I have great respect for Ambassador Mazel, a rare career diplomat who took brave public action against a gross provocation that besmirched not only the country he was representing, Israel, but also his fellow Jews. In what appeared to be a violation of diplomatic protocol, was in fact a private appeal to the world at large, to reject the normalization of antisemitism, which was at that moment in time, being promoted under the guise of ”art” in Stockholm Sweden.
NOTE: This interview was first published at Israel National News, and republished here with the author’s consent.
Egyptian Anti-Semitism from Mubarak to Morsi
Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Ambassador Zvi Mazel
“Anti-Semitism and what might be called anti-Israelism have intermingled in Egypt for many decades. Attacks on Israel often use the most depraved anti-Semitic clichés. Israel and the Jewish people are also attacked separately, even though many Egyptians consider Israel and the Jews as one and the same.
“These hate phenomena continue to flourish now as they did under Mubarak, who was President of Egypt from 1981 until 2011. To understand how the massive demonization of Israel and the Jews is structured, one has to analyze the much longer previous period.”
Zvi Mazel was Israeli Ambassador to Egypt from 1996-2001. He also served in Rumania and Sweden. He is now a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs monitoring Arab issues.
“One occasion when targeting of all Jews came to light internationally, was during the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Egypt in 2000. The government owned English language daily, The Egyptian Gazette published a front page editorial titled, ‘Who Needs an Apology?’ It referred to the absolution of the Jews by the Vatican for the murder of Jesus. According to Editor-in-Chief Ali Ibrahim, this absolution erased all of the history, prayers and rituals of 2000 years of Christianity. He inferred that the United States had pressured the Vatican to absolve the Jews in order to strengthen Israel.
“Under Mubarak, there was a great deal of state ownership of the media and other papers were severely censored. It was forbidden to criticize the President, the Armed Forces and the treatment of the Coptic minority. As far as Israel and the Jews were concerned, it was however permissible to attack and defame them relentlessly. Islamic newspapers took their cue from the official line and their messages of Israel-hatred and anti-Semitism were vitriolic.
“Jews are mainly represented in cartoons wearing black coats and hats with large hook noses and forelocks. They were often shown slaughtering Palestinians or stabbing doves of peace. On many occasions, Jews are presented as thieves and liars. They are routinely called “sons of monkeys and pigs.” In 1997, the weekly Rose al Yussef published a study that was presented for discussion at the Arab Association for Social Sciences. It determined from ‘sources’ of uncertain origin – that Jews are perceived in Egypt as ‘repulsive,’ ‘speak in nasal tones’ and are ‘dishonest.’
“Another important hate-theme is the presentation of Jews as the root of all evil and a threat to global peace. Such articles are often based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, blood libels or even texts from the Talmud. Much respect was given to prominent French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy who died in 2012. The initiative taken by then-Swedish Prime Minister Gunnar Perssson to hold an international conference on Holocaust education in 2000 was forcefully denounced in Egypt. These are just a few examples among many.
“The rise to power in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood brings to the fore a movement in which Jew-hate is inherent. This organization was founded in 1928 in Egypt by a school teacher, Hassan Al-Banna as a Pan-Islamic Movement. It developed a Muslim version of Nazi anti-Semitism. It saw to it that Hitler’s Mein Kampf was translated into Arabic under the title ‘My Jihad.’ Other Nazi anti-Semitic publications were also translated. Cartoons found in the Nazi hate paper Der Stuermer were changed to present the Jews as the satanic enemy of Allah, rather than of the German people. Writer and theorist Sayyid Qutb was a leading authority of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In his popular anti-Semitic book My Battle with the Jews, he claimed that Jews infiltrated and corrupted Islam.
“Anti-Semitism in the post-Mubarak transition period and under President Mohammed Morsi expresses itself to a large extent in the applications of anti-Semitic motives against Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continues to be shown as Hitler in the Egyptian media. A video from a mosque in October 2012 showed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi saying ‘Amen’ to the prayers by an imam calling on Allah to ‘destroy the Jews and their supporters.’
“One much-publicized incident in August 2012 where anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism mixed openly occurred on an Egyptian TV program similar to Candid Camera. The show invited popular actor Ayman Kandeel, telling him that he would appear on German television. When the show went live, the Egyptian interviewer falsely claimed that she was an Israeli interviewing him for Israeli TV. The actor knocked her against the wall, slapped her and cursed her. The actress Al-Beblawi, on whom the same prank was played, said on air, ‘Allah did not curse the worm and the moth as much as he cursed the Jews.’”1
Mazel concludes: “The mixture of anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism has become embedded in the Egyptian psyche. The Jews and the Jewish State are seen as enemies of Egypt, even though there is peace between Israel and Egypt. The rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood with its ideological hatred of Jews, has worsened the situation and could threaten the peace between the two countries.”