|Devant le parlement à Rabat le 25 mars 2012 (Aida/AFP/Getty Images)|
Today, the relatively positive perceptions of Jews in the Arab world have been replaced largely by an appropriated anti-Jewish discourse mixed with Christian and Islamic interpretations of what is believed to be an innate Jewish evil that permeates all sectors of life. In the past 70 years, the political independence of Jews in the context of Israel has reinforced the belief in a global Jewish conspiracy. In Morocco, Hamid Chabat, the secretary general of the Istiqlal party, argued that the Feb. 20 Movement and the Arab Spring are the result of a Zionist conspiracy like that imagined in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In Tunisia, Salafi activists have claimed that scholars, such as Habib Kazdaghli, are Jews, and they have chanted slogans calling to “Kill the Jews! It is our duty.” In Libya, Muammar Qaddafi was rumored to be of Jewish origin, and when the Libyans rose against him, they filled the walls of Benghazi and Tripoli with graffiti depicting Qaddafi with the Star of David. An Arabic Libyan rap song titled “This Revolution” includes the lyrics, “From the north to the south, from the east to the west, let’s rise up, let’s rise up! The anger won’t die, the one who will die is Qaddafi, his supporters and the Jews.”
In Egypt, many demonstrators in Tahrir Square held posters of former strongman Hosni Mubarak—who maintained Sadat’s peace with Israel—emblazoned with Star of David and shouted, “Leave, Leave, Mubarak! Tel Aviv is awaiting you!” But now, Mubarak’s successor Gen. Abdul Fattah el-Sisi is himself rumored by his critics to be a Jew. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s family faces the same whispers: In the rural areas of Dar‘a, Syrian protesters claimed that the Assad family and its Alawi supporters are Jewish. The Saudi family and other Gulf States rulers such as Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have also periodically been portrayed—negatively—as the descendants of the pre-Islamic Jewish tribes that lived in the Arabian Peninsula. Even the former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, earned the appellation “Jew” from his detractors.
These cases and others have been lurking at the bottom of the consciousness of different circles in the Arab world. Their newfound prevalence, among both populist and intellectual groups, illustrates the conceptual chaos that reigns in the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings. The lack of leadership within the Arab Spring movements that could have translated this anger into constructive channels with a viable and clear economic, social, and political agenda left a wide field for conspiracy theories to expand, reinforcing the delusional notion of how Jews have been responsible for turning the Arab “springs” into “winters.”
But this is also just history repeating itself: In the postcolonial era, every time Arab populations have failed to achieve their objectives, political leaders and sometimes intellectuals turn to conspiracy to justify their defeat. This mentality has created an Arab mindset that, as the scholar Mahdi Elmandjra has argued, refuses to indulge in auto-critique. Accordingly, an organic obsession with the outsider, whether an imperious Europe or America—“the West”—or simply a mythical “Jew,” is always there to blame."
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