http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT)
Two recent incidents in or near the Middle East have highlighted a noxious bit of hypocrisy for anyone to see. Next time you hear Arab leaders complain about the portrayal of Islam in America, think twice before you sympathize.
Consider that unfortunate British teacher in Sudan who mistakenly agreed with her students' suggestion to name the class teddy bear Mohammed. Last month, a court sentenced her to 15 days in jail for offending Islam. Reacting to international outrage, Sudan's dictator-president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, pardoned her but not before hundreds of Sudanese called for her execution before a firing squad.
A few months earlier, Sheik Ahmad Bahr, a Hamas leader who was speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council at the time, gave a sermon in a Khartoum mosque in which he called for the annihilation of both Americans and Jews.
"Oh Allah, vanquish the Jews and their supporters," he preached. "Oh Allah, count their numbers and kill them all - down to the very last one. America and Israel will be annihilated."
Sudan broadcast his sermon on national television. But did the Sudanese offer even a murmur of complaint about that? No. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is quite upset about Western outrage over the court order to flog a 20-year-old Saudi woman who was gang raped last year. She was sentenced to 90 lashes, but when her lawyer appealed her conviction, the judge more than doubled the sentence, to 200 lashes.
The White House called this "outrageous," and Canada described the woman's treatment as "barbaric." In response, Saudi officials are painting themselves as the victims, saying the West has no right to criticize Saudi law.
"What is outraging about this case is that it is being used against the Saudi government and people," Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, complained early this month.
Many Americans, meanwhile, would likely consider the vile cartoons in the Saudi press depicting Americans, and Jews, as rapacious killers as "outraging." One, titled September 11th, in the Saudi paper al-Yawm, showed an Hasidic Jew, the look of a crazed killer on his face, milking cow's teats hanging from the bottom of each digit in the number 11.
Vicious anti-American and anti-Semitic cartoons are a staple of the Arab press. Often they show American soldiers, or Jews, drinking Arab blood or planning an Arab "holocaust." Quite often they depict Jewish control over America.
Arab cartoonists drew with a special zeal, paradoxically, in the months after the publication of the Mohammed cartoons in a Danish newspaper two years ago. Riots erupted throughout the Islamic world in reaction to cartoons that depicted the Prophet Mohammed unfavorably.
"We are angry very, very, very angry," a Palestinian legislator, Jamila al-Shanty, said at the time. "No one can say a bad word about our prophet."
That same month, a cartoon in Ash-Sharq, a Qatari paper, showed a western cartoonist drawing an Arab peacefully at prayer, then in the next panel bowing before a toilet bowl labeled "zionism." Behind it stood a leering devil holding a menorah and a star of David.
Academics and Middle East analysts have been debating this obvious hypocrisy for years. And it turns out, on close examination, to be a manifestation of Arab government control.
Anti-Semitism has been rife in Arab countries for generations. More recently, anti-Americanism has taken root, driven in large part by American support for Israel -- and the Iraq war.
Most every Arab country, except Lebanon and Iraq, is ruled by a king, president or other unelected dictator. Given the widespread poverty, inequality and lack of economic development in many Arab states, the leaders learned quickly that the best way to subdue a restive population was to focus the people's ire elsewhere.
The most obvious target was Israel and its mistreatment of the Palestinians. Most every Arab leader professes to be so concerned about the Palestinians that settling the problem remains the government's key objective.
Rhetorically, it comes up in every context, while practically, little is actually done except to whip up popular anger at home.
The newspapers that publish these nauseating cartoons are generally state organs whose editors know precisely what their leaders want to see. If they falter, the leaders tell them.
Working in Iraq a few years ago, I perused some of Saddam Hussein's official correspondence, held in an archive. In one letter, Hussein discussed a cartoon that showed a soldier carrying an Iraqi flag. He had driven the flagpole into the heart of an octopus wrapped in an American flag.
The letter said: "The president has ordered: The drawing is to be redrawn taking care that the face of the soldier is an Iraqi face, not the face of a foreigner."
The newspaper printed the altered cartoon the next day. This time the soldier had a mustache.