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US Criticizes Allegedly Anti-Semitic Egyptian TV Show

The United States is expressing deep displeasure with Egypt over the broadcast by Egyptian state-run television of episodes of a dramatic mini-series with anti-Semitic content. The controversial broadcasts have spurred calls in the United States for cutting U.S. aid to Egypt.

The State Department says it is "very disappointed" that Egyptian television would air a program that includes scenes treating the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic forgery, as fact.

It says the broadcasts do "great harm" to Egypt's reputation, and says the United States will continue to press its "serious concern" over the matter to the Egyptian government.

The comments are in response to the broadcast in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world of a dramatic series produced in Egyptian government-run studios on the origins of the Middle East conflict that its author admits draw on the Protocols.

That document, which western historians say was concocted in Czarist Russia more than century ago, describes a Jewish plot for world domination and was used in Russia and later in Nazi Germany as a pretext to persecute Jews.

U.S. officials had been concerned about the series in advance of its airing, but had withheld direct criticism because the early episodes had not contained objectionable material.

They say the assessment changed this week, when the series, being shown in the prime Ramadan-holiday broadcast period, included depictions of scenes from the Protocols.

A State Department spokeswoman said the programming does not contribute to the climate of mutual understanding and tolerance that the Middle East so badly needs.

The producers of the Egyptian series, entitled Knight without a Horse, have denied it is anti-Semitic and officials in Cairo have said U.S. complaints about it amount to attempts at censorship.

U.S. Jewish leaders had urged the Bush administration to intercede. And there have been calls for cutting U.S. aid to Egypt over the affair, including a Washington Post editorial Friday which accused Egypt's government of helping inject what it termed "fundamental hatred of Jews" into mainstream Arab politics.

Asked about the Post editorial, the State Department spokeswoman said the Bush administration continues to believe that aid to Egypt is in the United States' strategic interests and contributes to a stable Middle East.

However, she said the administration is in the process of reviewing all its assistance programs in the Arab world including Egypt.

She said one of the objectives is to increase the proportion of funds that go to promote democracy and the rule of law, including activities that would "strengthen civil society and responsible debate" in Egypt.

Egypt gets nearly $2 billion in U.S. aid each year and is the second-largest single recipient of U.S. assistance behind Israel.