by Mudar Zahran
January 24, 2011 at 5:00 am
For more than sixty years of conflict, the carefully government-channeled hatred revolved around Zionism and Israel, rather than around Judaism and Jews.
Since 2008, however, the Jordanian printed media has been launching a fierce attack on almost everything Jewish.
Why would the supposedly-moderate Jordan adopt a strong anti-Semitic agenda?
The answer to this question is simple; Jordan's oppressed Palestinian majority has been seeking more civil rights in the last few years. Therefore, the Jordanian government has to distract them by igniting anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Arab regimes apparently needed a new method to direct their own people's anger towards someone else. The US and Europe were, of course, out of the question, and the communist "infidel" states were no longer in existence. Again, Arab regimes were stuck with Israel as "the source of all evil" with no way for regimes to revive that notion: their people have become fed up after decades of propaganda. The Arab regimes' "Plan B" was to ignite an even larger religious zeal by constantly reminding their people that the Israelis are "a part of a larger Jewish scheme of controlling the world."
Today, the message has dramatically changed; media language and definitions have been surgically altered by many Arab governments. The term "Zionist" has turned into "Jews," and, for the more moderate Arab media, "Peace talks" into "Jewish opposition to peace…or world peace."
The growing trend of anti-Semitism on Arab TV shows has been vigorously picking up momentum the last few years. Anti-Semitic-themed shows have become common on many of the 300-plus Arab satellite networks, including TV Channels and media outlets owned by theoretically pro-Western Arab governments are no exception -- crossing the line from anti-Semitism to open support for terrorism.
Examples for this are countless. In January 2010, the Jordanian state television aired an interview with former Prime Minister Faisal Al-Fayez, in which he threatened Israel with "six million Jordanian suicide bombers." Al-Fayez was a Jordanian senator at the time and has recently been appointed Speaker of the House of the Jordanian Parliament.
Also, Jordanian state and privately owned televised media have been launching a massive campaign against Israel being a Jewish state -- thus making a shameless leap from anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism.
In Jordan, the government-controlled mainstream media has been promoting anti-Americanism as much as anti-Semitic propaganda. In the Jordanian media, terms like "American imperialism," "the evil American conspiracy," "The U.S. marines occupational anti-Arab ideology," and "the American-Jewish alliance to destroy the Arab Ummah [Nation]," are everyday slogans – many by writers on the government's payroll.
At the same time, anti-Semitism not only serves dictators in the Arab world to keep their oppressed people under control, it also helps them convince their Western allies that there is a serious trend of fundamentalism exhibited through anti-Semitism -- and anti-Americanism as well.
All contribute to making Western governments feel the need to support oppressive Arab regimes -- or else "face an anti-American and anti-Western public."
The Arab regimes' new-found propaganda innovation -- of deploying anti-Semitism -- also serves an old purpose: creating an enemy for their people to hate, blame, curse, protest against, and occasionally fight against -- while the Arab ruling classes can enjoy all the spoils and remain in power.
Yet, this is not easy: Arab regimes are now dealing with more informed citizens. In this age of the Internet and open space, Arab citizens have access to all information they need; it is simply not possible anymore that they will believe everything their governments tell them about "the Zionist entity," which has been a scapegoat for all failures, and -- as every criticism or peaceful opposition is immediately ruled a "Zionist plot" -- a justification to oppress Arab people,
Nonetheless, a rise in anti-Semitism, in its crude, early 20th century form, has been piercingly witnessed in the Arab media. Aside from the Hezbollah-owned and controlled al-Manar TV, the Arab media in general used to be anti-Israel and anti-Zionist, yet not particularly anti–Semitic.
It is not a secret that the Arab media is fiercely controlled by Arab governments. Despite claims of self-observed commitment to freedom of the media, several international journalism freedom bodies report that Arab countries not only systematically oppress freedom of speech but also micro-monitor most media sources -- supporting the argument that anti-Semitism in the Arab media is carefully supported and blessed by several Arab regimes.
In a recent report, the New York-based Anti-Defamation League reported several Jordanian newspapers, including those owned by the Jordanian state, as anti-Semitic. At the same time, Reporters Sans Frontières' recent report notes that Jordan's government executes a heavy censorship of the media
This time, however, the Arab regimes' rescue came from a least expected source: Osama Ben Laden.
On the second day after the US launched its attack on the Taliban of Afghanistan, after the 9-11 attacks, Ben Laden made a televised oath before millions of Arabs that "America and whoever lives there shall never see safety or security until we live it as a fact in Palestine."
Ben Laden had never mentioned "Palestine" in any of his speeches before that day. He belongs, moreover, to an ultra-orthodox school of Islamism, which views the Palestinians' fight against Israel as a fight for land, instead of for God -- and therefore not Jihad.
Ben Laden's statement was very well-thought-out and highly effective: it reached out to the hearts of those Muslims and Arabs sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, and at the same time expanded his Jihad into attacking "Jews and their supporters" everywhere. He thus issued to himself an ideologically sympathetic license to hit anywhere he sees fit.
Since then, several al-Qaeda terror attacks gained dual-legitimization: from those hating the West, as well from as those hating Jews -- and even from some non-Islamic Arab groups, such as the Marxist and socialist Arab activists. This has been true whether of attacks on Israelis in Kenya, or plots to bomb synagogues in Chicago. The result has been tremendous media success for Ben Laden, who is now, to many Arabs, including many non-Islamists, "a savior of Palestine," and "a fighter against the evil Jews" -- and not a crazy bearded man.
This same concept has been expanded and executed shrewdly by several Arab governments. Jordan has been getting away with it for too long, and so have many Gulf States, who own most of Arab media networks.
Today, anti-Semitism is as necessary to several Arab regimes' survival as their brutal police forces and merciless security agencies known as "Mukhabrat."
Arab regimes playing this game do not realize that this time, their trick might cause them to disappear: political Islamism has picked up the message of anti-Semitism, which opens doors to all extremist possibilities and might cost these Arab dictators their rule if their oppressed public makes the transition from "hatred of Jews" to "love of Islamism and fundamentalism."
Meanwhile, the civilized world would do well to realize that its alliances with some oppressive Arab regimes should be re-examined and re-considered. The current regimes are not pro-Western, and obviously maintain a marriage of convince to the West; such an affair has proved very fragile, most recently in Tunisia.
Obviously, Arab regimes' recklessness and oppressiveness might end up destabilizing the entire Middle East region, only this time they are playing the very alarming game of "anti-Semitism."
Mudar Zahran is a Palestinian writer and academic from Jordan, who now resides in the UK as a political refugee.