Imagine for a moment that for the holiday season between Christmas and New Year, some big Hollywood producer came out with a special history drama devoted to portraying Muslims as mendacious, bloodthirsty and utterly evil creatures who were rightly fought and killed by the noble Christians of a bygone era. While the program was being produced, the people involved with it – like the screenwriter and the actors – were interviewed in the media, describing the project in glowing terms and emphasizing how topical their history show was because current events proved that the Muslims of our time are as evil as the ones shown in the program…
Thankfully, this is an almost unimaginable scenario, but one doesn’t need any imagination to know how any even remotely comparable project would be received: less than a year ago, in September 2012, violent reactions to the amateurish YouTube clip “Innocence of Muslims” resulted in some 50 deaths, hundreds of wounded and extensive damage from arson and rioting. Since many Muslim rioters targeted US embassies and consulates, President Obama even addressed the uproar in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, condemning the “crude and disgusting video [that] sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.” Echoing widespread sentiments, a Guardian blogger described the 15-minute clip as “a bigoted piece of poison calculated to inflame the Muslim world” and argued that it provided “a dark demonstration of the power of film.”
But what would happen if there was “a bigoted piece of poison calculated to inflame the Muslim world” against the Jews? Well, no need to exert the imagination: for this year’s Ramadan that started a few days ago, a special program glorifying the efforts of early Muslims to make the Arabian Peninsula “judenrein” will be offered “on numerous channels, including Dubai TV, Dream TV (Egypt), Al-Iraqiyya TV (Iraq), Algerian Channel 3, Atlas TV (Algeria), Qatar TV, and UAE TV.”
As a comprehensive MEMRI-report documents, Arab media reports indicate that everyone involved in the production of “Khaybar” is very proud of the show:
“Actor Ahmad ''Abd Al-Halim said: ‘I play one of the Jewish characters, who demonstrates the behavior of the Jewish human being. All he thinks about is accumulating money.’ Actor Ahmad Maher said: ‘History has shown that the Jews are a people with no moral values, who do not honor their agreements.’ According to him, screenwriter Yusri Al-Gindi ‘created a historical document showing how these people are oppressors, who do not honor their agreements. History shows that they are the people who disputed Allah. They are the slayers of prophets.’”
According to the MEMRI-report, the show’s screenwriter, Yusri Al-Gindi, “gave frequent interviews about the program, its screenplay, and its meaning.” Apparently, Al-Gindi thinks of himself as an expert on Jews, claiming to have done “research” that led him to the insight “that from the days of Moses, the prophet of Allah, to now, the Zionist entity has not changed its method.” Al-Gindi also declared:
“The Jews are the Jews. They still act according to their nature, despite the passing generations. They corrupt any society in which they live, and therefore no regime can protect them with any contract or agreement. The crisis in the Arab world offers the best proof of this, and this is where the show gets its current relevance.”
Arguably, this pathetic show has indeed “current relevance” for the “crisis in the Arab world” – because a “world” where primitive bigotry is happily touted as enlightening holiday entertainment is clearly in a deep crisis. As Walter Russell Mead has noted repeatedly:
“countries where vicious anti-Semitism is rife are almost always backward and poor […] because the inability to see the world clearly and discern cause and effect relations in complex social settings is linked to many other failures in economic and political life. Anti-Semitism isn’t just the socialism of fools; it is the sociology of the befuddled. The anti-Semite fails to grasp how the world works, and that failure condemns him to endless frustration.”
Mr. Al-Gindi is indeed a good example of utter befuddlement: while he is touting a production that supposedly proves the unchanging devious nature of the Jews, he is unable to realize that he is actually making the case that unchanging Jew-hatred is a proud Arab and Muslim tradition.
Screenshot from MEMRI clip of “Khaybar”
So far, criticism of the program has come mainly from Jewish voices objecting to the demonization of Jews. According to a report in The Algemeiner, the show has been criticized by the ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, while blogger Elder of Ziyon has not only written extensively about “Khaybar,” but also organized a petition and a Facebook page denouncing the anti-Jewish incitement.
By now there have also been some reports and commentaries in the media, but few seem willing to highlight the crucial point addressed by Rabbi Kenneth L. Cohen in The Huffington Post:
“Anti-Semitic TV miniseries have become a cottage industry in the Muslim world. […] Jews-as-villains themes are found on the local equivalents of Dallas, Hardball, and The 700 Club. They even appear on the equivalent of Sesame Street […] Talk shows are saturated with anti-Semitic rants and conspiracy theories. Holocaust denial is the norm, but Friday sermons calling for the slaughter of all Jews everywhere are not uncommon. The depiction of evil, blood thirsty Jews plotting to control the world -- extremist stuff that exists only in disreputable margins of society in the West -- is shown to hundreds of millions of people. […]
This crude and offensive incitement defies journalistic and media standards observed elsewhere. It harms Jews, but also it undermines the standing of Muslims and the image of Islam.”
And this is indeed a point that is emphasized too rarely: if a program like “Khaybar” can be produced and aired as Ramadan holiday entertainment, it’s not “Islamophobic” to conclude that many Muslims accept anti-Jewish bigotry as an integral part of their world view.