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January 28, 2014

Al Jazeera Poll Goes “The Opposite Direction” On The Holocaust

Al Jazeera Holocaust poll

A screenshot of the poll on Al Jazeera’s website

Update – January 31, 2014: According to the results provided on Al Jazeera’s website, 95.4% of those participating in the poll agreed that Bashar Al-Assad crimes in Syria are worse than Hitler’s crimes. 46,641 participants voted.

The pan-Arab satellite television network Al Jazeera is conducting a poll asking its viewers to vote on whether they believe Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad’s “crimes” are worse than Hitler’s “Nazi crimes.”

The poll, posted on Al Jazeera’s website on January 24, runs through January 30, when the results will be broadcast on one of Al Jazeera’s most popular live shows, El-Itidjah el-Mouakass [The Opposite Direction]. The show often features debates between guests about topics raised in its polls.

While the ongoing conflict in Syria has been one of the most heated issues discussed on the show in recent months, Al Jazeera’s poll question reflects the degree to which the Holocaust is misunderstood and misrepresented in the Arab world.

The premise of the poll is inappropriate because it compares the death of more than six million Jews who were not part of any armed conflict and were annihilated for no reason other than their faith and culture to the humanitarian crisis and violence in Syria.

The show’s host, Dr. Faisal Al-Qassem, posted a link to the poll on his personal Facebook page to encourage his more than three million followers to participate in the poll.

Ironically, most of the comments on Al-Qassem’s Facebook page express outrage against the premise, but for all the wrong reasons. “Unlike Bashar, Hitler killed the Jews and not his own people,” one comment reads, suggesting that Hitler’s crimes are somehow more justified.

Similarly, other comments state that there is no way to compare the two at all because, unlike Bashar, “Hitler was defending his people.”

These comments and others demonstrate how the lessons of the Holocaust are woefully misunderstood, or worse, are grotesquely distorted in the Arab World. The poll question adds to this problem and to the trivialization of the Holocaust, which continues to go unexamined in mainstream Arab media.

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January 7, 2014

United Arab Emirates Bars Another Israeli Athlete from Sporting Competition


Dan Mori

Update: On January 12, 2014, the Vitesse football team issued the following statement:

“In retrospect, different organizations have said there were options to make it possible to travel to the UAE with Mori, who is Israeli. The complexity around organizing travel to countries with specific entry procedures in a short space of time meant not all the options were utilized. Vitesse regrets the commotion and offers apologies to everyone who feels in any way affected by the decision to exclude Mori.”

Once again, the United Arab Emirates has reportedly acted to prevent an Israeli athlete from entering the country to participate in a local sporting event. According to news reports, Dutch soccer team Vitesse Arnhem was informed on Saturday that Israeli squad member Dan Mori would not be allowed to travel to Abu Dhabi for upcoming soccer matches, despite previous assurances that Mori would be admitted. Vitesse Arnhem decided to travel to the UAE without Mori, a move that drew criticism from Dutch politicians and organizations.

The most well-known incident involving an Israeli athlete being barred from the UAE occurred in 2009 when tennis player Shahar Peer was refused a visa to participate in the Dubai Tennis Championship. As a result, a number of international tennis stars, including Venus Williams, publically condemned the visa rejection, and Andy Roddick, the 2008 men’s singles champion, withdrew from the tournament. The Dubai tournament was heavily fined for its actions. Although Peer was granted a visa to participate in subsequent years, her access and mobility were severely limited by the UAE.

A more recent episode occurred in December 2013, when the Israeli under-18 chess team competed in the World Youth Chess Championship in Dubai. According to reports, the UAE had initially refused to allow the Israeli team to compete, but reversed its decision after FIDE – the World Chess Federation – threatened to nullify the tournament.

The difficulties encountered by Israeli athletes exist not just in the UAE but across the broader Arab world, and even when Israelis are permitted to participate they often encounter severe prejudice. An example of this occurred during the October 2013 FINA Swimming World Cup tournament in Doha, Qatar, when organizers reportedly removed an Israeli flag from outside the aquatic center where the event was taking place, and TV coverage of a race involving an Israeli swimmer covered over the Israeli flag on the screen. And during the same month, the Tunisian Tennis Federation was suspended from the Davis Cup for one year after Tunisian player Malek Jaziri refused to play a Davis Cup match against Israeli Amir Weintraub.

Most international sporting associations require that hosts facilitate the participation of all athletes, regardless of ethnicity or nationality.

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December 17, 2013

Qatari Book Fair Highlighting UK Partnership Marred By Anti-Semitism


British and Qatari officials tour book fair

The Doha International Book Fair, held in Qatar on December 4-14 and billed as part of “Qatar-UK 2013” – a year of “events to celebrate and develop the partnership between Qatar and the United Kingdom” – featured many anti-Semitic books from several different publishers and available from multiple book sellers. 

A statement from the Qatari Minister of Culture on the fair’s website noted that the UK was selected as the “guest of honor.” The fair’s website also included a photo of the British Minister of Culture with his Qatari counterpart visiting the event.

The anti-Semitic Arabic-language books were available at the fair, according to the website, which included a floor index of where visitors could physically purchase the book.

For example, several publishers from Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon offered different versions of the noto­ri­ous anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and sold them at various prices. Another anti-Semitic book titled, The Secrets of the Talmud, Exposing the Jewish Plot to Control the World, was sold for 75.00 Qatari Rials (about 20 US$).

Books promoting Hitler, Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories were on display in various sections (e.g., The Facts About the Zionist-Nazi Secrete Relations).

According to Qatari media, the British Embassy in Doha and the British Cultural Council helped organize British participation in the fair. The UK helped organize “workshops for families, children and book enthusiasts,” according to the fair website.

The sale of anti-Semitic books is counter to the fair’s mission, as stated on its website, of “raising the cultural and intellectual level of the society.” It also undermines the larger aim of “Qatar-UK 2013,” which seeks to “increase engagement between the people of both countries in the spirit of innovation, openness and learning.”

Just last month, the Shar­jah Inter­na­tional Book Fair (SIBF) in the United Arab Emi­rates, which report­edly attracted 1 mil­lion vis­i­tors from across the region, fea­tured sev­eral infa­mous anti-Semitic books as well.

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