Anti-Semitism in the Egyptian Media (1997)

Images and Accusations
Conspiracy Theories
The Media As Political Instrument

Related ADL Articles:
Anti-Semitism in the Egyptian Media: 2001 Update
Anti-Semitism in Egyptian Media (1998-1999)
Demonization of Israel in the Arab Media
Egyptian Anti-Normalization And Anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism in the Syrian Media
Anti-Semitism in Palestinian Authority

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If one were to ask the average Egyptian what a Jew looks like, it would not be surprising if he or she described a dark, bearded, hooknosed man clad in black with a demonic appearance. (cartoon example) As for Judaism, the Egyptian might say it is a sinister religion, based upon cabals and blood rituals, whose purpose is to corrupt and destroy Islam as part of a plan to rule the world.

These responses would hardly be shocking given the consistently derogatory images of Jews and Judaism presented in the Egyptian media, and also found in popular and academic books, publications and cassette recordings of religious sermons. The government backed and controlled press, including the respected Al-Ahram, Al-Goumhuriyya and the popular magazine, October, whose editors are often appointed by the president’s office and whose salaries are paid by the government, is no less restrained than the opposition in its anti-Semitic expressions.

For the promoters of these images, anti-Semitism often serves as a political device intended to undermine normalization with Israel. (cartoon example) For Egyptian intellectuals and media, there is little or no distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. 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.

Since the election of Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in May 1996, there has been a steady barrage of criticism against the Israeli leader, much of it cloaked in familiar anti-Semitic dressing. A repetitive theme is the comparison of Netanyahu to Hitler. On October 27, 1996, Mustafa Amin wrote in Al-Ahbar, "If he continues Hitler’s policies, he will end like Hitler." Another establishment newspaper, Al-Goumhuriyya, recently described Israel as a "militaristic and Nazi violent criminal" and charged it with crimes "worse than the Nazi dismemberment of Czechoslovakia." In October 1996, Al Dastur featured a photo of the Israeli Primer Minister with a superimposed Hitler-style mustache and a swastika on his forehead. Following Israeli protest, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stopped the distribution of the newspaper.

Egypt, of course, is not the only Arab country where anti-Semitism is found in the press and official or quasi-governmental organs. In Jordan, Morocco, the Gulf States, and the hostile nations of Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, there are abundant examples of vitriolic anti-Semitic imagery and literature.

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." Moreover, 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 have constituted a major setback to the normalization of ties with Israel.

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1997 Anti-Defamation League