Anti-Semitic stereotypes continue to be prevalent in cartoons published in the Egyptian Media. They appear in the government-backed press and opposition newspapers too. The result is to dehumanize and therefore delegitimize the presence of Jews as a national entity in the Middle East. These anti-Semitic stereotypes constitute a major setback to the normalization of ties with Israel.
Anti-Semitism continues to thrive in the Egyptian media. Derogatory images and harsh accusations against Jews in the Egyptian media have persevered through bad and good times - periods of tension and periods of calm in the more than 20 years since the 1979 declaration of peace between Israel and Egypt.
Anti-Semitic stereotypes continue to be prevalent in cartoons, with Jews often depicted as dirty, hook-nosed, money-hungry world denominators. Comparisons of Israel with the Nazis, denial of the Holocaust and traditional libels are also common. It is ironic that while the Egyptian media frequently engages in denial of the Holocaust, it continues to demonstrate the "evil" of the Israeli government through the use of Nazi symbols.
While anti-Semitic cartoons can be found in opposition newspapers, many are printed in the government-backed press, including the largest Egyptian dailies, Al-Ahram and Al-Goumhuriyya and the popular magazine, October.
For the promoters of these images, anti-Semitism often serves as a political device intended to undermine normalization with Israel. There is little or no distinction made between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in the cartoons. In fact, Israel is often portrayed as the frontline of an international Jewish conspiracy. The result is to dehumanize and therefore delegitimize the presence of Jews as a national entity in the Middle East.
Egypt, of course, is not the only Arab country where anti-Semitism is found in the press. Similar images appear throughout the Arab world, including in the press of Israel's other negotiating partners such as the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. However, as the Arab world's political and cultural arbiter, Egypt's anti-Semitic propaganda is more disturbing and dangerous.
Egypt led the Arab world in reconciling with Israel. As such, it was expected that it would lead its population and the rest of the Arab world toward changing public attitudes toward Israel. Indeed, this expectation is built into the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, which calls upon the parties to "abstain from hostile propaganda."
As the intellectual hub of the Arab world, Egypt exports newspapers, magazines and books throughout the Middle East. The concepts and images portrayed within these publications have a powerful influence in shaping popular opinion throughout the region.
The result of these unrelenting attacks is that an entire generation has come of age since the 1979 peace treaty being exposed to the same negative presentation of Jews and Israelis as its parents' generation. Jews portrayed as demons and murderers are people to be feared and avoided, and certainly not to be allowed to enter into normal discourse and relations.
These anti-Semitic stereotypes constitute a major setback to the normalization of ties with Israel.
As in the past, there has been a steady barrage of criticism against Israel and its leaders in the Arab media in the last 15 months - both before and after the outbreak of violence in September 2000. The focus of much of the criticism is Israel's policies with regard to Lebanon, Israeli settlements, Jerusalem holy sites and the peace process.
Several common themes in the cartoons are:
Of the many forms of anti-Semitic expressions in the Egyptian media, the most sinister and dangerous is the use of caricatures depicting Jews in classical stereotypes. In virtually all the cartoons, Israelis are depicted with classic anti-Semitic features and are portrayed as being militant and brutal.
Such anti-Semitic caricatures invoke stereotypes of the Jew as wicked, dangerous and cunning. They not only reflect some Arab attitudes toward Jews, but they also have the capacity to incite hatred against their Jewish neighbors.
The purpose is not only to vilify the Jew, it is also to remove any credibility to Israel's intention to live in peace with its neighbors. In fact, the message in many of the cartoons is that Israel is opposed to peace
and that Israelis enjoy killing Arabs.