The Arab World’s Ramadan Hate-Fest

Another Jew-bashing TV series for the holy month.

Picture 7Last Wednesday Ramadan began—the month-long Muslim holiday commemorating the first month in which Muhammad received Quranic revelations.

Ramadan is, of course, a holiday of fasting—during the day. In the evenings, after the fast-breaking Iftar meal, families typically gather together around the TV. That sounds nice—family fun and togetherness for the holiday.

The problem is with the content of some of the programming. In the Arab world in particular, Ramadan with its many nights of consecutive TV-viewing has been a time for long serial productions about the Jews. This year is no exception.

This year Arab families are being treated to a series called Khaybar (reports here and here; original MEMRI report here). Khaybar was, of course, the town in northwestern Saudi Arabia where, according to the Quran, Muslims massacred Jews in 628 CE. To this day, “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning” is a Muslim battle cry against Jews or Israelis—used, for example, on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara in May 2010.

In advance billing for the show, Al Jazeera told viewers that it “sheds new light on the battle with the Jews, on their hate for Islamic preaching, on their crafty schemes…and even their personal aggression towards Muhammad himself.”

Scriptwriter Yusri Jundi, reports Ynet, “has become a hot commodity on the Arab interview circuit”; he told Al Jazeera that “the series shows how the Jews are Jews and that their nature endures despite the fact that hundreds of years have passed, they still spread corruption wherever they live.”

One of the leading actors, Sameh el-Sereity, told an Egyptian paper that “the hostility between us and the Jews still exists. The hatred is ingrained. Neither Egyptians nor Arabs need this show to justify their hatred of Zionism. The existing struggles between us provide the simplest proof of this.”

The show is an international Arab collaboration with a Jordanian director, Egyptian script, Qatari production, and actors from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Qatar. According to MEMRI it was set to be shown on channels such as Dubai TV, Dream TV (Egypt), Al-Iraqiyya TV, Algerian Channel 3, Atlas TV (Algeria), Qatar TV, and UAE TV.

Seemingly all this should give the world’s peace processors pause. There are still a lot of them, undeterred by anything that has happened since the initial “peace” euphoria of the early 1990s.

In May, for instance, Secretary of State John Kerry hailed an Arab League proposal for an Israeli withdrawal to the death-trap 1967 borders with, as the Qatari prime minister put it at the time, “the possibility of comparable, mutually agreed and minor land swaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians”—a “possibility” that Kerry extolled as a great, promising innovation since it might allow Israel to keep tiny parts of the West Bank if it gave up corresponding parts of its sovereign territory in pre-1967 Israel.

And just last month Israel’s dovish science and technology minister Yaakov Peri—also a former head of the Israel Security Agency and one of the stars of The Gatekeeperssaid he favored the Arab Peace Initiative, which was hatched by Saudi Arabia in 2002 to deflect bad publicity over 9/11 and promises “peace for all states in the region” if Israel withdraws totally from the West Bank and the Golan Heights and agrees to accept millions of descendants of Arabs who fled Israel 65 years ago.

The question for Kerry, Peri, and many others like them is whether or not anti-Semitism is a serious matter. It’s not that the Arab world is monolithic regarding Israel. Some regimes are at least pragmatically moderate; some cooperate—tacitly—with Israel against common enemies; some trends are relatively nonthreatening while others are acutely threatening.

But talk of “peace” as a grand, all-embracing denouement presupposes that entire populations poisoned by anti-Semitism are irrelevant, or are indeed fertile grounds for amity and concord. In the West, of course, a mainstream TV series with even a fraction of the bigotry of Khaybar would be unthinkable. “Peace” devotees who go on heedlessly projecting their fantasies onto the Arab world emerge, then, as hypocritical and thoughtless—which is putting it gently.

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