeli leaders are depicted as Nazis, while other articles deny or diminish the Holocaust. Anti-Israel and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories frequently surface, including references to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and modern reincarnations of the medieval blood-libel charge.

ADL has raised the problem with Egyptian leaders on many prior occasions, but its concerns have been met with excuses, ranging from their inability to silence Egypt's "free press" or calling such manifestations "anti-Israel" but not anti-Semitic. Egypt's long record of anti-Semitic incitement has been documented in numerous ADL reports. See for further background.

Egyptian Anti-Semitism 2003

Over the past decades caricatures in the Egyptian media regularly feature anti-Semitic Der Stürmer-like depictions of Jews as stooped, hook-nosed and money-hungry, fighting for world domination. Israeli leaders are depicted as Nazis, while other articles deny or diminish the Holocaust. Anti-Israel and anti-Jewish age-old conspiracy theories frequently surface, including references to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and modern reincarnations of medieval blood libel charges.

Anti-Semitic caricatures
Anti-Semitic caricatures continue to appear in the Egyptian media. During June 2003, the quasi-opposition daily Al Wafd printed a number of viciously anti-Semitic cartoons. The caricatures feature horrific depictions of Jew-as-demon, Ariel Sharon with a swastika on his tie etc. While Al-Wafd is an opposition newspaper, these images are quite common in both government and opposition media outlets.

Sharon says to a group of religious Jews: "Quickly, go and build 10 settlements so we can remove them in front of the cameras". (June 6, 2003)

Sharon is pointing at a sign on which it is written "Settlement", saying to the worker: "Did you believe that you are going to remove the settlement? I meant that you remove the sign". (June 8, 2003)

The American is stabbing "Iraq", while Sharon is saying: "You are still looking for (excuses)? End it quickly. I don't want anybody to stand in front of me in the region". (June 10, 2003)

The cartoon's headline: "Increasing Disagreements between the Palestinian PM and the Palestinian Groups". Sharon and America are dancing while "Palestinians" are killing each other. (June 12, 2003)

Sharon is saying: "Don't you want me to implement the Road Map? I already implemented it". (June 22, 2003)

Official legitimization of anti-Semitic materials.

In 2002, Egypt's first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, and a number of government ministries publicly endorsed a book series promoting reading, which included books with anti-Semitic statements and the glorification of suicide bombers. It is unacceptable that books containing such incendiary and hate-filled anti-Jewish material had the imprimatur of the first lady of Egypt and many government ministries, and demonstrates the deep-rooted acceptance of anti-Jewish hate in Egypt.

Hate-filled Educational Book Series Under Official Egyptian Patronage
(Excerpted from the report "Hate Industry in Egypt Under Official Patronage" by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center of the Center for Special Studies, Herzlyia, Israel, edited by Reuven Ehrlich, January 2003. The full report is available online.)

During 2002, an educational project was launched in Egypt to promote reading by the wider public. The project, a series of books under the title "A Festival of Reading for All - the Child, the Youngster and the Family," enjoyed the patronage of Suzanne Mubarak and a number of Government ministries. The back covers of the books feature a photograph of Mrs. Mubarak and a letter written by her promoting the importance of reading. The government institutions endorsing the books include the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Local Councils and the Ministry of Youth. Of the series, three books, Israel from Within; Palestine on Maps and in Documents; and Wafa Idris and other Palestinian Stories, include anti-Semitism and incendiary anti-Israelism, as well as the idolizing of suicide bombers.

The Government of Egypt has long maintained that while it is opposed to the anti-Semitism prevalent in its media, it cannot prevent it due to respect for freedom of the press. The imprimatur of Mrs. Mubarak and government institutions (see back cover of books below) belies such statements and gives official legitimacy to the propagation of anti-Semitism and suicide terrorism.

Book No.1

Israel from Within

Front cover of Israel from Within by Diya al-Hajeri

Published by Al-Hai'a al-Misriya al-Amma lil-Kitab (Cairo), 2002

According to the author's forward, Israel from Within is intended to "shed light on the characteristics of the Israeli society from within", and identify the tendencies and struggles going on inside it. Its purpose is to help better understand the Israeli society, and thus "improve our ability to cope with the challenge that it represents."

However, far from illuminating the "real Israel" for the reader, the book includes outright anti-Semitic stereotypes and conspiracy theories, as well as incendiary hostility towards the State of Israel . At the beginning and end of each chapter, graphics depict a Star of David framing a bomb, and the face of a stereo-typical Jew.

    "How did the Jews manage at the same time to become sovereigns in the Capitalist West and influential people in Soviet Communist society? Because the Jews accumulated huge wealth in the course of history, by charging interest and trading in slaves; [yet] this did not hinder them from preaching noble values and upright morals." (p. 34)

    "The Jews came… to the shores of America, hungry and destitute… But they were united in one thing: in joining forces in solidarity, to challenge the new world, and next to gather capital and occupy key positions, in order to conquer the new liberal society [i.e. the American society] without restrictions or barriers…" (p. 36)

    "The American Jews [i.e. those who emigrated to America] showed solidarity towards the original Democratic Party… At that time, the Democratic Party spoke in favor of slavery. This explains why its basic principles concurred with the commercial interests of the Jews, the majority of whom dealt in slavery…" (p. 53)

    "…a number of institutions and committees were established [by the Jews of America] for the sake of rescuing the Jews [in Europe, during World War II] and raising the funds needed for this purpose. One of these was the "Emergency Committee"… However, these committees were criticized and rejected by the Zionist movement…, since the philosophy of the Zionist movement was that Hitler should be allowed to murder the Jews in order to convince the entire world that the only solution for rescuing the Jews was establishing a homeland for them in Palestine." (pp. 65 - 66)

    "…the Jewish state was established by force of violence, and became therefore similar to Prussia, or ancient Sparta. In its view, the only value is militarism and occupation. Just like evil and persecution characterized the ancient Jewish kingdom, these two features are typical of the modern state [of Israel]." (p. 82)

Book No. 2

Palestine on Maps and in Documents

Front cover of Palestine on Maps and in Documents by Bahaa Farouq

Published by Al-Hai'a al-Misriya al-Amma lil-Kitab (Cairo), 2002

This book is meant to provide the Egyptian reader with factual information concerning the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflict, by way of basic data, documents, maps and photographs. However, the book is not filled with basic facts, but with criticism and hate against the State of Israel (also designated as "the Zionist entity") and the Zionist movement (also referred to as "the Zionist gangs") and saturated with incitement and propaganda against the Jewish people, direct from the canon of classical European anti-Semitism.

    "…because of this [the sacredness of Jerusalem], they [the Jews] make all endeavors to cleanse it from all non-Jewish sacred places. As soon as they set foot on the soil of Jerusalem, they engaged in preparations for the building of their Temple, and the proclamation of the greater united Jerusalem under full Israeli sovereignty." (p. 18) The author further states that :

    "Defending Jerusalem is an obligation imposed on the Muslims, and not the Jews… The meaning and the importance of [this] responsibility are evidenced when set against the attitude of the Jews towards prophets… Even the Old Testament itself, and also the New Testament and the Quran, describe them [the Jews] on numerous occasions as murderers of the prophets… Throughout their [the Jews'] historical writings, it is mentioned that they murdered the prophets: Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah… They even attempted to murder our Lord Jesus, peace be upon Him, and the Seal [i.e. the last] of the Prophets, Muhammad, may Allah's blessings and peace be upon him, and they conspired against both and against their followers…" (pp. 19 - 20)

    "The Talmud, which is their [the Jews'] second most sacred book, tells them: 'All the nations are cursed, and the Jewish people is blessed.' It also says: 'Appropriation by the Jews of assets of the Gentiles, i.e. those who are not Jews, is a privilege; it is an act that forever brings joy.' In addition, it says: 'It is permitted to kill all Gentiles, i.e. those who are not Jews, even such who are decent [people].'" (p. 21)

    "The Jews' achievements so far are not the final goal of Zionism. Israel, within its present borders, is but the starting point, the bridgehead, from which they will assault the surrounding Arab countries. This is a transition phase, towards a more distant and more significant goal. This is a foothold, a base for the next operations. The Jews, when focusing their attention on the Arab countries, are mainly concerned with achieving a distant goal, a remote ambition, which their leaders have expressed in public, and which their Congresses have approved in the framework of a well defined scheme…" (p. 315-318)

Book No. 3

Wafa Idris and other Palestinian Stories

Front cover of Wafa Idris and other Palestinian Stories by Muhammad Salmawi

Published by Al-Hai'a al-Misriya al-Amma lil-Kitab (Cairo), 2002

About the Author

Muhammad Salmawi, the author of the book Wafa Idris and other Palestinian Stories, is the editor-in-chief of the official French-language Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram Hebdo. He used his newspaper to voice unequivocal support for the Holocaust-denier Roger Garaudy, whose views he acclaimed on various occasions. In a series of four consecutive articles beginning in 1999, he praised Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, stressing that it is still a valid description of the behavior of the Jews and the State of Israel. On another occasion, he stated that "the Germans had no choice but to load the Jews onto trains and deport them to the East, because they were underdeveloped and a burden to the German economy…" Salmawi does not hide his sympathy for terrorist suicide attacks against Israelis. He even published a series of articles in which he justified the suicide attack by women terrorists, as he has done in this book.

Wafa Idris

The book, describes some of the "heroes" of the recent Palestinian Intifada. The book's main protagonist is Wafa Idris, and its main focus is the account of the suicide bombing committed by her on January 27, 2002. Idris was a Palestinian from the al-Am'ari refugee camp on the outskirts of Ramallah; divorced with no children; university-educated; a professional nurse, employed as volunteer by the Palestinian "Red Crescent"; her three brothers are members of the Fatah organization. The bombing took place near Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, and targeted Israeli civilians, killing one and wounding ninety.

The book overflows with sympathy for Wafa Idris and support for her suicide act. She is depicted as having been inspired by other Palestinian women who terrorist acts, such as: Leila Khaled and Fatma Barnawi. The suicide bombing committed by Wafa Idris is referred to as "amaliyyah fida'iyyah", a term with pronouncedly positive connotation in modern Arabic.

The author goes out of his way to glorify the act of suicide terrorism: the attack carried out by her is said to have "shattered many Israeli defense lines", and at the same time severed "bondages" restricting Arab women (p. 20). The author emphasizes the fact that the suicide bombing was performed inside Israel: "…our territories within Israel were like a well-defended fortification [for the Israelis], which only on rare occasions the male suicide bombers succeeded in breaking through." Yet, according to the words put in the mouth of Wafa Idris, "These obstacles did not perturb my will and my determination..." (p. 21)

The following are some excerpts from the chapter glorifying Wafa Idris' terrorist act:
    "When Wafa Idris volunteered to join the Palestinian 'Red Crescent' in order to save the lives of the wounded, it did not occur to her that she would eventually perform the daring suicide act that would make her famous; that she would be the first woman to succeed in breaking through the Israeli fortifications and penetrating the core of Israel, in order to blow herself up, with nobody to stop her… Indeed, fighting against radical aggression is only feasible by making radical sacrifice [i.e. sacrificing her life]…" (p. 29)

    "One day, a strong controversy broke out between [Wafa Idris] and Adnan al-Jada, a member of Fatah. Wafa said to him: 'What distinguishes you from me as Palestinian citizen? The two of us are equal. In fact… the Israelis fear the women more, as day after day we give birth to male children; this increases the number of Palestinians in a manner that threatens to undermine the very basis of the concept of Jewish state. If we shall know how to raise these children, they will be youngsters whose ambition it is to become shuhada [martyrs] for the sake of the homeland. After their sacrifice, the wife or the mother will carry the burden of supporting the family by herself. So, who do you think is more of a threat to Israel, we [the women] or you [the men]?…'" (p. 35)

    "Within minutes the news spread, reaching the entire world at the speed of lightning, and underlining the fact that Palestinian resistance had entered a new phase in its history. On the very next day, Adnan al-Jada personally supervised the inauguration of the brigade of the shahida [female martyr] Wafa Idris [consisting of a] group of fida'iyyat [women warriors who are willing to die in action]. At the same time, Wafa Idris celebrated her day of rebirth there [i.e. in Paradise], the place where the shuhada [martyrs] and the sacred ones are like [people] who earn their living close to Allah." (pp. 45 - 46)

Letter from a Youthful Suicide Bomber

The story of the failed bombing by Zaidan Zaidan, a youth sent by the Islamic Jihad to perform a suicide attack
    "…the world speaks of Wafa Idris, Mohammed Haza, Ayyat al-Akhras and Mohammed al-Ghoul as of symbols of Palestinian martyrdom… But nobody speaks of me, because I am not a shahid [martyr]… [even though] I carried an explosive charge [explosive belt] around my body, which was large enough to blow up 100 people. But I was uncovered before I managed to blow myself up, and therefore failed to become shahid…" (p. 81)

    "…how I wish that I had succeeded in performing my suicide act! The explosive charge that I carried on me would have blown up among the soldiers that I had targeted, at the Megiddo junction more than a month ago. How I wish that my body… would turn into a bomb, which would turn these soldiers of occupation into fragments of bodies, just like they turned our homeland into fragments, and disconnected them… in order for me to be inscribed forever in the "book of shuhada", which has become the goal for all of us in Palestine…" (p. 85)

    "…the explosive belt was handed to me by a young man about my age. He gave me a letter from Muhammad Tawalbeh(***), the local commander [in Jenin] of the Islamic Jihad organization. In his letter he wrote to me that he complied with my request to carry out a suicide attack… The young man did not indicate any specific target for the bombing [but] said to me: 'you choose whatever target seems appropriate to you. All we want is [that] the largest possible number of soldiers of occupation [should be hit]…'" (p. 86 - 87)

© 2003 Anti-Defamation League