Israeli Minister Challenges Europeans To Block Anti-Semitic Broadcasts

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - An Israeli minister has challenged European countries to block the broadcast of an anti-Semitic series airing on Hizballah's satellite television, which can be seen in many European countries.

During the last three years of Palestinian violence, Europe has seen a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents, with numerous attacks on Jewish institutions, cemeteries and even people throughout the continent.

Experts, dubbing it a "new" anti-Semitism, say it is characterized by attacks against Jews and anti-Jewish sentiments in reaction to Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. It is aimed at de-legitimizing Israel's right to exist, they say.

Natan Sharansky, Israeli Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs in the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Office, said it is no wonder that Muslims in Europe and elsewhere carry out terror attacks against Jews and Jewish targets when they are fed hatred and incitement such as that seen in the Syrian-produced series Al-Shatat (The Diaspora).

The 30-part series claims to be a historical drama based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion -- a booklet fabricated in the early 20th century, describing an alleged scheme by Jewish leaders to take over the world. Historians have debunked the book as a political forgery.

The television series depicts the development of the Jewish national movement, Zionism, and the creation of the State of Israel.

The program is being aired from Lebanon on Hizballah's satellite channel Al-Manar during the Islamic month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast all day and feast at night. Both Israel and the U.S. have condemned the series.

Sharansky called on European countries this week to block the broadcast of the program, which is widely available in Europe through satellite and cable television packages. The minister hosted 26 European ambassadors at a special screening of a segment of the program with English sub-titles.

In it, a group of rabbis and other Jews gather together in an 18th century Romanian ghetto in order to carry out a grisly execution of the father of the mistress of Theodor Herzl -- the father of modern Zionism. The guilty man is the owner of a brothel whose crime was marrying a non-Jewish woman.

As the man cries out for water, the head rabbi doles out duties to his fellow executioners.

"You hold his nose shut. You, open his mouth with tongs. You, pour lead into his mouth. You, cut off his ears. You, stab his body with a knife before the lead kills him. This is a sacred Talmudic court; if any of you fails in his mission I will try you just like this criminal," the rabbi says, according to a translation of the program provided by the independent Middle East Media Research Institute. The men carry out their prescribed tasks.

(The Talmud is a collection of ancient commentaries on the Bible written by Jewish religious scholars and forms the basis of modern Jewish religious authority.)

A later episode, aired on Tuesday evening, showed Jews carrying out a ritual murder of a Christian baby and then using its blood to make the Jewish unleavened Passover bread matza.

This particular legend has been around for centuries. Scholars point out that such a tale is both hideous and ridiculous since Jewish people are forbidden in their Scriptures from eating any blood at all, even in the meat of slaughtered animals.

Sharansky told the ambassadors that "anti-Semitism kills," and he drew a link between programs such as these and the twin suicide car bombings of two synagogues in Istanbul, Turkey on Saturday, in which 25 people were killed and more than 300 wounded.

"He who does not actively combat anti-Semitism becomes its accomplice. Anti-Semitism has become an existential threat against Jews and the State of Israel. Arab and Islamic anti-Semitism, left unchecked, will continue to target Jews -- and kill both Jews and non-Jews in the process, just as it did in Turkey this week," Sharansky said.

"When millions of Arabs and Moslems across the Middle East and Europe watch this type of vicious hatred every day, it is no wonder that some of them murderously attack Jews in synagogues on Shabbat [the Sabbath]," he said, according to a statement from his office.

In a recent discussion with journalists, Sharansky described anti-Semitism as irrational.

"You can't argue with [an] anti-Semite about the Jews...because it's not logical. It's instinctive. It's on the level of something next to Satan, something dangerous," he said.

Criticism of Israel is legitimate, he said, but the proof of an attitude of anti-Semitism is holding the Jewish people or the Jewish state to a "double standard," he said.

In recent weeks there have been a number alarming anti-Semitic incidents, Israeli officials have said.

In addition to the twin synagogue bombings last weekend, a suburban Jewish school in Paris was set ablaze and partially destroyed by an act of arson that French officials are saying was rooted in anti-Semitism.

A recent European Union poll showed that 59 percent of Europeans believed Israel to be a threat to world peace - and they put Israel ahead of Iran and North Korea.

An Italian poll published last week showed that 22 percent of respondents do not see Italian Jews as "real Italians" while 52 percent say they have little sympathy for Israel.

Last week, Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, best known for his musical score for the film Zorba the Greek , called Israel the "root of all evil," full of "self-importance and evil stubbornness." He said that the Greeks are not as aggressive as Israel because they have "more history."

"They only have [Biblical patriarchs] Abraham and Jacob, who were shadows, while we have [the Greek mythological figure] Pericles," he said.

Sharon, who is visiting Italy this week, raised the issue of battling anti-Semitism with his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi, who is currently the rotating head of the European Union. According to reports, Berlusconi pledged to help fight anti-Semitism.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom also discussed the matter of anti-Semitism with his European counterparts in Brussels this week.

See earlier story:
Syrian-Produced TV Series Questions Israel's Right to Exist (Nov. 5, 2003)

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