Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 9:34 pm | Fair 52º


Mona Charen: Progress in Arab World Is Not Inevitable

To understand the magnitude of what Egyptian columnist Khalid Muntasir has done, it helps to get a taste of what most Egyptian and Arab media are like.

In Egypt, expressions of vicious anti-Semitism are not just acceptable, they are commonplace. Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader and now president of Egypt, was famously captured on tape describing Jews as the “descendants of apes and pigs,” as recently as 2010. This aroused not a flicker of controversy inside Egypt. In 2002, Egyptian state television, along with channels throughout the Arab world, ran a program giving credence to the infamous Czarist forgery, “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” a “document” that supposedly traces the Jewish conspiracy to rule the world and a durable standard of anti-Semitic ravings for a century.

The most vile anti-Jewish (not just anti-Israeli) calumnies are circulated widely in the Arab press. Mein Kampf is a bestseller in the Palestinian territories, and Islamist supremacism blends with ethnic hatred throughout the Arab world to concoct a brew of overpowering anti-Semitic (and often anti-Christian) virulence.

Palestinian media relentlessly celebrate and honor terrorists who have distinguished themselves by the act of blowing up innocent Israelis. Just in the past couple of weeks, the Facebook page of Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah (the Palestinian Authority) lauded the anniversary of the “martyrdom” of Ahmed Masharqa. He is described as “Hero of the Kedumim settlement operation who answered the call of justice and the shout of duty when the land called to him.” Translation: In 2006, Masharqa disguised himself as a religious Jew, strapped a suicide belt under his clothes and crossed the border to an Israeli village. When an Israeli family offered him a ride, he blew himself up inside the car. Or, as Fatah has it, “He caused the deaths of five Zionists and wounded many.” Keep in mind Abbas is a “moderate” in the Middle East context.

Consider “moderate” Jordan. By an overwhelming majority (110 of 120), the Jordanian parliament has called for the release of a former soldier who is serving time for the murder of seven Israeli schoolgirls in 1997. The students had traveled to the ironically named “Island of Peace,” a man-made island that lies on the Jordan/Israel border and has been made into a park. The island was developed by Israel, but as part of a peace agreement with the late King Hussein, Israel ceded it to Jordan. On March 13, 1997, a group of 13- and 14-year-old Israeli girls was visiting when one of the Jordanian soldiers opened fire on them, killing seven and wounding many others. The death toll would have been even higher if Ahmed Daqamseh’s gun hadn’t jammed.

At the time, King Hussein traveled to the girls’ hometown to express condolences and beg forgiveness on behalf of his country. But that was then. Hussein Mjali, Daqamseh’s defense lawyer, has since become minister of justice in Jordan. In 2011, he described the unrepentant Daqamseh as a “hero” who should never have been imprisoned, and a huge majority of Jordan’s parliament agrees.

So it was nothing less than vertigo-inducing to see Khalid Muntasir, a columnist with the Egyptian daily Al-Watan, write in praise of three Jewish billionaires who’ve endowed a new award called the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

Noting that Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin and Yuri Milner are all Jewish, Muntasir wrote, “When the Jewish Internet and social network magnates get together ... and unite to declare a $33 million grant for medical research on incurable diseases ... I cannot help but cry out ‘long live the descendants of apes and pigs.’” Muntasir went on to heap scorn on those who “detonate bombs in the midst of the innocent, assassinate politicians, thinkers and intellectuals, and accuse others of being infidels.”

“By God,” this brave columnist continued, “who is more conscionable, moral and loves life and his fellow man — is it these three Jews who contribute to science, health, happiness and the improvement of life, or bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and al-Zarqawi, Mullah Omar, and those who display their pictures, kiss them, memorize their ideas and adopt them? Who does more good to humanity and the world, and even to Muslims — those who fly the flag of science, or Abu Islam (an Egyptian sheikh) and Hatoli Ragel (a religious television show) ... ?”

Muntasir is a tiny green shoot amid the toxic intellectual terrain of the Arab world. He is not alone, but he is vastly outnumbered, and deserves, for that reason, all the more honor for his courage.

Mona Charen is a columnist with National Review magazine. Click here to contact her, follow her on Twitter: @mcharen, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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