Report: Arab Press Has Waged Decade-Long Assault on Israel's Prime Ministers

New York, NY, December 22, 2010 …No matter which government is in power, or whether it is a time of relative quiet or conflict, newspapers across the Arab and Muslim world consistently portray Israel's prime ministers with outrageous, hateful, and at times anti-Semitic caricatures.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) documents this decade-long assault by political cartoonists against Israeli leaders in a new report issued today. "Personalizing the Conflict: A Decade of an Assault on Israel's Premiers in the Arab Media" (PDF) shows how four successive Israeli prime ministers – Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu – have been repeatedly vilified and demonized along with the Jewish state and its people using hateful and extreme anti-Israel themes and frequently anti-Semitic stereotypes.

"Political caricatures are a visually powerful medium and have a profound impact on public opinion," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "The harsh demonization of Israel's political leadership in the Arab media is another form of incitement against the Jewish state and its people.  In Arab societies there is virtually no alternative to the images of Israeli leaders as blood-thirsty, monstrous Nazis with aspirations of carrying out war crimes or controlling the region and the world."

 

The League's compilation includes cartoons appearing in mainstream daily newspapers of Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and other nations.

Prepared by ADL's Israel Office, the report includes a sampling of cartoons depicting Israeli prime ministers between the years of 2000-2010. Common themes include the Israeli leaders portrayed as Nazis, as blood-thirsty butchers, devils, and vicious or leeching animals such as attack dogs, worms and serpents.

Ehud Barak, who was prime minister from July 1999 to March 2001, was depicted in Arab cartoons as a Nazi or war criminal, compared to both Hitler and to former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. He, too, was often depicted as a blood-thirsty killer, surrounded by skulls or dead Palestinians. According to ADL, it is clear from the quantity and nature of the cartoons that Ariel Sharon, who served as the Israeli premier from March 2001 through April 2006, was the most despised prime minister of all, blamed by the Arab world for the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982 and consistently portrayed as a bloodthirsty killer with bloodied hands, eating Palestinian children, drinking their blood and butchering them. In the cartoons, Sharon was frequently compared to the Nazis and Adolf Hitler.

Most recently, editorial cartoonists have depicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a similar vein. Netanyahu has been vilified in Arab and Muslim newspapers as the devil incarnate, as one who is controlling and manipulating, or holding the U.S. government hostage.Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who served through March 2009, was often portrayed as a Nazi with swastikas emblazoned on his uniform, or as a blood-thirsty killer of Palestinians and Lebanese in the 2006 Lebanon War.

"While one would expect world leaders to come in for a certain level of scrutiny and criticism from editorial cartoonists, the level of hatred and vilification aimed against Israeli leaders by the Arab and Muslim media is profoundly disturbing," said Mr. Foxman. "This is another form of incitement against Israel, and often it comes with a heavy dose of anti-Semitism. The editorial pages of newspapers across the Arab world have waged an unrelenting assault against successive Israeli prime ministers, to a point where their policies and positions and achievements don't really matter."

Some of the most recent examples in the ADL report include:

  • Netanyahu with devil's horns and an olive branch in his mouth (Al-Ahram Weekly, Egypt, September 30, 2010)
  • A bloodied Netanyahu engorging himself on a Palestinian child (Ar-Risala, Gaza-Hamas, August 28, 2010).
  • Netanyahu holding U.S. President Barack Obama at gunpoint over "The Peace Process," with a gun shaped like a menorah (Al-Watan, Qatar, July 12, 2009).
  • Netanyahu shown as a butcher chopping up "Palestine" (An-Nadwa, Saudi Arabia, June 4, 2009).

The report is part of ADL's decades-long effort to monitor and expose anti-Semitic caricatures in the Arab world, where the press is often owned and controlled by the government and, even in cases where newspapers claim to be independent, the content often must be approved by the governments.

The complete report and others on anti-Semitism in the Muslim and Arab press are available on the League's Web site. The anti-Israel cartoons included in ADL's report appeared during important many historical milestones in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the Camp David Summit of July 2000, the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada that September, the U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa which turned into an anti-Israel hatefest, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Israel's disengagement from Gaza, and progress and setbacks in the peace process.

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