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May 5, 2015 / 16 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Arab World’

The Arab Street is Still Angry

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Much like Festivus, American diplomacy in the Middle East usually begins with an airing of grievances. These are not the American grievances over decades of terrorism and acts of violent hatred. These are the grievances that are supposedly infuriating the Arab Street. The list begins with Israel, continues on to the “Arab Dictators” supported by America and concludes with warnings to respect Mohammed by not making any cartoons or movies about him.

During his first term, Obama kept his distance from Israel, locked up a Christian who made a movie about Mohammed and withdrew his support from the Arab Dictators. The street should have been happy, but now it’s angrier than ever. And much of that anger is directed at America.

Mohamed El Baradei, once the administration’s choice to take over Egypt, has refused to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry. Joining him in this boycott is much of Egypt’s liberal opposition.

When Mubarak was in power, the “Arab Street” of Islamists and Egyptian leftists was angry at America for supporting him. Now the “Arab Street” of Egyptian leftists, Mubarak supporters and some Anti-Brotherhood Islamists is angry at America for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

The American foreign policy error was to assume that the political grievances of the Arab Street could be appeased with democracy. They can’t be. The various factions are not truly interested in open elections. What they want is for America to elevate their faction and only their faction to power. When that doesn’t happen, they denounce the government as an American puppet and warn of the great and terrible anger of the Arab Street if America doesn’t make them its puppet instead.

Democracy is no solution, because none of the factions really wanted democracy for its own sake. They wanted it only as a tool to help them win. Now that the tool has failed most of them, they don’t care for it anymore. And the Islamists who benefited from democracy have no enduring commitment to it. Like all the other factions, they see it as a tool. A means, not an end.

While the West views democracy as an end, the East sees it as only a means. The West believes in a system of populist power rotation. The East however is caught between a variety of totalitarian ideologies, including Islamists and local flavors of the left, who have no interest in power rotation except as a temporary strategy for total victory.

There is no actual solution to the Arab Street that will please all sides and keep their hatred of America down to a dull roar. Whichever side the United States of America backs will leave the others full of fury. If the United States doesn’t back a side but maintains good relations with the government, it will still be accused of backing that government.

The only way to disprove that accusation is for the winning side to demonstrate its hostility to the United States. Accordingly even governments that are in theory friendly to the United States must demonstrate their unfriendliness as a defense against accusations that they are puppets of the infidels. And as a result, no matter whom the United States supports, all the factions, including those we support, will continue to engage in ritual displays of hostility against us.

Trying to appease the fictional construct of an Arab Street that has clear and simple demands is a hopeless scenario. It’s a Catch 22 mess where every move is ultimately a losing move, no matter how promising it initially appears to be.

There is no Arab Street. The real Arab Street is the overcrowded cities full of angry men with no jobs and lots of bigotry. Their hostility to the United States has nothing to do with the sordid politics that experts insist on bringing up to prove that the Muslim world hates us with good reason. Even if this history did not exist, the United States would be just as hated. The best evidence of that is that most of the accusations that enjoy popularity on the Arab Street are entirely imaginary.

Demagogues can lead the street from bread riots to toppling governments, but what they cannot do is fix the underlying problems, let alone change the bigotry of people who blame all their problems on the foreigners, rather than on themselves. Each faction promises that the anger will subside and stability will return when it comes to power, but the anger will never go away because it’s too convenient to blame America for everything. As long as America is around, no one in the Muslim world ever has to take responsibility for anything.

PA Finance Minister Quits in Frustration

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Palestinian Authority Finance Minister Nabil Qassis announced on Sunday he is quitting his post as the bloated budget grows and labor unions and politicians refuse austerity measures.

His resignation marks the continuing decline of the Palestinian Authority economy, which has been a de facto welfare state for years and whose economy has been so weak that the World Bank said last year it would be difficult for the PA to maintain itself as a country if it becomes independent.

The Arab world has filed to live up to pledges of billons of dollars in aid, and the European Union  is hard-pressed to continue to bail it out in the wake of struggling economies back home.

Israel last week said it would resume transferring to the Palestinian Authority tax revenues collected in order to prevent a rise in tensions on the Arab street.

The World bank noted last year that the budget deficit, lack of commitment from Arab donors,  “few positive prospects in the broader political environment and t eh slit between Hamas and the rival Fatah faction headed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas all combine to raise questions about the viability of a PA state.

The ‘Whipped Cream’ Arabs of Israel

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

The Arab citizens of Israel constitute twenty percent of Israeli society – a population that has equal rights, but does not share the Zionist dream. But just as there are differences of opinion among Jewish Israelis, Arab-Israeli attitudes towards the Jewish sector, the state of Israel and its institutions not only differ, but often are even polar opposites.

And just there is no cohesive “Jewish sector,” there is also no such thing in Israel as one cohesive “Arab sector” (though I will use the terms for sake of simplicity). Instead, there are several Middle Eastern populations, some of which are not Arab, and they differ from each other in religion, culture, ethnic origin and historical background.

Ethnic Division

Within the Arab sector of Israel there are a number of ethnic groups who differ from each other in language, history and culture: Arabs, Africans, Armenians, Circassians and Bosnians. These groups usually do not mingle with each other, and live in separate villages or in separate neighborhoods where a particular family predominates. For example, the Circassians in Israel are the descendants of people who came from the Caucasus to serve as officers in the Ottoman army. They live in two villages in the Galilee, Kfar Kama and Reyhaniya, and despite their being Muslim, the young people do not usually marry Arabs.

The Africans are mainly from Sudan. Some of them live as a large group in Jisr al-Zarqa and some live in family groups within Bedouin settlements in the south. They are called “Abid” from the Arabic word for “slaves.” The Bosnians live in family groups in Arab villages, for example, the Bushnak family in Kfar Manda.

The Armenians came mainly to escape the persecution that they suffered in Turkey in the days of the First World War, which culminated in the Armenian genocide of 1915.

Cultural Divisions

The Arab sector can generally be divided into three main cultural groups: urban, rural and Bedouin. Each one has its own cultural characteristics: lifestyle, status of a given clan, education, occupation, level of income, number of children and matters connected to women, for example polygamy (multiple wives), age of marriage, matchmaking or dating customs and dress. The residents of cities – and to a great extent the villagers – see the Bedouins as primitive, while the Bedouins see themselves as the only genuine Arabs, and in their opinion, the villagers and city folk are phony Arabs, who have lost their Arab character.

The Arabic language expresses this matter well: the meaning of the word “Arabi” is “Bedouin,” and some of the Bedouin tribes are called “Arab,” for example “Arab al-Heib” and “Arab al-Shibli” in the North.

The Bedouins of the Negev classify themselves according to the color of their skin into “hamar” (red) and “sud” (black), and Bedouins would never marry their daughters to a man who is darker than she is, because he does not want his grandchildren to be dark-skinned. Racist? Perhaps. Another division that exists in the Negev is between tribes that have a Bedouin origin, and tribes whose livelihood is agriculture (Fellahin), who have low status. A large tribe has a higher standing than a small tribe.

Religions and Sects

The Arab sector in Israel also breaks down by religion, into Muslims, Christians, Druze and ‘Alawites. The Christians are subdivided into several Sects: Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant, and among the Muslims, there is a distinct sect of Sufis, which has a significant presence in Baqa al-Gharbiya. There is also an interesting Salafi movement in Israel, which we will relate to later. The Islamist movement is organized along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The religion of the Druze is different from Islam, and Muslims consider the Druze to be heretics. Because of this, the Druze keep their religion secret, even from each other and therefore most are “juhal” (ignorant – of religious matters) and only a small number of the elder men are “aukal” (knowledgeable in matters of religion). In the modern age, however, there have been a number of books published about the Druze religion.

The Alawites in Israel live in Kfar Ghajar, in the foothills of the Hermon and some live over the border in Lebanon. They are also considered heretics in Islam, and their religion is a blend of Shi’ite Islam, Eastern Christianity and ancient religions that existed in the Middle East thousands of years ago. Their principle concentration is in the mountains of al-Ansariya in northwest Syria, although some are in Lebanon and some migrated southward and settled in Ghajar. The meaning of the word Ghajar in Arabic is “Gypsy”, meaning foreign nomads with a different religion. In Syria the Alawites – led by the Assad family – have ruled since 1966. That Alawites are considered heretics is the reason for the Muslim objection to Alawite rule in Syria since according to Islam, not only do they not have the right to rule, being a minority, but there is significant doubt as to whether they even have the right to live, being idol worshipers.

Arab Moderation Murdered in Tunisia

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph in the world is that good men do nothing.” –Edmund Burke

And if the good men are murdered by the forces of political evil than they certainly cannot do anything. Hence, the outcome is assured.

Thus, the “Arab Spring” has just been murdered with bullets and hijacked amid bloodstains. Here is the list of countries in the Middle East area currently ruled by Islamists: Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Iran, Lebanon, and Turkey. Syria will probably join them soon. Qatar has a pro-Islamist policy. Morocco technically has an Islamist government though the king neutralizes it in practice. Saudi Arabia is ruled by a strict Islamic regime but opposes the revolutionary Islamists though its money often spreads their doctrines elsewhere. Everyone is being forced into Sunni or Shia Islamist camps, backing radical forces in other countries so that their religious allegiance can conquer.

In this situation, only in Tunisia could the non-Islamists win fairly conducted elections. But an election isn’t fair if one side uses violence to ensure its victory and its ability to transform the country into a social-political dictatorship afterward.

I know that whenever I write an article on Tunisia it will have fewer readers than other topics. That’s understandable from the standpoint that Tunisia is a small country with little international impact and limited U.S. interests.

Yet Tunisia was the country where the “Arab Spring” began. And Tunisia is going to be the place where the Middle Eastern equivalent of the Spanish Civil War will be fought. In other words, it is the only place where moderate and “secularist” forces are going to fight and the only country where the moderates have a majority of the population–though not a majority of the guns–behind them.

Given that bellwether factor, they have just suffered a massive defeat which is simultaneously a major victory for the Islamist forces.

Briefly, what people who believe the Arabic-speaking world is heading toward democracy don’t understand is that they have helped unleash forces quite willing to engage in violence and that will not stop until they’ve achieve a total triumph. It’s sort of like Pandora who opened the box to unleash its spiritual whirlwinds and said, “This ought to be interesting!”

That’s why the assassination of Choukri Belaid is so important. He was leader of the Democratic Patriot party and a leader of the Popular Front opposition coalition. While the story will be obscure in the West it is devastating for Tunisia, the Arab liberals, and the future of the region. Belaid was the single most outspoken and determined anti-Islamist leader in the country, and indeed the most important openly anti-Islamist politician in the entire Arabic-speaking world. He wasn’t the only moderate politician in Tunisia but he was the main one who rejected Islamist rule and warned against Islamist intentions.

And how did the Islamist-dominated coalition react? The moment the leading opposition figure—the man around whom an anti-Islamist coalition might have been built following the next elections–was murdered, it called for new elections.

Get it? The Brotherhood’s moderate coalition partners didn’t want elections now. And if you eliminate the tough moderate, those remaining may be more pliable about caving in. It was quite conceivable that the non-Islamists would get a majority in the next elections–as they did in the previous one. But a majority divided among four parties isn’t enough. Last time, the moderate parties got 60 percent but their disunity allowed the largest single party, the Brotherhood, to take control of the government coalition with only 40 percent of the vote.

But a man like Belaid might have forged a moderate coalition government that would keep the Brotherhood out of power. In other words, though he led only the fourth largest party, Belaid was the key to forcing the Brotherhood out of power by convincing the four moderate parties to work together against the Islamist threat. His elimination isn’t just a crime, but a political strategy.

As I predicted a few days ago, destroying the left is going to be the Islamists’ priority and Tunisia is the only country where the political left poses a danger to them. Elsewhere it is too weak, confined to isolated individuals and publications.

Egypt’s Systemic Collapse

Monday, February 4th, 2013

The Egyptian flag is red, white and black with an eagle in the center. Until quite recently, this flag has been a symbol of national consensus symbolizing that all citizens of Egypt, without regard to their political orientation, are sheltered together beneath the wings of the eagle. But this consensus may be starting to crack, and because of the complex nature of the crisis – constitutional, governmental and economic – a growing number of citizens in Egypt believe that the continued existence of the state as one political unit is doubtful. It seems that Egyptian society has been undergoing a corrosive process, ever since the beginning of the “Arab Spring” two years ago, which is undermining the sense of unity and shared destiny in the Land of the Nile.

This process began to be apparent after the unprecedented step taken by the Egyptian judiciary, when it sentenced to death 21 people in Port Said, a port city near the Northern opening of the Suez Canal, because of their involvement in the deaths of 74 people during a soccer game that was held in the city in February of 2012.

When they heard about the sentence, the enraged residents of the city burst into the streets in stormy demonstrations in which more than forty people were killed. It must be noted, however, that some of the fatalities were caused by a barrage of heavy gunfire at the mass funeral of 31 people that had been killed in previous demonstrations.

Disregarding any political consideration, the death toll in Egypt testifies to the fact that the value of life in this densely populated country has been depreciated. Ninety million men, women and children are crowded into the length of the Nile Valley and its delta, with a few concentrations along the canal and the coasts. About one half of them live below the poverty line, which is low to begin with, and about one third of them live in “unplanned neighborhoods,” some in wooden crates, without running water, sewage, electricity or telephone, without employment, without hope and without a future, but crime, violence, drugs and alcohol abound.

In demonstrations in Port Said, there are demands to secede from the state of Egypt. In a graphic illustration of these demands, the demonstrators waved flags where they had changed the color of the upper part of the flag from red to green, with a clear Islamist reference, and instead of the eagle, the name of the city “Port Said” was in the center.

The curfew that was imposed on the city did not help quiet stormy spirits either, and the masses burst into the streets despite the curfew. The police used tear gas against them but to no avail. The army took up a position near the government offices in order to defend them from the raging mob. Military officers claim that they did not open fire and they have no idea how forty people were killed. The Egyptian in the street, who knows the truth, doesn’t buy the story because he understands the matter well: if forty people were killed despite the fact that the army “didn’t shoot”, they wonder how many would have been killed if the army had actually had opened fire

A local group calling itself “The Port Said Youth Bloc” issued a declaration, stating:

We, the people of Port Said, declare the cancellation of Morsi’s legal status; he is no longer the president of Egypt. We call for masses of the Egyptian people to express their solidarity and join the people of Port Said who are being murdered in the streets by the armored Egyptian police before the very eyes of the Egyptian government. The people of Port Said will continue to stand strong even if, as a result of these demonstrations, all of its sons will fall. This expression, “the people of Port Said,” which is repeated a number of times in the manifesto, is an expression of the mood of the residents of the city.

The demand of the people of Port Said to secede from Egypt horrifies the heads of the Egyptian government, because if indeed they do actually separate the area of the Canal from the state of Egypt, the state will lose its main source of income – fees of passage paid by ships that traverse the Canal. If this should happen, considering the recent loss of tourism and foreign investments, Egypt will go bankrupt immediately.

Yaalon: Abandon Corrupted Paradigm

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe “Boogie” Yaalon, speaking recently at a Likud Anglo event,  talked at length about the most pressing issues currently facing Israel.

Yaalon discussed four primary challenges facing Israel today: The current upheaval in Arab States in the region; the Iranian threat; the stalled attempts at progress with the Palestinians; and the internal dialogue and general morale of the Israeli body-politic.

“Westernism” and other “isms”

Ya’alon identified the root cause of Israel’s current problems, real or perceived, as being derived from a “corrupted conceptual basis of thinking” he termed “Westernism”. He stated that the two main foundations of Westernism are “Solutionism” and “Now-ism”, both of which distract Israel from perceiving reality as it is and working towards implementing realistic and sustainable policies.

The corrupting nature of Westernism – though foreign to Middle East culture – has penetrated all sectors of Israeli society, said Yaalon , but is especially prevalent and potent in the media, academia and in political discourse.

Solutionism is the conviction that all problems can be solved: “If we sent a man to the moon and invented the iphone, can we not solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict? Only God can solve certain problems, but the Western Mind believes if can solve anything.”

Now-ism refers to the fact that “nowadays, when we are hungry and want food, we put something in the microwave and we quickly have it; likewise we want solutions now, not later, not with difficulty, not with deliberation and patience.”

Yaalon further delineated eight related aspects of Westernism: wishful thinking; naiveté, ignorance of basic historical and social facts; political-correctness; patronizing cultural relativity  (“Our jihadist enemies are just too weak and oppressed to be held accountable”); appeasement (when the West seeks a solution, it immediately focuses on what it must relinquish to or tolerate from its enemies, without demanding reciprocity or compromise); denial (the choice to simply ignore the clear language of Iran, Hamas, Abbas, etc.); and finally, “document-ism” (all solutions for peace are codified in signed documents produced by experts, conferences, and various committees).

The result of corrupted thinking

Yaalon stated that the outcome of this corrupted conceptual paradigm of thinking is two-fold: First, we cannot properly know what to do or how to act effectively, and secondly, Israel will tend to fall into the trap of “self-blame”, as we are generally the stronger party in the conflicts we face with other political entities in the Middle East. Furthermore, the inevitable result of such self recrimination is the scourge of outright blame, condemnation, and delegitimization from Israel’s myriad detractors in the West and in the Islamic world, appearing increasingly in the form of blatant anti-Semitism. This development is bad for Jews globally, not just for Israel.

The antidote for the ills of Westernism, Yaalon said, is a vigorous defense of, and renewed commitment to, the ideals of Zionism, our spiritual, moral, and ethical heritage, and the renewal of faith in the justness of our state and our cause in the world, instead of placing our hopes in documents, international organizations, or media accounts.

Other thoughts on the Arab World, Syria, Iran, and the Palestinians

In the Q&A session following his speech, Moshe Yaalon made the following points:

1) In relation to the so-called “Arab Spring” (which he termed an “Islamic Winter”) Yaalon said that we are witnessing a collapse of the Arab nation-state System, which was imposed on the region by European powers after the two World Wars. This system is alien in a region where political realities are shaped more by tribal alliances, Sunni versus Shi’ite fault lines, and strong ethnic identities like Arab, Turk, Kurd, Persian, Druze, Alawite, etc.

2) The collapse of the regime in Syria is imminent, as Assad is now illegitimate in the eyes of the Arab world and his regime is predominantly Alawite in a country that is 80% Sunni Muslim—and generally non-jihadist. This collapse will be a serious blow to Iranian influence in our region, and therefore to its proxies Hizbullah and Hamas as well. Israel should entertain no serious fears from the situation in Syria: “Our most secure and tranquil border since 1967 has been that with Syria–with no peace agreement whatsoever in place. How does peace in the Middle East usually come about? — With Big Sticks and Some Carrots,” Yaalon said.

3) Syria, along with the new regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, etc. are “too broke to wage any conventional or terror war with the State of Israel.” Yaalon also stressed that Israel’s military superiority is “based on quality over quantity, and I know well from experience about what I speak. Our F-16 is the best in the world–our plane has an edge even over the U.S. Navy and Air Force–because it has Israeli-developed high-tech modifications in radar, missiles, avionics and more, but most important of all there is a Jewish Pilot in the cockpit.”

Anti-Semitism at Frankfurt Book Fair

Wednesday, January 5th, 2005

Months after the Frankfurt Book Fair was accused of displaying anti-Semitic Arab literature, organizers of the world’s most glamorous publishing event are still bitter about the allegations. Fair organizers insist they only displayed the Arab literature as a function of their commitment to global literary diversity.

However, critics, principally from the Paris office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, remain adamant that the Book Fair’s anti-Semitic offerings revived shades of Germany’s Nazi past, and was just another example of Europe’s growing tolerance of anti-Semitism.

As the de rigueur international publishing extravaganza, the Frankfurt Book Fair, held last October, annually attracts more than 6,700 exhibitors and nearly 300,000 in the book industry.

Each year, the Fair selects one country or geographic region as the “Guest of Honor,” elevating that nation’s or region’s literature to a world-class showcase. Any selected nation is offered a supreme opportunity to achieve new attention, sales, distribution and translations of its most popular published works. Past honorees have included Latin America, India and Russia. Last year, the honored guest was not a nation or region, but the 22-member Arab League, which spans two continents. (The Arab League’s geographical status was dubbed the “Arab World.”)

The honor marked the first time the Fair had invited an international political organization to stand in for a nation or geographic region. Part and parcel of honoree status was the showcasing of the bestselling books of the Arab world. Those encompass great poetry, Nobel-winning novels, and a library of scientific books. It also includes a whole range of bestselling anti-Semitica, the Arabic version of Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as well as a collection of Holocaust denial and Jewish conspiracy books that circulate within the Arab world as legitimate bestsellers.

While the extensive retailing of anti-Jewish and pro-Nazi volumes is a fact of the Arab book scene, selling or even displaying Mein Kampf, the Protocols or anti-Semitica in Germany is a bias crime. Organizers perplexed over this challenge for months and took pains to make sure that none of the prominent but taboo Arab tomes reached the Fair.

“Anyone who tries to displays such books as Mein Kampf or the Protocols of the Elders of Zion will have that book confiscated and their rights at the Fair revoked,” warned Holger Ehling, the Fair’s vice president of communications, during an interview days before the event.

In that vein, the Fair’s two-page English-language contract with the Arab League featured on its second page a special clause aimed at prohibiting any anti-Jewish propaganda or agitation. Ehling explained that the prohibition against “anti-Semitic propaganda is part of the contract and completely understood by the Arab League.”

Attempts by Fair management to acquire an advance bibliography of the books Arab publishers would bring to Frankfurt failed. Hence, thousands of unvetted Arabic titles were displayed at the five-day event.

Shimon Samuels, director of the Wiesenthal Paris office, tested the Arab World’s compliancewith the anti-Semitic rule and came away astonished. “I looked at the many Arabic books,” recalled Samuels, who as a former Jerusalemite can muddle in Arabic. “Instead of reading the text, book by book, I just looked for the cover graphics: caricatures of menacing or blood-dripping Jewish figures, menorahs, and so forth. Then I paid more attention to the Arabic text within.”

Samuels easily identified a trove of sinister Jewish images gracing book covers. He stated that these included three books at the Egyptian exhibit calling for the destruction of Israel. One of those three, asserted Samuels, “was a volume announcing the extinction of the Jewish state in the year 2021 as the Divine Word of the Holy Koran… accompanied by a CD-ROM for schools.”

Numerous volumes claimed to authenticate the Jewish conspiracy, or Jewish control of the United States, according to Samuels. The Syrian exhibit marketed at least two books on “the Jewish role in the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center,” asserted Samuels.

To document his finds, Samuels verified the content of the books with the proud booksellers, took snapshots of the volumes within the book exhibit or stall, and then brought local reporters by to see the books for themselves.

On October 6, opening day of the Fair, Samuels sent a letter to the Book Fair management, identifying the offending volumes and charging “several of these texts would be actionable under German law and are a stain on the image of the Frankfurt Book Fair.” In his letter, Samuels insisted that the Fair “publicly condemn this abuse of your good will, remove these texts and examine the shelves of all exhibitors for further such examples of incitement. A book fair must celebrate the values of tolerance and not allow itself to endorse a cult of racism and hatred.”

The Wiesenthal Center’s complaints and the identified books were referred to the public prosecutor, who quickly declared the texts were not in breach of German laws against hate literature. Fair management then loudly condemned as unjustified the protests of Samuels and Jewish and Zionist groups that published the photos on the Internet.

Little more was heard of the scandal because the Fair disbanded a few days later. But the sting of being branded soft on anti-Semitic literature has not lessened among many Frankfurt book fair executives. Months after the confrontation, the Fair organizer behind the Arab World project, Peter Ripken, director of the Society for the Promotion of African, Asian and Latin American Literature, remained bitter and defiant.

Asked if the objectionable materials constituted hate literature, Ripken replied, “I would say ‘yes’. But hate is something everyone should know about. You are missing the point. You may not like it [such books]. But there were more than 300,000 books available. If you single out seven or eight books, you would be fixating on only one issue.”

Ripken added that he was bothered not by the Arab literature at the Fair but “by repeated false accusations of anti-Semitism.” He continued, “Please define anti-Semitism. The Fair was attended by 270,000 to 300,000. So who is in a position to say that it was five percent or ten percent anti-Semitic – this is nonsense. The question is not whether there was anti-Semitism, but whether anti-Semitism was the key issue at the Fair.”

Other Fair executives were equally agitated after the event, some sending cross-Atlantic e-mails denouncing Zionist and Arab groups for trying to hijack the event for political purposes. Ironically, neither Fair officials nor Jewish groups were surprised. Both sides expected the Arab World exhibit to feature heavy doses of anti-Semitica, subtle and explicit. Such materials are a driving force within the Arab publishing industry.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and works of Holocaust denial remain at the top of Arab publishing interests. At one point, the Protocols was a bestseller on the West Bank, and it was a major theme of a 41-part Egyptian TV series. Now, the notorious forger has risen to academic levels with the recent “scholarly work” by two professors from Cairo’s al-Azhar University, who claim to authenticate the Protocols based on Talmudic verses. A 10th edition of one version of the Protocols was just published in Cairo.

Lebanese publishers regularly reprint Mein Kampf, generally with striking poses of Hitler on the cover, for distribution throughout the West Bank and Arab Mideast. Beyond the well-known Protocols and Mein Kampf, an entire booklist of popular anti-Jewish titles resonate with the Arab book-buying community. The covers are often illustrated with Jewish stars or caricatures that are either dripping in blood, infused with snakes, or sporting spider legs or octopus tentacles enveloping the globe.

The Arab exposition at the Frankfurt Book Fair, organizers admitted, was the first time an honoree would not be able to display all of its most popular titles. Pre-event efforts by Fair organizers to portray Arab publishing as a noble, long-overlooked tradition worthy of special honoree status seemed exaggerated and historically conflated with the Arab world’s non-published literary efforts.

But independent non-governmental publishing itself did not reach most of the Arab world until the early 20th century. Its contentious arrival coincided with the violent rise of Arab nationalism, the imposition of colonial petro-imperialism by the British and French, and the subsequent emergence of repressive Arab regimes often bent on revolution, group hatred, and political tyranny, even as they waged ethnic and territorial war.

Consequently, non-fiction and political publishing in the Arab world has often been an instrument of repression, hate and genocide, rather than a free, inspiring and laudable movement. The Arab Publisher Association, which coordinated the Frankfurt Book Fair’s Arab World exposition for the Arab League, is well aware of publishing’s recent and rocky history in Arab lands.

“Publishing is a relatively new, budding enterprise in the Arab World,” Arab Publisher Association chairman Ibrahim El-Moallem told a Frankfurt press conference prior to the Fair opening. He added, “Much more needs to be done regarding the critical issue of freedom of expression and thus freedom of publishing. Some Arab governments still impose censorship on books and ban the distribution of others, particularly those discussing so called ‘sensitive’ political and religious issues.”

Currently, some 85 percent of all Arab publishing revenues come from children’s books or textbooks, according to the Arab Publishers Association. For many years, few “general works” were published in the Arab world. These circulated mainly to Arab intellectuals, and they rarely exceeded sales of 10,000 copies throughout the 22-nation Arab world.

But general Arab publishing has experienced a recent explosion. Today, more than a thousand publishers are active within the Arab world. More than 20 book fairs are held throughout the Arab capitals. New technologies, in part fostered by the rapid expansion of satellite TV, the Internet, and a new Arab internationalism, are fueling that growth. However, anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist conspiracies form an important segment of this emerging general book buying market.

Prior to the convention, the Fair’s Ehling insisted that Ibrahim El-Moallem of the Arab Publishers Association was the man to ensure that the anti-Jewish and Holocaust denial titles of the Arab world were not brought to the Fair. Ehling praised El-Moallem, chairman of Cairo-based Dar al Sharouk, the largest publisher in the Arab world, for his leadership “in bridging” the gap between the West and the Arab countries.

El-Moallem declined to answer questions about Arab publishing and the Frankfurt display, claiming he did not speak English well enough to express himself. Ironically, some of these refusals were sent by El-Moallem in e-mails written in perfect English. Indeed, Ehling confirmed that El-Moallem not only speaks the language but has even addressed German press conferences n eloquent English.

“I cannot explain why he does not want to talk,” stated Ehling.

Just prior to the Fair, however, El-Moallem was finally contacted in Egypt on his cell phone. He explained, “We don’t believe in a culture clash or civilization clash involving the Arabs. We [Arab publishers] have open minds. We are trying to be part of the international publishing movement. I can say that the Arab Publishers Association is now totally independent of any government.”

He added, “Frankfurt is the beginning of a new movement for the Arab publishers.”

Ehling insisted that El-Moallem, as the best and brightest of Arab publishing, would police his members for anti-Semitica or Holocaust denial at the Fair. Ehling added that he personally – and the Fair as an institution – unequivocally condemned any author, publisher or distributor of Holocaust denial. That easy-to-assert condemnation soon proved to be embarrassing.

Roger Garaudy, a French convert to Islam, stands as a hero of Holocaust denial. In 1998, a French court found him guilty of Holocaust denial and “racial defamation,” fining him $40,000 for his 1995 book The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics. That book declared that during the Holocaust, Jews were not killed in gas chambers. The author of some 20 books, Garaudy is a leading voice of Holocaust denial.

Who publishes Roger Garaudy in the Arab world?

El-Moallem confirmed in an interview with some discomfort, “Yes, I have published three or four of his books,” and hastened to add, “but they are out of print.” Only last year, though, El-Moallem’s Dar al Sharouk released the third edition of Garaudy’s recent book The Trial of Israeli Zionism. El-Moallem’s brother, Adel El-Moallem, translated the work. El-Moallem said Adel owns another major publishing house, Sharouk International, which also publishes Garaudy.

Asked about Garaudy’s books denying the existence of gas chambers, El-Moallem replied that Garaudy’s works “are not Holocaust denial, they are Holocaust discussion.” Asked if he personally endorsed Garaudy’s view that Nazis did not use gas chambers, El-Moallem replied, “I just don’t know. I’m not a specialist in this subject.”

Despite several attempts, El-Moallem declined to confirm that the Nazis used gas chambers, repeating: “It’s a debate.”

Notwithstanding the revelations about Garaudy’s works, Ehling, prior to the Fair, reiterated his certainty that of the thousands of Arabic titles to be brought to Frankfurt, none would involve anti-Semitica or Holocaust denial.

But wishful thinking by Fair organizers could not undo the race hatred that has become a staple of Arab publishing. The disappointment will not be forgotten soon.

“The Frankfurt Book Fair fits into the pattern we have seen in recent months,” asserted Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “in which we hear lip service to world Jewry, but at the same time there are those in Germany reaching out to terrorist organizations and Jewish hatred.”

Edwin Black is the award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller “IBM and the Holocaust.” His just-released Pulitzer-nominated book is “Banking on Baghdad, Inside Iraq’s 7,000-Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict” (Wiley), which chronicles 7,000 years of Iraqi history.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/anti-semitism-at-frankfurt-book-fair/2005/01/05/

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