Anti-Semitism in Araby

Article excerpt

To achieve Arab-Israeli peace will mean dealing with a civil society on one side that is by no means civil.

This week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Israel and the West Bank, stepping into the longest-running show in American diplomacy, one that goes all the way back to the Rogers Plan of 1969. The play is called "Mediating in the Middle East," and it might be another 40 years before the cast sings the finale.

The reasons for this slow pace are familiar: the status of Jerusalem, problems with security, Jewish settlements, civil war among the Palestinians, etc. But one other key problem is stubbornly ignored:

the fact that no Arab regime has shown itself willing to truly prepare its people for peace with Israel, which would mean accepting the lasting presence of Jews in their midst. Indeed, anti-Semitism--the real stuff, not just bad-mouthing particular Israeli policies--is as much part of Arab life today as the hijab or the hookah. Whereas this darkest of creeds is no longer tolerated in polite society in the West, in the Arab world, Jew hatred remains culturally endemic.

For a European, it all feels uncomfortably familiar. Take the cartoons one sees in the government-controlled Arab press. They feature The Jew as a murderous conspirator, a capitalist bloodsucker or Satan himself--the classics. He even looks like his predecessors in Der Sturmer, with his hooked nose, thick lip and sinister beard.

Open Egypt's Al-Gomhuria newspaper, and there is The Jew as a serpent strangling Uncle Sam over a caption that reads "The Jews taking over the world." On Al-Nas TV, Egyptian cleric Ahmad Abd al-Salam tells his viewers, "I want you to imagine the Jews sitting around a table, conspiring how to corrupt the Muslims -- The Jews conspire to infect the food of Muslims with cancer [and] to ship it to Muslim countries." Al-Salam's colleague, Zaghloul al-Naggar, has called Jews "devils in human form." And this is a country at peace with Israel. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazis' chief propagandist, would be proud.

Meanwhile, Saleh Riqab, Hamas's deputy minister of religious endowment, has picked up smoothly where European anti-Semitism leaves off, declaring on TV that "the protocols of the elders of Zion discuss how the Jews should seize control of the world. In Europe, and especially in the U.S., there was a quick Jewish takeover of the major mass media." One Egyptian cleric has even voiced the widely shared opinion that "Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews." So much for a two-state solution.

No anti-Semitism is ever complete without the idea of sexual subversion. The Nazis accused the Jews of "polluting" the Aryan race. Sure enough, one Egyptian "expert" has opined on Al-Nas TV that "the No. …