By David Andrew Weinberg | ADL's Washington Director for International Affairs
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi told a visiting delegation earlier this year that he hopes to see a resurgence of Jewish life in Egypt. He reportedly even informed the group that if more Jews return, the government would pay to build more synagogues and other communal institutions. However, this positive message is being undermined by the continued broadcasting of a hateful, anti-Semitic program on Egyptian state television.
The show in question is called Blue Line. It is a talk show, framed as a serious assessment of Egypt-Israel relations, but instead it uses the subject matter to propagate a broad range of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. The fact that Egypt’s government-run Channel Two continues to broadcast Blue Line not only contradicts the station’s stated intention to be “a window onto foreign cultures,” it also should be a genuine concern to Egypt’s government and allies.
Holocaust Denial and Distortion:
In recent weeks, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) exposed footage from March in which Blue Line’s longtime host, Hasem Aboulseod, validated his guest’s conspiratorial argument that six million Jews could not plausibly have been killed in the Holocaust. When this guest then cited notorious Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy and claimed that the mass murder of Jews in gas chambers was also implausible, Aboulseod suggested that perhaps the Nazis only killed several hundred thousand Jews.
To make matters worse, this guest speaker was described as a journalist from Egypt’s state newspaper al-Ahram. On this episode he also advanced the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that the pro-Israel lobby exercises not just influence but outright “financial, media, and political control” over the President of the United States, Congress, and the State Department. In addition, the episode featured remarks from a narrator declaring that "in order to obtain more money, Israel invented stories about the Nazis using gas chambers for the mass murder of Jews."
This was no isolated incident. For example, in April 2019, when a guest on Blue Line told Aboulseod that Jewish people have felt persecuted throughout history, Aboulseod chose to question that experience, asking “but were they really persecuted?” His guest then responded “no, they were not.” Aboulseod also raised no objection when this guest claimed that the persecution of Jewish people under the Nazis “was organized and was perpetrated by the Zionists themselves,” and Aboulseod nodded along and gave a grunt of assent when this guest added that “even the gas chambers purported by the Jews could not contain the millions of people that we were told about. This issue was exaggerated in the media and in research.”
Demonizing and Dehumanizing Jewish People
This June, the show hosted an Egyptian professor from a Saudi university claiming that observant Jews “make a kind of matzo that is mixed with blood” for Passover. Far from disagreeing with this ghastly premise – a common anti-Semitic myth known as the blood libel – Aboulseod accepted the claim, focusing on the negative health effects of consuming human blood instead.
Likewise, Blue Line featured a guest in May who claimed that “the Israeli violence or aggressive spirit is embedded in the Jewish genes.” Rather than disagreeing with this blatantly racist claim, Aboulseod followed his guest’s demonization of Jewish people by volunteering the inaccurate and hurtful claim that because millions of people from other vulnerable groups were also murdered in the Holocaust, that the Holocaust did not in any way target Jews.
In February 2019, Aboulseod dedicated an entire episode to advancing his conspiratorial claim that across history Jews “have always caused unrest and revolutions” in the societies in which they lived. When the journalist he interviewed for this episode alleged that Jewish merchants greedily bankrolled and armed both sides of the Civil War in order to “take over the diamonds and the gold,” Aboulseod’s credulous response was “and this is how they managed to take over the American economy.”
This June, Blue Line also hosted an Egyptian legal scholar who expressed his explicit presumption that “we all know that it is the Jews who control the money and the media.” He went on to assert that the Jewish people are plotting to conquer the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina by the year 2050. Far from challenging this ludicrous claim, Aboulseod validated it, remarking that this was “just like in 1897,” when the Zionist movement pursued what he called “a 50-year plan”.
A Deep-Seated Record of Hate:
All of the examples above are the result of outstanding monitoring and documentation by the analysts at MEMRI. ADL has raised concern about many of these cases, but more attention needs to be given to the fact that such an extensive array of anti-Jewish slanders continue to be broadcast on Egyptian state TV.
Additional analysis of Blue Line’s archives by ADL reveals that there are years of other episodes of the show based on similarly anti-Semitic premises.
For example, one episode sounded the alarm about a supposed threat of “Zionist penetration of Egyptian youth.” Another asserted that Israel has an “alliance” with Iran, its biggest enemy, to divide up Syria, and that Israel’s strategy for survival focuses on shattering the unity of the Arab world.
A third episode inflamed conspiracy theories about the most important shared religious site in Jerusalem, alleging that Jews are tunneling away at the foundation of the al-Aqsa Mosque and that their religious affinity and historical connection to the Temple Mount are just “utterances and lies.”
Furthermore, to celebrate Blue Line’s second anniversary on the air, Aboulseod spent an episode advancing the dangerous view that normalizing relations with the people of Israel is akin to treason. He started the episode commending the director of Egypt’s public broadcaster as well as the director of Channel Two at the time for making it possible for him to spread these sorts of messages “about the Zionist entity through official TV.”
The entire purpose of Blue Line appears to be demonizing Israel and the Jewish people. According to Aboulseod, “we’ve been saying on this show from day one that the basic goal is the platitude ‘know your enemy’.”
In fact, ADL has determined that even the show’s longstanding title seems to be premised on this kind of anti-Semitic slander.
A promo for the program that dates back to at least 2014 declares that “with the second line in the Israeli flag they symbolize [going] to the River Nile. They covet a Greater Israel from the Euphrates to the Nile.” This is a reference to a pervasive and thoroughly discredited conspiracy theory that modern day Zionism, Israel, and its leaders are plotting to conquer all the land in the Middle East between these two rivers – and that this supposed fact is proven by the two blue lines on the State of Israel’s flag.
In truth, there is much that public and private television in Egypt could do to genuinely educate society about Israel, the Jewish people, and even the Holocaust. But in fact, Blue Line does the opposite of that. It is a program that consistently promotes harmful and bigoted falsehoods about the Jewish people, and there is no justification for Egypt’s government to continue producing and broadcasting it.