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."

Full Report:
Egyptian Anti-Semitism 2003
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,

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 the
Anti-Semitism in the Arab Worldsection of the ADL web site for further background.

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The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.