General Antisemitism

Victory and defeat: The story about Arab rioting rarely told.


Anti-American (and anti-Israeli) riots throughout the Middle East, supposedly in reaction to a low-budget, obscure, 14 minute anti-Muslim film made by a Coptic Christian of Egyptian origin, have “spread” over the last several days from Libya and Egypt to Yemen, Tunisia, Gaza, Morocco, Kashmir, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Indonesia, and Sudan.

Rioters stormed U.S. embassies and missions, hurled stones at police, shouted ‘death to America’, death to Jews‘ and burned American and Israeli flags. Hundreds have been injured.

The “rage” which erupted is reminiscent of similar violent responses to the threat by a fringe U.S. pastor to burn a Koran in 2010, which resulted in riots and the death of at least 20 people. This incident is also reminiscent, of course, of the Muhammad cartoons controversy in 2005-2006 which resulted in over 200 dead worldwide.

A considerable amount of media coverage of the latest violence has focused not on the rioters themselves but on the film maker, now in hiding, whose clip is said to have “angered”, enraged, “incited” (even goaded“) the mobs into such behavior.

It’s difficult, however, not to view the reaction to one extremely low-budget racist anti-Muslim video in the context of the immense volume of often state-sponsored antisemitic incitement across the Middle East.

Al-Shatat (“The Diaspora”) is a $5.1 million, 30-part “mini-series” produced by state controlled Syrian television. It was broadcast during Ramadan in 2003 by Hezbollah’s satellite television network available to millions of viewers throughout the Middle East and was also shown in Iran in 2004 and in Jordan during 2005 on Al-Mamnou.

The film, based in part on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, depicts a classic anti-Semitic blood libel. A Rabbi, played by an Arab actor, directs a member of his synagogue to help him:

1) kidnap the son of his Christian neighbor;
2) bring the boy to the synagogue;
3) slit the boy’s throat;
4) drain the boy’s blood into a basin;
5) use the blood to make Passover matzoh bread;
6) serve the matzoh to the members of the synagogue.

Here’s a clip

Another grossly antisemitic mini-series, “Horseman without a horse“, produced in Egypt and also based on ‘The Protocols’, which first aired in 2002, was re-broadcast during Ramadan in 2012, on Egyptian television.  

While there were condemnations by Jewish leaders, there was no rioting or any manner of violent reaction in response to either film.

However, these widely viewed shows represent merely two examples of the obscene portrayal of Jews and Judaism seen routinely in Arab and Muslim newspapers, magazines, caricatures, websites, TV news, radio, documentaries, films and educational materials.

While Jews and Zionists are often accused of “silencing debate” when they merely criticize their opponents in the media or engage in political lobbying to advance their interests, rarely is Islamist inspired rioting, in reaction to a mere insult, interpreted similarly as an effort – through the implicit threat of future violence – to silence their critics.

Moreover, since the riots have begun, American officials have bent over backwards to denounce the film, thus being fooled by the radicals’ trick.

Husain Haqqani argued the following today in the Wall Street Journal:

“Insults, real or hyped, are not the problem. At the heart of Muslim street violence is the frustration of the world’s Muslims over their steady decline for three centuries, a decline that has coincided with the rise and spread of the West’s military, economic and intellectual prowess.

During the 800 years of Muslim ascendancy beginning in the eighth century…Muslims did not riot to protest non-Muslim insults against Islam or its prophet. There is no historical record of random attacks against non-Muslim targets in retaliation for a non-Muslim insulting Prophet Muhammad.

…violent responses to perceived injury are not integral to Islam. A religion is what its followers make it, and Muslims opting for violence have chosen to paint their faith as one that is prone to anger. Frustration with their inability to succeed in the competition between nations also has led some Muslims to seek symbolic victories.

For Islamists, wrath against the West is the basis for their claim to the support of Muslim masses, taking attention away from societal political and economic failures. 

For example, the 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Conference account for one-fifth of the world’s population but their combined gross domestic product is less than 7% of global output—a harsh reality for which Islamists offer no solution.

Even after recent developments that were labeled the Arab Spring, few Muslim-majority countries either fulfill—or look likely to—the criteria for freedom set by the independent group Freedom House. Mainstream discourse among Muslims blames everyone but themselves for this situation. The image of an ascendant West belittling Islam with the view to eliminate it serves as a convenient explanation for Muslim weakness.

Once the Muslim world embraces freedom of expression, it will be able to recognize the value of that freedom even for those who offend Muslim sensibilities. More important: Only in a free democratic environment will the world’s Muslims be able to debate the causes of their powerlessness, which stirs in them greater anger than any specific action on the part of Islam’s Western detractors.”

Those in the media and elsewhere who focus on the creator of one crudely made film – rather than on the behavior of those engaging in self-destructive, anti-democratic behaviour – are unwittingly emboldening those reactionary forces unable to reconcile themselves with the basic precepts of liberalism and modernity, thus consigning millions to continued underdevelopment and backwardness.  

Rioting and violence on the streets of  Benghazi, Cairo, Tunis, Sanaa and elsewhere over the most recent racist insult may indeed serve to make Western film makers, artists, journalists and others contemplating engaging in a critique of Islam, or creating a depiction of Muhammad, hesitant to proceed with their project.

However, such reticence on behalf of critics of Islam or Islamism will only grant greater impunity to the most radical forces within the faith, and will do absolutely nothing to bring true democracy, pluralism, tolerance and economic development to the Arab world.

The failure of our policy leaders and commentators to engage in critical scrutiny of the rioters, and especially the extremist movements which incited their destructiveness, will ensure only that yet another Pyrrhic victory for their faith has been secured. 

15 replies »

  1. You’re right.

    These violent and frenzied protests would perhaps be easier to forgive if Muslims respected other religions. But they don’t. They routinely slander Jews and denigrate Judaism, and use the flimsiest of excuses to attack any Christians unfortunate enough to live amongst them.

    So why should we give such an intolerant vicious creed any respect at all?

  2. There is no historical record of random attacks against non-Muslim targets in retaliation for a non-Muslim insulting Prophet Muhammad.

    There is no history of earlier Muslim atrocities towards non-Muslims because it has been expunged by the conquering Muslim army. This has been done so that the newly conquered and subjugated people will not have any other history of their own to relate and have affinity with. Nearly all Pakistanis now delude themselves and claim that they’re from an Arabic stock in the process vilify, insult and denigrate their own real pre-Islamic/Hindu/Indian ancestry. This way, they can block out their own painful history. Far better to associate with the victors rather than the vanquished.

  3. Apparently, extreme violent responses work to one’s favor when religion is denigrated.

    There are two things I believe Israel should leverage:

    1. The rampant anti-antisemitism in the Arab world has gone ignored by the west for way too long. Israel should publicize this fact to the point where it can be ignored no longer. Much as Israel is gaining some traction with the Jewish refugee issue, the constant drumbeat of religious and ethnic hatred too should be identified and called out for what it is. Draw a picture of Muhammad and get your head chopped off. Promote a blood libel and, well, nothing. The west doesn’t know this, and it’s time they did.

    2. On a related note, Hillary Clinton FINALLY mentioned that what gets said in the Arab world in English is different than what gets said in Arabic. Israel has known this for years. Morsi simply took a page out of the Palestinian playbook. This too should be publicized. MEMRI and PMW seem to have too small an audience. It’s time that changed.

    Anything less than due process for Jews would be hypocritical and would prove that this is more about blackmail than justice.

  4. Adam,
    Once again you hit the nail on the head. Great article.
    Every point you make reflects my own thoughts on this subject.

  5. Does the word Farhood rings a bell?
    This goes back to 19 century and even before.

    Muslims rule was always bitter.
    It became worse once the Jews left and a big slice of the punching bag left with them.

  6. Brilliant article which shows the hypocrisy of the Muslims, who love producing blood libels against Jews, but then riot if someone said one bad word about Mohammad.

    • Late to this discussion, but good article. Western governments and the rest of the non-Muslim world is terrified of naming what is going on, the excesses of Islam and how it views and treats non-Muslims, because once named it becomes real and “out there”, and they are terrified of having actually to DO something to curb it and put it back into its box.

      This article does that and brings home the ridiculous (if it were not so dangerous) overreactions even to alleged offence. Hillary Clinton has said too little and too late.

      @Ed Frias, These Muslims are handicapped in that they are forbidden from thinking critically, and are not encouraged to reflect about how others perceive them and their behaviour so they are unable to join up the dots, so to speak, of similarity between their behaviour and that from them which outrages us. From their earliest days they are literally programmed not to accept blame for things they may do wrong (because they cannot cope with the shame of being wrong) and therefore to project that blame onto easy scapegoats, such as Jews.

      Also, having been programmed similarly to accept their superiority without question (and in spite of evidence to the contrary) they resort to anarchic rioting, murder and mayhem if ever that even appears to be threatened. It more than irks them when we treat them as ordinary or ignore them. Their beings in the world demand that they be accorded special status, and this is a compensation for the knowledge at their core, which they dare not articulate to themselves or others, that they definitely are not as superior as they seem.

      Without that reflective capacity such people are impulse-driven and easy to sway by anyone who they think shouts with authority, and are, literally a law to themselves. It is, literally, beyond them to compare their behaviour with that of others in terms other than they are completely in the right to behave like that.

      The poor beggars are trapped in these mad cycles of violence whenever they are thwarted since their prophet – whom they are enjoined to obey without question – ordered that they should obey their leaders similarly without question, and polite criticism and even the asking of questions leads to massive overreaction, at the root of which is their doubt of the superiority of Islam.

      And thus the cause – effect continuum is put in place. The UK and US governments are terrified of Muslim anger, and are therefore conditioned to concede to more and more outlandish demands from it, that would not be countenanced from a minority without such a history of violence.

      Reluctant though I am to apply any psychological label to a whole people, when they act en masse and cranked up in this fashion they exhibit signs of gross personality disorder and this is certainly so of the behaviours of most of their leaders.

      Islam IS angry, it is built on anger and Muslims are ordered to jihad if their leaders command it, or they will suffer the fires of hell.

      It is time for us to shout “Enough!”