By Rep. Steve Rothman
There’s no doubt about it: Anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world.
It’s rearing its ugly head on graffitied walls and desecrated synagogues throughout Europe; through satellite TV transmissions beamed all over the globe from Iran–Saudi Arabia and other nations in the Middle East; and now in Turkey–the largest established democracy with a majority-Islamic population in the world.
Of course–anti-Semitism is not a new phenomenon. But it now seems inevitably to go hand-in-hand with virulent anti-Americanism. Combined with the combustible fuel of millions of alienated Muslims caught in calcified and corrupt dictatorships around the world–anti-Semitism is growing again as an ugly catalyst for extremist civic and political action. The minds of these people are being poisoned with high-tech–state-sanctioned hatred through the airwaves on a daily basis–and it is cause for serious concern–not just to Jews and supporters of the State of Israel–but to all freedom-loving adherents of democracy and tolerance everywhere.
It remains a matter of record that our "allies" like Saudi Arabia and Qatar allow the transmission from their soil of highly offensive–shockingly anti-Semitic and anti-American television news and entertainment programming. These are replete with classic anti-Semitic smears–ranging from dramatic depictions of the blood libel to assertions on news broadcasts that Jews are the source of the international drug trade. What’s also a matter of increasing concern to me is the spread of anti-Semitic propaganda and imagery through the political and social culture of nations which we have long counted as allies such as Turkey. It is a dangerous trend we must counter.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)–a media watchdog organization that records–translates–and transcribes television programming emanating from countries in the Middle East and Africa–recently revealed a number of anti-Semitic statemen’s and broadcasts made public through the Turkish news media. Recent examples of anti-Semitic content in the Turkish news media portray Judaism as a sinister–malevolent cabal bent on asserting Jewish domination over world affairs–business–and the international news media. MEMRI has also presented evidence showing that hostility toward Turkish Jews is on the rise. State-sanctioned incidents of anti-Semitism include Jewish citizens being questioned by Turkish government authorities about their loyalty to the Republic of Turkey–with some accused of treason and blamed for the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Also of intense concern are growing ties between the Prime Minister of Turkey–Recep Tayyip Erdogan–and Afghan jihad leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar–a close ally of Osama Bin Laden. Hekmatyar sheltered the al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan after the terrorist mastermind fled Sudan in 1996–and–following the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001–pledged allegiance to the spiritual leader of the Taliban–Mullah Omar–who launched a guerrilla war on the US and its Afghan allies.
Shortly after he and his political party–the "Justice and Development Party," took power in 2003–Erdogan was pictured in the prominent Turkish daily newspaper–the Star Gazette–sitting side-by-side with Hekmatyar. Needless to say–it was a disturbing picture.
Last week–I drafted a letter calling upon President Bush to challenge Prime Minister Erdogan to denounce all forms of discrimination and hate speech in Turkey and to renounce his ties to Bin Laden’s allies. I circulated it among my colleagues in the US House of Representatives–and we sent it to the President before his June 8th White House sit-down with Erdogan.
"You have been outspoken regarding the dangers posed to the American people by terrorists who wish to do us harm. When you meet with Prime Minister Erdogan–we hope you will ask him to renounce his connection to this ally of Osama bin Laden and request that he immediately and publicly denounce anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism in all forms?Mr. President–you also have been vocal about the growing problem of Arab incitement against Jews. It is our feeling that Turkish incitement against Jews is equally troubling and must be addressed immediately," we wrote to the President.
That would be a great start. But our government must do more and take proactive steps to counter anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism around the globe. Just as the State Department monitors human rights violations and documen’s them every year–so too must we provide an official accounting of the anti-American–anti-Semitic–and violence-inciting content of the electronic mass media being transmitted from countries around the world. And we must demand that the United States government take into account the countries from which this "hate media" originates when developing and implementing US foreign policy–specifically in the allocation of US foreign aid.
To do anything less is to behave ostrich-like in a dangerous world–with our heads tucked into the sand. We must lift up our heads and our eyes and pay attention to the long-running struggle for the hearts and minds of billions of people around the world and the hateful anti-Semitic and anti-American messages with which they are being brainwashed–before it is too late.
US Representative Steve Rothman–(D-Fair Lawn)–has represented New Jersey’s 9th Congressional District since 1997 and sits on the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee.