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Egyptian TV Fuels Hate

November 11, 2002

Egyptian television audiences are at their peak for the next few weeks as families end the daily fast of Ramadan by eating lavish, hours-long meals in front of TV sets.

In this ultra-prime viewing time, Egyptian state television has begun a 41-part series called "Horseman Without a Horse," based on vicious lies about the birth of the Zionist movement.

The show -- inspired by the fraudulent conspiracy tract, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," that inspired Adolf Hitler -- serves as a madrasa, or religious school, in fanaticism for the masses.

Given that there is no truly independent press in Egypt, the government can hardly maintain that it is protecting free-speech rights. Instead, Egyptian officials claim that such shows simply express hostility toward Israeli policies toward the Palestinians rather than hatred of Jews generally.

Egypt, which receives nearly $2 billion a year in aid from the U.S., has every right to publish and air harsh criticisms of Israel, but it undermines its case by regularly printing and broadcasting explicitly anti-Semitic material.

"The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," for example, purports to be a secret plan by a small group of Jews plotting to take over the world. Mohammad Sobhi, the hero of "Horseman Without a Horse," has the mission of discovering whether the protocols are true, even though they have been thoroughly discredited by historians as a 1905 forgery by the Russian czar's secret police.

The series depicts the creation of Israel in 1948 as the result of devious plotting. "The armies of the free have been defeated by treachery," Sobhi declares. But the truth is that Arab countries attacked Israel, not the reverse.

In questioning Israel's right to exist, the series flouts the spirit of the 1978 Camp David accords that established peace between Israel and Egypt. It also strengthens the case of nationalist Israelis who seize on such propaganda to declare that real peace will never be possible with any Arab country.

In sponsoring virulent anti-Semitism, Egypt, like Saudi Arabia, is playing a double game, hoping that such shows will serve as a safety valve for restive populations to let off anger about Jews and the West.

But after 9/11, the danger of encouraging perceptions of Jewish cunning -- and rage about the power of the West -- is all too clear. Egypt, which regards itself as the center of the Arab intellectual world, can only be perceived in this instance as actively promoting ignorance and hatred.

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