May 07, 2002

WASHINGTON (AP) - Anti-Semitism in newspapers and on television throughout the Muslim and Arab world is becoming more widespread and intense, an American Jewish group charges in a new study.

Jews and Israelis are portrayed in the media of many Arab and Muslim countries as criminals, racists and a ``hateful, loathsome people to be feared and avoided,'' according to the American Jewish Committee report, released before the group's annual meeting here.

``The stream of vitriolic and verbal imagery extends from Morocco to the Gulf states and Iran,'' the report said. ``It is as strong in supposedly 'moderate' Egypt as it is in openly hostile Arab nations such as Iraq, Libya and Syria.''

In one recent case, a Saudi editor said in March that his newspaper should not have published an article that depicted the Jewish holiday of Purim as bloody, violent and racist. The article described Jewish people as vampires who bake cookies with the blood of non-Jews.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at the time that Washington had lodged a complaint about the article with the Saudi government, which appoints top editors there.

President George W. Bush and other U.S. officials also regularly voice concern about anti-Jewish rhetoric in talks with leaders of Egypt and Jordan, both of which have peace treaties with Israel.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said he cannot control the Egyptian press, although his government also appoints some top editors. Some of those editors say such anti-Semitic articles and cartoons arise because of empathy with the Palestinians in their struggle against the Israelis.

The report's author, Robert S. Wistrich, who teaches at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, noted that some Arabs and Muslims attempt to draw a distinction between legitimate political opposition to Israel's policies toward the Palestinians, and such anti-Semitism.

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