A prominent Tunisian-born movie producer has denounced the systemic and deep-rooted anti-Semitism in the Arab world, after he was excluded from North Africa’s most prestigious film festival because of his work with Israelis, Ben Cohen reported in The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
Said Ben Said revealed in an article published in the French daily Le Monde that his invitation to preside over the jury of the 28th Carthage Film Festival in Tunisia had been revoked as a result of his collaboration with Israeli film director Nadav Lapid and his involvement in the Jerusalem Film Festival earlier this year.
“No one can deny the misery of the Palestinian people, but it must be admitted that the Arab world is, in its majority, antisemitic,” Ben Said wrote. “This hatred of Jews has redoubled in intensity and depth not because of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but with the rise of a certain vision of Islam,” he added, referring to the problem of Islamist extremism.
He also admitted that the hatred for Jews was not limited to radical quarters of the Arab world. He explained how he was taught as a schoolboy in Tunisia through Quranic verses that “the Jews were…treacherous, falsifiers, immoral, evil, etc., and, most importantly, these verses were the words of God.”
Ben Said continued. “Every Arab child grows up with these images,” adding that “In an Arab Gulf monarchy, for example, today’s textbooks state that Jews are descended from monkeys because a verse from the Quran (II-65) threatens that Sabbath transgressors will be turned into monkeys.”
As a result, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are a persistent phenomenon. “How many times have I heard people say in Tunisia that harvests are bad because the Mossad poisons the soil, or that the Mossad staged the 9/11 attack to help Americans get their hands on Iraqi oil?” he asked.
Successive opinion polls conducted over the last decade echo Ben Said’s assessment of the Arab world. A Pew Research poll found in 2011 that between 96 and 98 percent of respondents in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian territories harbored hostile views toward Jews, while a global Anti-Defamation League poll in 2015 confirmed those results. Even in Tunisia, a country regarded as relatively liberal, the ADL found that 86 percent of respondents were anti-Semitic.
Ben Said also rejected the common notion in the Arab world that because Arabs were so-called “Semites,” they could not be anti-Semitic. “Nothing could be more wrong,” he wrote. “The term ‘antisemitic,’ invented in Europe in the nineteenth century, never concerned the Arabs. It designated Jews exclusively.”
Emphasizing his pride in being Tunisian, Muslim and French, Ben Said concluded by saying, “[T]he evil is there, lurking deep inside us”, adding that “Hundreds of thousands of Arabs are murdered by other Arabs in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, but that is less important to us than crimes committed by the Israeli army.”
[Photo: SyndicatCritique / YouTube]