In September 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons that depicted the prophet Mohammed in a less than positive manner, including one that has his turban replaced by a bomb with a lit fuse. Four months later, a Norwegian journal reprinted the cartoons. Spurred on by governments like Syria’s, which is desperately trying to deflect attention from the fact that a United Nations-appointed prosecutor has implicated it in the assassination of a fellow Arab nation’s leader and its most prominent journalist, anti-European riots have now taken place in many Arab countries.
The reaction from the West has effectively been to kowtow to the violence. France’s Carrefour supermarket chain has gone so far as to remove Danish products from their shelves in an effort to appease their Arab clientele. The managing director of France Soir, a paper that had reprinted the cartoons as part of its reporting of the controversy, was fired for allowing them to be published at all “as a powerful sign of respect for the intimate beliefs and convictions of every individual”. Meanwhile, speaking earlier this week Doha, Qatar, former President Bill Clinton averred that the cartoons were an “outrage” to all Muslims, thereby buying into the excuses proffered for the violence, if not quite justifying them.
With all due respect for people of all religious faiths, what in Heaven’s Name is going on here? The levels of hypocrisy and of absurdity involved in both the protests and the “apologies” is nearly overwhelming.
First, Protesters are boycotting countries and kidnapping their nationals for acts taken by private individuals. Neither Denmark nor Norway is a totalitarian Saddamistan where all newspaper content represents national policy. For protest leaders not to see that is either denial of the tenets of liberal democracy or willful and cynical duplicity.
Second, and more seriously, outrageously anti-Semitic and anti-Israel editorials and cartoons are published on an almost daily basis, by official press organs that in fact do represent official government policy, throughout the Arab world. Here are a few sample statements broadcasted on the official television station of the Palestian Authority (PA):
• “The Hour [of Resurrection] will not take place until you will fight the Jews and kill them.”—Dr. Ahmed Yousuf Abu Halabiyah, member of the Palestinian Sharia [Islamic religious law] Rulings Council and Rector of Advanced Studies at the Islamic University, July 28, 2000.
• “The Hour [of Resurrection] will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Muslims kill them. The Muslims will kill the Jews, rejoice!”—Sheikh Ibrahim Mudayris, Head of Association for Memorizing the Quran at the PA Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, September 10, 2004.
• “…and the rock and the tree will say: Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!”—Dr. Hassan Khater, founder of Al Quds Encyclopedia, January 10, 2005.
Nor are these isolated instances. The official PA daily, Al-Hayat al-Jadida, observed the Jewish Passover by defaming the festival in an article published on April 15, 2001: “The Jews until today keep the rituals of Passover... from which they derive their attitude to foreigners…[Let us] understand these religious rituals and their significance in order to understand the racist behavior of the Israelis against the Arabs. This holiday has various meanings… Murdering foreigners is a Godly virtue that should be emulated… There is nothing in history more horrible than the theft, the greatest crime in history, that the Jews did the night of their Exodus [from Egypt]… In other words, robbing others is not only permitted, it is considered holy. Especially since this thievery was done under the direct command of God, the God of the Jews.”
The PA paper’s cartoons also regularly debase Jewish religious symbols. While blaming Israel for the drug problem in the Palestinian areas, for example, it reprinted a cartoon originally run in Kuwait’s Al Watan that depicted the Jewish religious symbol, the Menorah, with the seven flames replaced by seven syringes, accompanied by the text: “The Israeli drug smuggling network.”
Hamas, the freshly-elected majority in the PA legislature, graphically peddles on its website the notion that God demands the killing of Jews, and promises entry into paradise to those who would carry out that diabolical command: “We shall knock on heaven’s doors with the skulls of Jews.”
Another favorite theme is the blood-loving or blood-thirsty Jew, a sickening recycling of the medieval Christian anti-Semitic libel that saw Jews as requiring Christian blood for their Passover Seder. In today’s Arab world, this image of unbridled hatred has mutated into the Jew’s alleged quest for Palestinian blood. The blood-drinking Jew is a regular feature on the pages of Al Ahram, one of Egypt’s leading dailies. On April 21, 2001—again, during the feast of Passover—the paper published a cartoon showing an Arab being put into a flatting mill by two soldiers wearing helmets adorned with the Star of David. The Arab’s blood pours out and two Jews with kippot and Stars of David on their shirts drink the blood laughingly.
What is remarkable about all these incidents in the Arab media is that no one remarked about them. While the images were certainly offensive and outrageous, there were no boycotts organized of Egyptian goods anywhere in Europe. Angry Israelis did not gut the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv. In fact, the State of Israel continued to transfer funds to the PA, even as its press organ slandered Judaism during a holy season—just as the Israeli government just turned over $54 million to allow the PA to meet its payroll. No Western leaders expressed anguish over the display of profound disrespect for an ancient faith. If anything, the same leaders who today trip over each other to placate the “Arab Street”—as if there were such a united entity—were quick to shrug their shoulders and argue individual responsibility and avoid any semblance of collective judgment for official anti-Semitism. Maybe it’s a small thing, but we think we’ll protest this double standard by eating some Danish butter cookies—there are even kosher and halal varieties.
Michael I. Krauss is professor of law at George Mason University School of Law. J. Peter Pham is director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. Both are academic fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
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