Middle East

Jeffrey Goldberg: Praise Arab Spring, Except for Anti-Semitism

Worth reading, this:

Libya provides an interesting example. Its late, unlamented dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, was a terrible anti-Semite, and often argued for the elimination of Israel. At the beginning of his reign, he expelled several thousand Jews (members of a community that predated the Muslim conquest of Libya by hundreds of years). His regime confiscated Jewish property, converted synagogues into mosques and razed Jewish cemeteries. And yet some of the revolutionaries who overthrew him fomented the charge that he was at least part-Jewish, and that his regime operated on behalf of Zionism.

When a Libyan Jew in exile returned to Tripoli earlier this year, he was nearly lynched by a mob that surrounded the shuttered synagogue he was hoping to restore. “There is no place for Jews in Libya,” read demonstrators’ signs. In the Forward, Andrew Engel, who recently visited Libya and discovered endemic anti-Semitism there, described one popular rap song that went, “The anger won’t die, the one who will die is Qaddafi, his supporters and the Jews.”

The Syrian ruler, Bashar al-Assad, is also utterly hostile to Israel and to Jews. He supports Hezbollah and Hamas, each of which seeks the physical elimination of the Jewish people. And yet the Syrian opposition finds it beneficial to spread the lie that Assad is a Jewish agent.

According to a translation posted by the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Syrian writer Osama Al-Malouhi wrote recently on an opposition website that Jews “want that sucker of Syrian blood to remain and continue to prey and suck blood. They not only want their security, but also to enjoy the sight of Syrian blood being spilled.” He went on, “Asking myself why Jewish support of Bashar increased after they saw rivers of Syrian blood this mass-murderer spilled in Syrian towns, an old image leapt to my mind, of Jews bleeding people and using their blood to prepare matzas. Logic does not accept this, but the facts prove it.”

Even in Tunisia, which is commonly thought of as the most moderate of Arab states, the leader of the powerful and putatively reasonable Islamist party, Ennahdha, recently stated that he brings “glad tidings that the Arab region will get rid of the germ of Israel,” according to the Middle East scholar Martin Kramer.