Kuwaiti poet: ‘Embrace Jews without having a political agenda’

US embassy Hanukkah message sparks antisemitic responses from Kuwaitis.

FILE PHOTO: Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah is seen during the Arab summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia May 31, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED/FILE PHOTO)
FILE PHOTO: Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah is seen during the Arab summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia May 31, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED/FILE PHOTO)

Kuwaiti poet and writer Nejoud Al-Yagou urged, in an eye-popping article, that Kuwaitis embrace Jews and put aside their power politics to create religious and social peace.

“Let’s take religion aside. Many here do not even practice religion but still hold a caustic hatred for Jews,” Al-Yagou wrote on the English-language website Fanack.com. earlier this month.

“What is their excuse? Is it politics? If that is the way we think, why are we judging others for being afraid of us?” she asked. “There are Muslims who have used religion to justify and perpetrate attacks on innocent civilians. Did the world ban mosques?”

Al-Yagou apparently authored her article in response to hateful reactions to the US embassy wishing Jews in the oil-rich Gulf country a happy Hanukkah on social media.

“Some commentators trolled the ambassador, and anyone who responded to the message in a spirit of love was verbally abused,” she wrote. “Some argued that there are not many Jews in Kuwait, so why would the US Embassy post such a message? The commentators used the message not only to accuse the ambassador of having an agenda but to attack Jews as a whole.

“What is this cringe-worthy fear we have toward Jews?” she asked, adding that “we cannot use the excuse that we don’t celebrate the festivities of other religions, because many Kuwaitis love to celebrate Christmas, and a few celebrate Diwali with Hindus.

Kuwaiti donors fund aid packages for Yemeni Jews in need. (credit: MONA RELIEF)Kuwaiti donors fund aid packages for Yemeni Jews in need. (credit: MONA RELIEF)

“We cannot say we are protecting Islamic principles, because Kuwait is filled with people of all faiths and no faiths. As such, is this who we have become in a country whose heritage prides itself on coexistence?” she asked.

“What a pity; what a loss for us,” she lamented. “How heartbreaking for our forefathers, a few of whom were Jews who lived here alongside us.”

KUWAIT, in contrast to other Gulf nations such as the UAE and Bahrain, has refused to normalize relations with Israel. The Kuwaiti monarchy, according to critics, has long been a repository of hardcore antisemitism.

”Kuwaiti government’s official list of textbooks in use for the new 2021-22 academic year... is continuing to reuse state-published textbooks from past years that teach horrific antisemitism,” David Andrew Weinberg of the Anti-Defamation League wrote last month “In addition, some lessons include ideas that are intolerant or confrontational toward Ahmadi Muslims, Baha’is and Christians.”

Kuwait’s new ruler Amir Nawaf Al Sabah, who took office in September 2020, has not made efforts to rope in the Jew-hatred that his monarchy promotes, according to observers.

The “ADL found particularly disturbing examples of antisemitic materials in Kuwait’s second-semester textbook in use for eighth-grade public school courses on Islamic Education,” wrote Weinberg, who knows Arabic.

“Even among the textbook’s stated learning objectives, it declares one objective is for students to learn that ‘the enmity of the Jews toward Islam and the Muslims is old and deeply rooted’ and that ‘stirring up strife, breaking pacts, and malice are among the inherent characteristics of the Jews.’ Those exact phrases are then repeated at the end of one of the book’s subsequent chapters,” he said.

A Kuwaiti textbook “advocates a range of actions to ‘challenge the conspiracies of the Jews,’ including “boycotting their products.” That line presumably is a reference to the Arab Economic Boycott or the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel, and yet it unabashedly references ‘the Jews,” not “Israelis” or even “Zionists.’’’

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) also published Al-Yagou’s article on its website.

“All in all, the time has come to set aside fear,” the poet said. “One can continue to support Palestine without hating Jews. Many Palestinians themselves coexist with Jews. And many Jews support Palestine.

“One can embrace Jews without having a political agenda,” she said. “This can arise when we are no longer proud of wearing hatred as a badge of honor.”

The Kuwaiti poet concluded her article with an appeal to end bias: ”In short, there is no justified reason for the prejudice against Jews. And there is no other time but now to wake up from this stupor of separation.”