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August 19, 2015 1

Holocaust Comparisons in Arab Media Examination of the Horrifying Death of a Palestinian Child

There has been intense focus on the reac­tions within Israeli soci­ety fol­low­ing the hor­rific attack on two houses in the West Bank vil­lage of Duma, result­ing in the death of tod­dler Ali Dawab­sheh, the sub­se­quent death of his father, Saed and the wound­ing of his brother and mother.  The appar­ent price tag attack, per­pe­trated by extrem­ist Israeli Jews, has led to much soul search­ing among pub­lic Israeli polit­i­cal and reli­gious fig­ures, and among the pop­u­la­tion at large.

The Arab world also paid close atten­tion to this heinous inci­dent.  And, not sur­pris­ingly, many char­ac­ter­ized the inci­dent as merely part of Israel’s long his­tory of crimes against the Pales­tini­ans (such as the burn­ing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir by Jews in July of 2014), or have claimed that PM Netanyahu is per­son­ally respon­si­ble for the toddler’s death, and this attack reflected Israel’s cul­ture of hate.

Some in the Arab world used Nazi imagery and Holo­caust com­par­isons, includ­ing equat­ing PM Netanyahu to Hitler and the burn­ing of the infant to the Holo­caust; and claimed that Israel has not only adopted Nazi prac­tices, but it has focused them on Pales­tin­ian children.

One car­toon, for exam­ple, appear­ing both in Gaza’s Filastin news­pa­per (Aug. 2) and cir­cu­lated on Twit­ter, shows Israeli PM Netanyahu per­form­ing a Nazi Salute with the burn­ing baby in the back­drop, fram­ing the attack as no less than a “Holocaust”.

Another, pub­lished in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Watan news­pa­per (Aug. 3) shows the arm of an ultra-orthodox Jew form­ing a swastika while hold­ing a Molo­tov cocktail.

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jew nazi

The cartoon’s head­line: “The crime of burn­ing the Pales­tin­ian infant.”

The use of such com­par­isons sim­i­larly appears in opin­ion pieces in the Arab press. “No one can deny that the Nazis are mur­der­ers and that they per­pe­trated the crime of the Holo­caust, which inno­cent Jews, some say mil­lions, fell vic­tim to.”, said one arti­cle in Jordan’s Ar-Rai news­pa­per (August 2), which went on to par­al­lel the attack with those per­pe­trated by the Nazis, even draw­ing on the Torah. “But more crim­i­nal than them is the vic­tim who imi­tated the mur­derer and who didn’t learn the lessons of his­tory: instead of react­ing to what Hitler and his gang did by treat­ing with tol­er­ance and peace­ful coex­is­tence the peo­ple whose land it force­fully occu­pied – it resorted to the same Nazi meth­ods. There­fore, this crim­i­nal who killed the Pales­tin­ian infant, burned his family’s home and gravely wounded them, con­sid­ers him­self to be a Torah “hero”…”.

The cartoon’s headline: “After the burning of the Palestinian infant Ali Dawabsheh to death”.

The cartoon’s head­line: “After the burn­ing of the Pales­tin­ian infant Ali Dawab­sheh to death”.

Other such arti­cles charged that Israel not only uses Nazi meth­ods, but it specif­i­cally focuses on Pales­tin­ian chil­dren in apply­ing them. An Egypt­ian daily (Al-Yawm As-Sabi, August 1) argued this is com­mon for Israel,  writ­ing:  “The crime of burn­ing a Pales­tin­ian infant at the hand of Israeli set­tlers yes­ter­day, Fri­day, in south­ern Nablus in the occu­pied West Bank – wasn’t the first against Pales­tine. Surely it won’t be the last, since offi­cial doc­u­ments and sta­tis­tics indi­cate that Israel is an entity which has made a habit of tar­get­ing chil­dren in every form, includ­ing the use of fire. This brings back to mind the Nazi party’s crimes known as the Holocaust.”

Another arti­cle sim­ply refers to a “Holo­caust of the chil­dren of Pales­tine”: “On Fri­day, at exactly 2:30 am, took place in Duma vil­lage south of Nablus the most loath­some crime since the burn­ing of the mar­tyr Mohammed Abu Khdeir ..… the vil­lage insisted on bid­ding farewell to another mar­tyr, the village’s mar­tyr, 18 month old Ai Saad Dawab­sheh. He was burned by set­tlers in cold blood, before the eyes and ears of the world, who stood silently in the face of the Holo­caust of the chil­dren of Pales­tine…” (August 3, Filastin, Gaza).

idf soldier nazi

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August 18, 2015 0

Reactions to the Jerusalem Gay Parade Stabbing

Almost three weeks after the stab­bing attack dur­ing Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, which left six­teen year old Shira Banki dead, Israeli soci­ety is engaged in a con­tin­u­ing soul search­ing over the attack and the sta­tus of Israel’s LGBT community.

Israel has a vibrant LGBT com­mu­nity and it cel­e­brates in its strong record of free­doms and pro­tec­tions.  Nonethe­less, there are clear homo­pho­bic ele­ments in Israeli society.

Yishai Schlis­sel, the parade stab­ber – who had pre­vi­ously attacked a pride parade in 2005 – is a mem­ber of the ultra-orthodox com­mu­nity in Bnei Brak.  While acknowl­edg­ing that there is homo­pho­bia among reli­gious Jews in Israel, atti­tudes toward the LGBT com­mu­nity are not monolithic.

Credit: Ludovic Bertron

Credit: Ludovic Bertron

Accord­ing to a Haaretz report, a group of ultra-orthodox Jews from Bnei Brak reached out to the LGBT com­mu­nity and met with their rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the Gay Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in Tel Aviv.  Although the Ultra-Orthodox par­tic­i­pants decided to stay anony­mous, the impor­tance of the dia­logue and the dis­cus­sion lay in the fact that it took place and was reported in the press. Such an unmedi­ated encounter enables know­ing each other on the basis of open­ness and an attempt to accept the other – a pos­i­tive sign after the dark events.

On the other side of the spec­trum came the much pub­li­cized com­ments of Beza­lel Smotrich, an ultra-nationalist and a mem­ber of Knes­set from the Jew­ish Home Party, who serves as Deputy Knes­set Speaker.  Over the years Smotrich has made numer­ous anti-gay state­ments, and has described him­self as a “proud homo­phobe.”  Days after the attack, he referred to gay pride events as “abom­i­na­tion parade” (a term he has used before).  In an inter­view he gave a few days ago on Galei Israel radio, Smotrich said: “There are a lot of gays in the media and they decide for us what to think and what to say.” Smotrich said that their “con­trol” of the media has cre­ated legit­i­macy and pub­lic sup­port for them. I am con­fi­dent that 95% of Israelis want their chil­dren to raise a model fam­ily and have grand­chil­dren. That’s what a healthy, nor­mal per­son wants… These peo­ple have enor­mous power in shap­ing our con­scious­ness. They num­ber dozens of dom­i­nant peo­ple. So nat­u­rally, peo­ple can’t hear a voice like mine and when I speak to the media, I’m cut off after half a sen­tence and I sound deluded because I’m unable to explain myself.”

Jew­ish Home head and Edu­ca­tion Min­is­ter, Naf­tali Ben­net, responded, “I reject these state­ments with dis­gust…” and many oth­ers rose to con­demn Smotrich.  Mean­while, Ometz, an orga­ni­za­tion whose mis­sion is to pro­mote eth­i­cal gov­er­nance, is ask­ing the Knes­set Ethics com­mit­tee to review Smotrich’s comments.


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August 5, 2015 0

Egypt’s New Interest in its Jewish Past

There has been much dis­cus­sion about  the recent Egypt­ian TV drama The Jew­ish Quar­ter, which depicts the Jew­ish com­mu­nity in Egypt in the 1940s through a love story between a Jew­ish woman and a Mus­lim Egypt­ian army officer.

ADL noted that despite some expec­ta­tions that it would depart from the usual anti-Semitic canards typ­i­cally found in Ramadan-period pro­duc­tions, The Jew­ish Quar­ter divides Egypt­ian Jews into two cat­e­gories:  “good” Jews and “bad” Jew.  The good Jews are loyal to Egypt and sup­port its war against Israel while Zion­ist Jews, are depicted as wicked, liars, evil and try­ing to betray Egypt.

At the same time, as flawed as The Jew­ish Quar­ter is, it appears to reflect a new inter­est among Egyp­tians in its once-thriving Jew­ish community.

Exam­ples include, the 2012 Egyptian-made film, Jews of Egypt , which doc­u­mented the  his­tory of the com­mu­nity and a num­ber of recent arti­cles which have exam­ined the Jews’ his­tor­i­cal role in the country’s success.

the jewish quarter egypt

“No one can deny the role played by Egypt’s Jews through­out its his­tory, a role con­sid­ered vital and impor­tant”, noted one arti­cle pub­lished in Egypt’s Al-Wafd news­pa­per (July 21), adding that “They’ve always been part of Egypt­ian cul­tural and social fab­ric”. Other news­pa­pers go even fur­ther in their superla­tives as they invoke promi­nent Egyptian-Jewish fig­ures from the past, such as leg­endary singer Layla Murad (who later con­verted to Islam and was out­spo­ken in her crit­i­cism of Israel),  a fea­ture about whom was recently pub­lished in the country’s Al-Yawm As-Sabi news­pa­per (July 13): “She is the voice of love in her days, in ours and in every day”, says the arti­cle. “She is capa­ble of bestow­ing upon you pos­i­tive energy through which to face life’s futil­ity; capa­ble of mak­ing you sense the beauty of life; and capa­ble of cre­at­ing a new heart between your ribs, one that will know a new mean­ing of love and life.”

Why is there now this renewed inter­est in Egypt’s Jew­ish com­mu­nity of seven decades ago?  An arti­cle pub­lished (July 18) about The Jew­ish Quar­ter TV series in Egypt’s most widely cir­cu­lated daily – Al-Ahram – sug­gests one pos­si­ble answer, which is that it’s not about the Jews in and of them­selves. Dr. Hala Mustafa writes, “Nat­u­rally, this isn’t a his­to­ri­og­ra­phy of Jew­ish pres­ence in Egypt, but rather a demon­stra­tion of one fea­ture of Egypt­ian cul­tural lib­eral legacy. It is char­ac­ter­ized by diver­sity, wealth and plu­ral­ism in their fullest sense and exceeds the imme­di­ate polit­i­cal con­text. Jews were only part of a big­ger sys­tem which embraced cit­i­zens of non-Egyptian ori­gins and for­eign emi­grants, such as Greeks, Ital­ians, Arme­ni­ans, French and oth­ers. This nat­u­rally led to a mix­ture of West­ern and Ori­en­tal cul­tures, even­tu­ally pro­duc­ing a dis­tinct tol­er­ant Egypt­ian culture.”

It seems that in the midst of Egypt’s tremen­dous insta­bil­ity, with the country’s lead­er­ship mov­ing from sec­u­lar to Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and back again to a sec­u­lar regime; fight­ing Islamic ter­ror in Sinai; strug­gling over the country’s very ethos, the Egypt of the 1940’s sim­ply rep­re­sents a more lib­eral and tol­er­ant coun­try that some long for in these times of reli­gious extrem­ism and Islamic polit­i­cal awakening.

Whether this new inter­est will endure, much less trans­lates to a new approach to Jews and the Jew­ish State, remains to be seen.

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