How antisemitism in Arab media infiltrates the West

English language editors are often unaware of the hate their platforms publish in Arabic.

By Rachel Avraham, JNS

Palestinian schools, mosques, media outlets and social media have long been hotbeds of antisemitic discourse. The same has been true in much of the Arab and Muslim world.

In the West, many still believe that the Palestinian Authority is a partner for peace. However, the official Fatah Facebook page tells a different story.

According to Palestinian Media Watch, the page proclaims that “the Jews allied with Nazis to accumulate wealth,” “the Jews established ghettos in order to separate from other people out of arrogance and disgust of non-Jews” and “Jews were hated because of their racism and filthy behavior.” The list goes on.

Furthermore, P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas once proclaimed: “The Jews who migrated to Eastern and Western Europe were subjected to massacres by some state every 10 to 15 years from the 11th century until the Holocaust. Ok, but why did this happen? The hatred of the Jews is not due to their religion, but rather due to their social role that was connected to usury and banks and so forth.”

PA ideology

PMW director Itamar Marcus said on June 13 that one of the fundamentals of Palestinian antisemitism is the assertion that the Jews are not only hated by Palestinians but by “all of humanity, and for good reason. They refer to ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ as an accurate, authentic document.”

Marcus was speaking at a panel discussion titled “From East to West: The Export of Antisemitism from Arabic Media,” hosted by PMW and CAMERA Arabic at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.

According to Marcus, the P.A. leaders and media outlets claim that the Europeans supported the establishment of the State of Israel “because the Jews are so terrible” and they did not want them in their borders.

“This is central to Palestinian Authority ideology. They believe that Jews brought antisemitism onto themselves,” he explained.

Furthermore, he noted that the P.A. media outlets claim that Jews around the world today continue to play the same negative role that “caused Europe to vomit them out. Thus, Israel exists because Europe vomited us out because of our negative political, economic and social role, and we deserved to be kicked out, so they sent us here. That’s why Israel exists. That is why Israel has no right to exist, because we are a colonial invention. These are the messages coming from the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

Marcus noted that Abbas’s adviser on religious and Islamic affairs, the P.A.’s top Islamic legal authority, Mahmoud al-Habbas, claimed: “Jews are humanoids. They are creatures that Allah created in the form of humans. They are cursed descendants of apes and pigs.”

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Marcus asked, “Could you imagine what would be the reaction if the chief rabbi of Israel had gone on TV and told Israelis that the Palestinians are not human? All of the media all over the world would have gone crazy. But here you got Abbas’s adviser on Islam telling his people on official P.A. TV that Jews are not humans but humanoids.”

When Jews are dehumanized in this manner, it is very easy to call upon the Palestinian people to wage jihad against the “thieving Jews,” he said.

According to Marcus, this leads to the justification of killing civilians. He referred to a Palestinian terrorist attack in April, in which Lucy Dee and her daughters Rina and Maia were murdered: “A month after they were killed, the terrorists were tracked down and killed by Israel. Then, the P.A.’s Prime Minister [Mohammad Shtayyeh] wrote on his Facebook page, ‘Glory and eternity to our righteous martyrs.’ So, the people who did these murders are heroic jihad fighters,” he said.

Western media

Tamar Sternthal, the director and founder of CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America)’s Israel office, said at the Begin Center, “Nearly a quarter of a century ago, CAMERA focused on ensuring that English language coverage of Israel in American media outlets put forward a professional coverage of journalistic content. Since then, the media environment in which we work shifted dramatically in the face of globalization.”

CAMERA shifted away from focusing solely on reporting in America. This led to CAMERA establishing an Arabic department to focus on “Arabic language reports on Western media outlets, like CNN, Reuters, Agence France-Press, Sky News, France 24, Deutsche Welle and more. We decided to focus specifically on Western media outlets because they are focused on journalistic codes of ethics that require accuracy, accountability and transparency.”

Sternthal said there was a huge need for this project. While she stressed how Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) have done excellent work translating the content of both extremists and moderates from the Palestinian and Islamic world into English, no one was doing the same for the Arabic language websites of Western media outlets.

“There was little or no oversight, including internally. Often, English language editors were completely unaware of this information published on their own platform in Arabic. Problematic language and unfounded claims that English language editors considered unacceptable appeared unchecked in Arabic under their own brand names.”

An analyst who works for CAMERA Arabic, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that much of the antisemitism promoted in Palestinian Authority media outlets has found its way onto Arabic language websites of Western news outlets.

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“For example, the Arabic branch of the British Independent published a theater critic about a Beirut play where Anne Frank was portrayed as a vicious Zionist who came to take a Palestinian home from its original home. The play is called ‘A Letter to Anne Frank.’ It is still there. It has the Independent logo on it. If you did not know that the Independent in Arabic is a Saudi-owned subsidiary, you would think that this is content that the British Independent promotes. Obviously, they are irresponsible about their own content,” the analyst said.

According to him, many antisemites have been given positions in the Arabic language websites of Western news channels. One of them was Joelle Maroun, the Beirut correspondent of France 24, a publicly funded corporation.

“Their correspondent is a huge fan of Adolf Hitler. She publicly praised Hitler for over 10 years and nothing was done. There was no background check. Nothing of the sort. Only when CAMERA Arabic called her out, she got fired. Unfortunately, other correspondents who did likewise only got suspended for a month and they went back to work. You can still see them on the screen.”

More things in common

A Palestinian expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict, who also asked that his name be withheld, stressed that the hateful sentiments mentioned above do “not represent me, my family, my friends, and they do not represent any Palestinian that I personally know. It does not mean that they do not exist. We obviously see them. But this is not the full story for who the Palestinian people are.

“I was brought up on an Islam where Judaism was part of Islam. The Koran itself incorporates the Jewish faith, incorporates the story of Judaism. Joseph, Moses and anyone else within the Jewish history and heritage is also in our teachings. I think that one of the ways we should be looking to fight antisemitism is to find the connections and correlations that we have between the two faiths, for they are closer than they are apart.”

According to the Palestinian expert, “We have more things in common between Islam and Judaism than we have things that separate them. If we look at the religious interfaith [contacts] as a tool to fighting antisemitism, this is something we should be encouraging and looking for the religious authorities who could help to push forward integration and more of an understanding of each other. This comes with education. Education is the key for everything.”

Sadly, he noted that today, “There is not only a lack of education, but a lack of interest in learning [about the other].”

The Palestinian expert stressed that he had been contacted by a few universities in the West to come and speak. Although he agreed, they warned him “about speaking there. People are silenced when they speak in the West. In the West, there is a polarization of the conflict and a prevention of each side to speak.”

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He noted that a Palestinian woman from Gaza was invited to speak in the West about how she was tired of the conflict: “She wanted to speak about the importance of bringing people together and discussing the issues. She was silenced by the BDS. Eventually, she did not even go on stage to speak because she was called a traitor.”

In contrast, in the Holy Land, the Palestinian expert noted that one of his best friends is a Jewish man who lives in a “settlement in the West Bank.”

“He is religious, Orthodox and has eight kids. Our views are on the two sides of this room, but we sit in the middle and call each other, and learn from each other.”

However, he stressed that this kind of friendship is not possible in the West today.

“In this atmosphere, I am afraid that the Jewish and Israeli narrative will always be on the losing side. If we are going to play a competition regarding whose narrative is better, people go with the underdog. If we fight each other’s narrative, Israel will always be on the losing side. But the way to move forward is to show up to speak and to show appreciation for learning each other’s narratives rather than finding where my narrative disputes yours and where yours can dispute mine.”

He argued that pro-Israel activists in the West should say: “’I understand your narrative. Come and listen to mine.’ But if you challenge their narrative, you are not going to gain anyone’s support or have a listening ear. At the end of the day, someone who is antisemitic won’t change his views because we solved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

However, he said that if a more positive relationship is built between Jews and Arabs inside Israel, the fuel for antisemitism will die down as the conflict is one of the main sources driving antisemitism.

He argued that Israel should do more to bring attention to Palestinians who oppose antisemitism and violence.

“Why not shed light on where we do have a partner for peace, where we do have a partner for a dialogue? This is where we should begin.”

And to this end, he argued that young Israelis and Palestinians should interact more and learn about one another, so they can be educated to support peace and so these Palestinian people who support dialogue can one day seek to replace the Palestinian Authority.