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11/23/02 - EGYPTIAN TELEVISION SERIES - 2002-11-23

One of Egypt’s most prominent human rights groups has criticized an Egyptian television network for including a long-discredited anti-Jewish slander in an adventure series now being broadcast throughout the Middle East. Free expression, said the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, “should not be abused to propagate events that might incite hatred.”

The forty-one part series is called “Horseman” [or “Knight”] without a Horse.” Produced by Egypt’s private “Dream T-V,” it has been airing nightly on private and state-owned television stations in Egypt and other countries since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began in early November.

The series endorses the existence of the so-called “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a fictitious document asserting a Jewish plot to take over the world, which was concocted in czarist Russia at the end of the nineteenth century. In Russia, the “Protocols” was used by the czar’s secret police as part of a campaign to demonize Jews and make them a scapegoat for the regime’s own shortcomings. Later, the “Protocols” was used in the Nazi campaign to blame the Jews for Germany’s ills. That campaign ended in the Holocaust, the systematic murder of six-million European Jews.

Mohammed Sobhi [SOHB-hee] is the lead actor and one of the producers of “Horseman without a Horse.” He plays an Egyptian in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who opposes British colonialism and later the Zionist movement in Palestine. Like others associated with the series, Mr. Sobhi has acknowledged that the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is a forgery. But he has argued that including it in the story is permissible because it helps to dramatize the anti-Zionist theme.

Not so, says Hafez Abu-Saada [HAH-fez AH-boo SAH-dah], secretary general of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. As Mr. Abu-Saada put it, “Supporting the Palestinian cause doesn’t need forged ‘Protocols’.” At the very least, as the Egyptian human rights group has urged, each episode of the “Horseman” series should begin with an acknowledgment that the story includes a slanderous forgery.

It would be even better, of course, if officials of television stations in Egypt and other countries would refuse to broadcast the series. Clearly, no responsible television official should want to broadcast false and racist forgeries about Jews or any other religious or ethnic group. If peace is ever to come to the Middle East, respect must be shown for everyone in the region -- Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.