- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

The hateful hallucination that appeared as a two-part "news" story in a Saudi government daily on how Jewish rabbis extract the blood of Christians and Muslims for use in Purim holiday pastries was more than Uncle Sam could take, it seems. Citing this latest example of the "blood libel" that has fueled anti-Semitism through the ages, a U.S. government editorial began airing this week on the Voice of America. While praising the impetus behind what's known as the Saudi peace initiative, it asked Saudi Arabia and its Arab neighbors to initiate a little peace on the side by stopping their "newspapers and radio and television stations, especially those controlled by the state, from inciting hatred and violence against Jews."

It's about time. De-anti-Semitification has got to start somewhere, and it seems that VOA has already produced results. Not a retraction exactly, or what most people would think of as an apology, but a response from Turki Al-Sudairi, the editor-in-chief of Al-Riyadh, the government-controlled newspaper which earlier this month printed the bloody-pastry piece by Dr. Umayma Al-Jalahma of King Faisal University.

"I checked the article and found it not fit for publication because it was not based on scientific or historical facts, and it even contradicted the rituals of all known religions in the world, including Hinduism and Buddhism," Mr. Al-Sudairi wrote in a statement posted at the Middle East Media Research Institute's web site (www.memri.com), which is where the article's English translation first appeared. "The information included in the article was no different from the nonsense always coming out in the 'yellow literature,' whose reliability is questionable."

Gee. This sounds almost reasonable. But wait. Here comes the punt: "The understanding of this serious mistake regarding the information escaped Ms. Al-Jalahma," Mr. Al-Sudairi continued (not to mention the editors, including himself), "as did the understanding that Jews everywhere in the world are one thing, while the Jews belonging to the Zionist movement that wants to annihilate the Palestinians are something else, and completely different." Exempting "moderate Jews" who fight "Zionist racism" (mighty big of him), Mr. Al-Sudairi explained that "our dispute with phenomena such as Sharon must in no way cause us to generalize the emotion of hatred to all Jews."

In other words, blood libel is fine by Al-Riyadh so long as it spatters only "Jews belonging to the Zionist movement" i.e., Israelis. "Jews everywhere in the world are one thing," as the editor so felicitously puts it, an almost extraneous concern when it comes to the matter at hand: demonizing Israel. Too bad for Mr. Al-Sudairi that the Purim blood libel series didn't stay out of the English-speaking press altogether, remaining Al Riyadh's untranslated secret between the newspaper and its Arabic-speaking readers.

Thankfully, though, the old forked-tongue routine spreading the word in Arabic only, or spreading contradictory messages in Arabic and in English is much less successful of late, what with all the crack translators on the case. Still, it's a rare day indeed when the lies about Jews, and also Americans, filling the Arab media draw the attention of the U.S. government, which is too often preoccupied with how best to improve Uncle Sam's image in the Arab world. But is our image the main media problem?

Take another work by Ms. Al-Jalahma (and translated by MEMRI) that ran in Al-Riyadh this month to no international comment. Entitled "The U.S. Should Expel the Jews," the author used both George Washington and Benjamin Franklin to puppet anti-Semitism of a Hitlerian intensity. Her "Washington" bemoans the fact that the states "have not attempted to fight and annihilate the Jews even though [the Jews] have proven to be a group of lethal insects who [pose] the gravest dangers to the United States and its security." Her "Franklin," agrees, declaring that unless "you do not make haste and expel the Jews from our country today and forever, your children will curse you in your graves." These words, according to this ever-bilious font of information, came from a "1789 convention for the declaration of the American constitution." There, as you probably don't know (because it never happened), "Franklin" demanded an amendment to ensure the deportation of Jews from the United States.

Umayma Al-Jalahma is just one twisted sister. Al-Riyadh is just one drop of venom. But this bucket is huge. The media may not be open in the Arab world, but it is openly anti-Semitic, and the steady flow of government-sanctioned hate is a staggering, if little noted, obstacle not only to peace, but to coexistence.

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