Mubarak and Anti-Semitism: A Boomerang Effect?

Mubarak is gone, chased from power by the pressure of the Egyptian “street,” but also by that of Western capitals and the Western media. The latter made itself virtually as a whole into the propaganda arm of the “revolution,” ceaselessly extolling its virtues, while steadfastly refusing to see, much less examine, its dark side.

As I showed in two previous PJM reports (see here and here), the evidence of anti-Semitic and/or anti-Israeli sentiment among the anti-Mubarak protests was extensive. Moreover, the evidence reveals not only the protestors’ hostility to Israel and/or Jews as such, but also that this hostility was inseparable from their opposition to Mubarak. Hence, the numerous portraits of Mubarak with a Star of David scrawled on his face or forehead. Arabic speakers have confirmed to me that many of the signs carried by protestors identified Mubarak as an Israeli “agent” or “spy.”

As such evidence began trickling out, a common response among supporters of the “revolution” was to suggest that the pro-Mubarak forces were also employing anti-Semitic insults against the protestors and/or foreign journalists. Such claims were typically unsupported by any evidence at all, let alone the mass of evidence revealing the anti-Semitic/“anti-Zionist” current among the protestors themselves. The ultimate source for the claims appears to have been Al Jazeera.

There is also, however, a more sophisticated variant of the same sort of argument. According to this variant, Mubarak has fallen victim to a kind of “boomerang effect.” He had himself been responsible for fomenting the widespread anti-Semitism in Egyptian society, and hence if he had now become the principal target of this anti-Semitism, he was merely reaping what he had sowed.

Now, there has been some evidence offered in support of the latter charge. Such evidence was gathered, notably, in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Max Boot titled “Hosni Mubarak, Troublesome Ally.” Boot accuses Mubarak of “turning a blind eye to the rabid anti-Semitism and anti-Westernism that polluted Egypt’s state-controlled news media and mosques,” and he cites several examples culled from the Middle East media watchdog group MEMRI.

The problem, however, is that the evidence adduced by Boot is weak and highly ambiguous. Indeed, some of the supposedly “state-controlled media” from which the examples derive are not state-controlled at all. They are private media. More to the point, not only are they private media, but they are private media that are associated precisely with the opposition that brought down Mubarak.

Let us consider Boot’s examples one-by-one. Immediately after invoking Mubarak’s “state-controlled media,” Boot cites a sermon in which the Egyptian cleric Hussam Fawzi Jabar stated that “Hitler was right to do what he did to the Jews.” The sermon -- in effect, an extended anti-Semitic tirade -- was televised. Excerpts from it are available on the MEMRI website here. The sermon was not, however, broadcast on any “state-controlled” channel, but rather on the private religious channel Al-Nas.

The broadcast of Jabar’s sermon took place in July 2010. Just three months later, in October, the Mubarak government banned Al-Nas and several other religious channels, citing, among other things, their “incitement to religious hatred.” (See the report in the English edition of the Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm here.) This is hardly, then, a probative example of Mubarak “closing his eyes.” Ironically, the ban was mentioned in the Western media as evidence of the Mubarak government “cracking down” on press freedoms and attempting to “muzzle” the opposition. Combined with warnings issued to other religious channels, the ban prompted Muslim Brotherhood attorney Montasser Al Zayat to complain of “government harassment.”