Rawan Osman is a Syrian of Muslim origin who grew up in an atmosphere of rabid antisemitism. Now in Germany, she witnesses the challenges presented by a large population of antisemitic Syrian refugees. These refugees need a programme of re-education, she argues. Must-read on Fikra Forum at the Washington Institute:
The Nazi Alois Brunner took refuge in Syria. He set up the secret police apparatus
For decades, the Syrian Ba’athist regime systematically incited hatred and Anti-Semitic propaganda against the Jewish people. The influence of anti-Semitism is perhaps most overtly visible in Syria’s foreign policy; the Ba’athist regime has unapologetically supported terrorist organizations that target Israeli civilians, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
The Regime’s backing of these organizations should not be miscategorized as support for the Palestinian cause—the horrific state of the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in the southern outskirts of Damascus shows the Syrian regime’s blatant disregard for Palestinian lives.
Rather, support for these terrorist organizations should be seen as some combination of political expediency and its real hatred of Jews.
Emblematic of this trend is the Syrian Regime’s decision to take in Abu Daoud—one of the architects of the Munich Olympic attack—in 1993, making it the only country to agree to do so, thereby allowing this terrorist to evade international law up until his death from natural causes in 2010.
Decades earlier, the Syrian government also made the decision to harbor the Nazi fugitive Alois Brunner, who was responsible for the death of at least 128,000 Jews. Alois Brunner is also reported to have become instrumental in establishing the Syrian Intelligence Service—the feared Mukhabarat —which has been responsible for mass deaths and murders of Syrians.
However, anti-Semitism is also endemic inside of Syria, and has taken root at every level of society. Religious leaders quote—out of historical and religious context—Quranic scriptures to drive this ideology of hate, while many Syrian intellectuals and the artists adopt the hateful rhetoric of this dictatorship without question. Syrian popular literature is one area that demonstrates the deep relationship between the Syrian state, state-mandated culture, and anti-Semitism.
In 1983, then Minister of Defense Mustafa Tlass published a book titled The Matzo of Zion that described ‘The Damascus Affair,’ a historical incident where thirteen Damascus Jews were arrested on accusations of ‘ritual murders’ in 1840. This book, presenting unfounded accusations as fact, repeats the ancient “Blood libel” myth that Jews murder non-Jews to use their blood for religious rituals. Tlass was an adamant anti-Semite, confident that all Jews––not just Israelis––are bloodthirsty by nature. He asserted that Judaism is a “‘vicious deviation,” and that Jews possess “black hatred against all humankind and religions.”
The anti-Semitic propaganda in The Matzo of Zion mirrors the language of both Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Matzo of Zion reached similar levels of popularity in international anti-Semitic circles, but is perhaps most easily purchased in Damascus, where it is effectively sold on almost every street corner for the affordable price of $2.
In fact, none of the aforementioned Anti-Semitic literature appear on the lengthy list of banned works in Syria, which allows these works’ uncritical dissemination. But perhaps the best and most influential example of anti-Semtism in Syria since the start of Bashar al-Assad’s rule is the twenty-nine-part Syrian television series Ash-shatat—‘the Diaspora.’
The writer, along with some of the Syria’s most prominent actors, have delivered an appalling compilation of anti-Semitic canards and libels, presenting Jews as the most wicked and immoral people on earth. Ash-shatat is not the only Syrian or Egyptian television production to spread anti-Semitism, but it is the most influential. The television series achieved a regional audience, airing in Iran in 2004 and in Jordan in 2005.