'Moderate' Arab papers showcase anti-Semitic cartoons ahead of summit

Anti-Defamation League points out images showing Israel as violent and untrustworthy.

antisemitic cartoon 1 (photo credit: Al-Watan)
antisemitic cartoon 1
(photo credit: Al-Watan)
While Arab leaders trekked to Annapolis for the summit, Arab newspapers, many of them government-funded, have been running cartoons depicting Israel as violent and untrustworthy, according to a survey of Arab media conducted by the Anti-Defamation League. The cartoons often use anti-Semitic themes, such as depictions of ugly, greedy Jews in religious garb, to convey their messages. While some of the cartoons come from places with declared belligerent policies toward Israel, such as Syria and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, others come from what the American government has called "moderate" states, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar, and even government-funded newspapers in Jordan and Egypt. One cartoon, published in late October in Egypt's government-funded mass-circulation daily Al-Ahram, shows an Israeli hand extended in peace, but with missiles in place of fingers and on the olive branch it holds. A November 8 cartoon from Jordan's Ad-Dustur shows a Jew, identified by a skullcap and a Star of David on his briefcase, sporting an evil grin and wearing a suit covered with images of fighter jets and tanks. An example of classical anti-Semitic depictions came from Oman's Al-Watan paper, which published a November 16 cartoon showing a religiously-attired Jew standing behind a gagged and seated Uncle Sam and speaking in his stead to a crowd of Arab listeners. Qatar's Ash-Sharq newspaper ran a late-October cartoon depicting Ehud Olmert as a snake wrapping himself around the Islamic shrine of the Dome of the Rock, while the country's Ar-Raya newspaper depicted Olmert as a fox holding an olive branch, suggesting he had just eaten the dove of peace. Qatar's Al-Watan newspaper on November 12 depicted Israel as a personified death chasing after the dove of peace. There is little new in the latest batch of anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic cartoons ahead of Annapolis, said Zvi Mazel, Israeli ambassador to Egypt until 2001. "The anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli caricatures have been showing up every day for many years. No one stops them, and no one stopped them in the past." Do they reflect the government line in Egypt? "I don't think the government forces [the newspapers] to print such things. Clearly, if the government wanted this to change, it would, but [the newspapers'] line has been against normalization ever since the signing of the [1979 Israeli-Egyptian] peace treaty. And all the newspapers are the same. They talk about how Israel is taking over Annapolis in a Zionist-American conspiracy. That's what Egyptian newspapers are calling it," Mazel said. "I wouldn't say the governments are responsible for specific cartoons," agreed Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, "but the directive to depict Israel negatively is coming from the top. This is the atmosphere and the message the Arab leadership wants to give." "You can't make peace with a demon," said MK Michael Melchior (Labor), "and these images demonize. I don't think it's done with the agreement [of government leaders in Arab countries], but they aren't doing enough to stop it. There's no chance for peace if the people aren't prepared for it, and they're not being prepared." But, added Melchior, "with us, the picture isn't perfect, either. Tonight I heard racist statements against Arabs from leading rabbis, and no one in government, not one person, spoke out against it. When Rabbi Dov Lior, who earns a government salary, [at a conference in Jerusalem] calls to 'cleanse the land of Arabs and to settle them in their countries of origin,' you can't advance toward peace with so much poison. I'm not saying there's symmetry between the sides, but there's poison on our side, also. [Lior] influences hundreds of thousands of people."