February 18, 2002
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) is greatly concerned by persistent anti-Semitism around the world, and particularly in Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East.
In the Middle East, anti-Semitic articles and caricatures always have been present in the media: in those countries and entities with which Israel is formally at peace such as Egypt and Jordan; in those with which Israel has been engaged in negotiations, such as the Palestinian Authority; and in those with which Israel has no relations, such as Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran. These articles and depictions frequently perpetuate anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, invoke the infamous blood libel, compare Israel and Israeli leaders to Nazis, or deny the Holocaust altogether. Middle Eastern leaders have done little to speak out against these incendiary allegations and depictions.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th and on-going Israeli-Palestinian tensions, anti-Jewish conspiracy theories proliferated in the Middle East media. Allegations of Israeli and Jewish responsibility for the September 11th attacks and even for subsequent anthrax-laced letters were prevalent. Depictions of Israelis as Nazis, or of Israeli leaders drinking the blood of Arab children also appeared. Rabid anti-Americanism also proliferated, with articles offering justification for – even delight at – the September 11th attacks because of American policy in the region.
Anti-Semitism in the Arab world has long been a concern to those in the Jewish community supportive of Arab-Israeli reconciliation. Clearly, when such anti-Jewish biases and prejudices are not addressed and corrected, these sentiments dangerously intensify during times of tension. The Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan must live up to the commitments detailed in negotiated agreements to eradicate anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in the media and in the classroom, and begin to seriously educate their populations – children and adults – on Jews, Israel, tolerance and non-violence. Leaders across the Middle East must ensure that their media behave in a responsible manner and avoid such incendiary depiction of Jews and Israelis.
Elsewhere in the world, immediately after the outbreak of Palestinian violence in late September 2000, a number of Jewish institutions were targeted by those apparently seeking to protest Israeli policy. Incidents were documented in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and other countries. In the second year of Palestinian violence, such manifestations of anti-Semitism significantly diminished, although in France disturbing anti-Jewish demonstrations and attacks continue.
We urge government officials, as well as political and religious leaders to condemn anti-Semitism and to continue to make it clear that neither violent attacks against Jewish institutions, nor the rhetoric which immediately incites such attacks, will be tolerated. Furthermore, we hope that political and religious leaders will make it clear that disagreements over the situation in the Middle East, however passionate, must be expressed with appropriate behavior and in appropriate language.