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US Jewish Leaders Protest Egyptian TV Series - 2002-11-01

The United States has complainted to Egypt and other Arab governments over plans to broadcast an Egyptian-produced television drama series partly based on the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The planned broadcasts have been condemned by U.S. Jewish leaders, who have urged the U.S. and European governments to intercede.

The State Department says U.S. diplomats have lodged complaints in Cairo and other Arab capitals over the plans to broadcast the dramatic series, which takes part of its inspiration from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forged document portraying an alleged Jewish plot for world domination.

The 30-part series was produced at a government-run media center near Cairo and is due to begin airing in early November during the Muslim Ramadan holiday period, when television audiences in the Arab world are at their peak.

The series depicts an Egyptian journalist at the beginning of the last century who seeks to uncover the truth behind the Protocols, which most Western historians say was an anti-Jewish tract concocted by Russian secret police near the end of the Czarist period.

The State Department gave few details of the U.S. protests, but a senior official said diplomats made clear U.S. displeasure over the programming, which he described as "racist and untrue."

The diplomatic action followed a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell last week from Abraham Foxman, head of the Jewish rights group, the Anti-Defamation League.

In the letter, Mr. Foxman said the drama series, entitled Horseman without a Horse, is only the latest in an on going pattern of anti-Semitic incitement in the Egyptian media.

In a VOA interview Thursday, Mr. Foxman said the Egyptian government, with its control of the broadcasting industry, is responsible for the inflammatory material, which he said cannot be defended as legitimate free expression. "It very ironic that in the Arab world and in Egypt, whenever they want to present something that nobody likes or thinks is offensive or hateful or anti-Semitic or biased, they hide behind freedom of speech and lack of censorship," said Foxman. "The truth is that the media is government-controlled, is has significant interests. It decides who the editors are, it hires them, it fires them and it is a controlled media. And so for them to hide under the skirts of freedom of speech and expression is sad and a hypocrisy."

Egypt's information minister, Safwat al-Sherif, in remarks carried earlier this week in the official newspaper al-Ahram, said the series contains no anti-Semitic content and that Egypt's media policy is to respect all monotheistic religions.

An official of Egypt's satellite Dream TV, one of the channels on which the series will be shown, said the controversial Protocols are only a small aspect of the story-line, which depicts the fictional journalist's coverage of the British mandate in Palestine, and the Zionist movement's efforts to establish a Jewish state.

In his letter to Secretary Powell, Mr. Foxman said Egypt's political disputes with Israel do not mitigate its responsibilities to combat hatred, and that President Hosni Mubarak must oppose incitement, especially at times of crisis with Israel or any other nation.