Anti-Semitic Cartoons, Rejecting Peace

In the moment of any ground-breaking news, Arab media is never asleep and never fails to put its voice out there to hundreds of millions of Arabs regarding what to think about current events. The signing of the Abraham Accords between the UAE, Bahrain, Israel, and now Sudan has only triggered a trend yet again of many political pundits and news networks to put out their reactions.

Arab media can sometimes be seen portraying Jewish political figures both in Israel and around the world with larger noses and exaggerated features that demonizes their public image and recycles old anti-Semitic tropes. If one were to grow up reading Arab newspapers, such would be seen as perfectly normal as it was once in years leading up to the persecution of Jewish people in Europe during the holocaust. The tropes that wish to represent Jews and their state Israel as the source of all evil in the middle east is exactly the agenda many government-run news outlets run to both attack the Jewish state but distract from the failures of their regimes. See Israel can genuinely be used as a tissue paper wiping the dirt of Iran sided militias, Arab governments, and figures by using the “Israel distraction strategy”. The way I observed it when I was younger is that it was all fun and games to try to poke fun at bad political figures, I did not understand the underlying history of such cartoons.

In all fairness, however, more and more by the day the paradigm of Arab society, as well as the media, is shifting, in places like Morocco, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere Israel is being less and less of the scapegoat in news flashes. This is what I observe as an intuitional reaction to the change in how things are to be done in the Middle East in regards to cooperation with Israel through peaceful normalization over war. Instead of media looking for thousands of ways to attack Israel, they are at times praising the one way or making peace with Israel.

A lesson I learned from my personal experience that inspired me to write on this is that such media is not exclusive to the Middle East, though it may be still written in Arabic. Media published in the west and east can reach both frontiers and populations. Most of my Arab friends growing had Al-Jazeera live in their living room for about 4 to 6 hours a day media even in the Arab world knows no borders and that all it takes is one Eastern facing satellite dish and all the streaming packages will be in the household.

I have observed some instances of anti-Semitic journalism in the Al-Quds Al-Arabia paper with reactions regarding the signing of the Abraham Accords. The cartoon below displaying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the controller of United States President Donald Trump fits hand in a string with an old anti-Semitic trope that Jewish people control the United States and world governments. This trope from the way I have seen this wishes to aim bad government decisions in the eye of the people as a fault of the Jewish population globally rather than the government themselves. Not only was this peace agreement anything but bad by most responsible foreign policy and media perspectives given the regional history of Arab nations and Israel but it held that same trip in the main cartoon of this particular piece.

Al-Quds Al-Arabia, September 15th, 2020 (United Kingdom) – Headline: “Normalization Agreement”

With the historic signing of the Abraham Accords and the unconventional response of the Arab league membered nations, the media, as well as Arab societies, will start shifting waiting into a more nuanced discussion around Israel. It will be less about questioning or attacking is its right to exist and the anti-Semitic demonization campaign but rather be built around cooperation, partnership, and sharing values. I wish to see the day when all 21 Arab league nations recognize Israel, negotiate peace with Israel, and exchange diplomatic relations with Israel to open the door to cooperation on economic development and security. That future will see a future where people of the Jewish and Arabic world will have a safe place to call home and terrorists will be uncertain about their futures instead.

The momentum behind peace and urging of normalization even by fellow Arab nations among themselves will most likely not be derailed by such derogatory content but rather it is important to notice and call out such content, as it is not representative of what type of future young people in the Middle East and North Africa desire.

About the Author
Walid Tamtam was born in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, growing up hailing from a Moroccan background in schools, mosques, and other familiar social environments, anti-semitism seemed to be acceptable if not encouraged. Since two years ago Walid, broke out of his echo chambers to tell the full story and break down the polarization of these communities and act as a bridge to bring people together.
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