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August 1, 2012

Anti-Semitism Pervasive in Ramadan Television Programs

During Ramadan, the Muslim holy month observed by fasting and prayer, many satellite channels in the Arab world broadcast special programs for the occasion that are rife with anti-Semitism and harsh anti-Israel expressions. These series are generally very popular and receive broader viewership than programs aired throughout the rest of the year.

Here are some examples taken from the more popular shows that have aired since the start of Ramadan this year:

Firqat Naji Attalah

The bank robbers disguise themselves by dressing as Hasidic Jews.

This nightly series is widely aired throughout the Middle East and depicts Israelis in classic anti-Semitic fashion. A Middle East broadcast network, MBC, promoted the show saying it will “surprise the audience with the sweetest jokes about the ‘cheap Jew.’”

The show revolves around the character of Naji Attalah, a diplomat working in the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv who decides to take revenge on Israel by robbing an Israeli bank. A scene in the first episode portrayed an Israeli bank manager speaking Arabic with an Iraqi-Jewish accent. He offers Naji Attalah a cup of coffee that contains little coffee and no sugar. He then attempts to cheat Attalah while counting his money, an attempt to portray an image of the frugal and cheating Jew.

The staff at the Egyptian embassy is portrayed as unhappy about dealing with Jews. While they recognize that they are required to deal with Israelis as part of their job, they are portrayed as being hateful towards them.  In one scene, a driver for the Egyptian embassy exclaims, “When Hamas or Hezbollah launch a missile on them [Israelis], one’s heart jumps out of joy.”

The main character is played by famous Egyptian actor Adil Imam, whose performance has been hailed as an amusing mockery of Jews’ alleged frugality.

Ashab il-Sabt

This bi-weekly show is aired by Ar-Rahma, a Salafist channel based in Egypt that features an anti-Semitic professor at Tanta University in Egypt. The professor, Dr. Mohammed Jalal Idris, allegedly a specialist in Hebrew literature, uses the show as a podium to propagate the conspiracy theories espoused in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and other hateful theories about Judaism.

The program features live call-ins from viewers who ask Idris about Jews and Judaism. In one instance Idris was asked if he knows of a Jewish plan to control the Muslim holy city of Madina. He responded that Israel has submitted a request to Saudi Arabia for compensations worth millions of dollars on behalf of the Jews who lived in Madina 1400 years ago. Idris then added, “Egypt should request compensations from Israel for the gold the Jews stole from Egypt,” referring to the Exodus story in the Bible.

Il Hukm Ba’d il Muzawla

This Candid Camera-style show, which airs on the Egypt-based An-Nahar TV, provokes irrational and blatantly anti-Semitic reactions from its guests. In one episode, for example, a popular Egyptian public figure was informed that he was being interviewed by a French channel. The interviewer pretended that she was an undercover Israeli, gradually slipping into an Israeli accent and asking political questions related to Israel. The interviewee became convinced that he had been set up and attacked the producer, shouting “son of a dirty Jewish mother.” Other guests also have brutally beaten the staff when led to believe they were Jews.

Al-Ghalibun

The Hezbollah TV channel, al Manar, is broadcasting a new season of last year’s successful series – “The Victorious.” The series tells the story of the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon and the suffering of the Lebanese people. The narrative is extremely anti-Israel and regularly portrays Israeli commanders as conspiring against the Lebanese leadership and people. In one of the scenes, an Israeli commander says to his colleague: “This is the happiest day – as we ‘finished’ with our enemies in Sabra and Shatila.”

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