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A Horseless Rider Dragging a Nation onto the Road to Imported Bigotry
Last uploaded : Tuesday 19th Nov 2002 at 14:28
Contributed by : Qais S. Saleh


The latest controversy to involve the Arab World concerns a TV program "A
Rider Without a Horse" that started airing on Wednesday, Nov. 5th, the first
day of the holy month of Ramadan on several Arab satellite channels. The
source of the controversy is that the program is partly based on "The
Protocols of the Elders of Zion", the old forgery originating in Czarist
Russia. Naturally numerous Jewish groups, the US, Israel and other countries
and organizations have requested that the program be banned from the
airwaves, without avail. What was left out from the intense media coverage is
that there is significant opposition within the Arab world for this program;
this article will furnish an argument on why Arabs themselves should oppose
such a program and why they should campaign to take it off-air.

Before delving in the reasons why Arabs should reject the program, it should
be noted that program timing and medium could not be worse, broadcasting
during Ramadan nearly guarantees audiences in the tens of millions, and the
widespread coverage on the efforts to ban it has only widened its appeal.
Another real danger is that there has been a great trend in Arab societies
toward visual inputs of information, where satellite television programs
sometimes serve as the only conduit of information to the Arab family, such a
trend will ensure that such a program will have credibility and that it will
be viewed as historical facts, which is exactly why it should not be
broadcast in the first place.

The main reason why we as Arabs should reject this program and the text it
uses, is that it is an imported piece of anti-Semitic bigotry that was forged
in one of the darkest chapters in European history, it has nothing to do with
historical facts and more importantly with Arab world's tolerant past where
Jews were an integrated minority living in harmony with Muslims, Christians
and other religious minorities. As a Palestinian currently living under a new
Apartheid, I cannot but reject any ethnic stereotyping and demonizing such as
advocated by the program, and I totally reject the notion that such programs
will strengthen the support of the Arab world toward the Palestinians, any
support generated by racism should be unwelcome by people suffering from it.
It is very unfortunate that while we as Arabs have paid a heavy price for
past European prosecution of Jews, we are currently importing and reviving
the ugliest embodiments of that tradition of anti-Semitism.

Putting aside for a moment the amount of damage this program is causing to
the image of the Arab world, it is morally and educationally wrong to
introduce such intolerant stereotyping programs. Instead of furthering
universal values of tolerance and equality, we march in the opposite
direction, propagating baseless hatred via mass media. It should be
emphasized that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not based on religious rivalry,
but on the fact that there is an occupied land and people enduring the last
occupation on earth. The ferocity of the Palestinian and Arab opposition to
this occupation would be the same if the occupiers were Muslims, Christians,
or Buddhists instead of Jews.

A big part of the trend of importation of anti-Semitic bigotry (especially in
times of heightened Israeli-Palestinian warfare) is simply based in
ignorance, because of deficient history education and the lack of a culture
of self-learning; most Arabs have little or no knowledge and understanding of
the European past prosecution of Jews and how these events are always
resident in the Jewish psyche in particular and western one in general. Such
ignorance might explain but does not excuse what "Rider without a Horse" is
about, the producers of the show might be thinking that they are trying to
help the Palestinians with anti-Israel piece. They are doing exactly the
opposite; they are affirming the views of the extremists in Israel who say
that Arabs will never accept the presence of Jews in the Holy Land and who
are now advocating the forced transfer (another term for ethnic cleansing) of
Palestinians from Palestine to elsewhere in the region.

In conclusion, there should be forceful internal Arab action by wide sectors
of the educated classes to stop airing this tainted program, and it should be
done for solely internal reasons, not in the context of bowing to foreign
pressure. Bigotry should be rejected, regardless of who it is directed
against, feeding Arab families (including the children) carefully measured
doses of hatred is morally repugnant and will eventually come back to haunt
us when this cycle of bigotry start enveloping the next target. Taking the
program off-air will be a victory for reason, universal values, and the old
Arab tradition of tolerance that now seem to be under constant attack. This
fight should be as much about our internal image as about our external one.

# # #

Qais S. Saleh is a business consultant currently living in Ramallah.

Source:, November 8, 2002

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