Commentary Magazine


Topic: Arab culture

“Khaybar”—A Middle East Reality Check

Much of the discussion about the Middle East peace process tends to focus almost entirely on what Israelis do and what the implications of more concessions to the Palestinians will be for the Jewish state. Some of this emphasis is justified, as Israel ought to do what is not only right but is in its long-term interest. For some on the left that means ignoring not only the openly stated intentions of the Palestinians and their supporters in the Muslim and Arab worlds but also their long record of rejecting peace. But as difficult as it might be to focus the international press as well as liberal Jews on the historical record of the Palestinians and their political culture that makes peace improbable if not impossible, it may be just as important to broaden the discussion to that of the culture of the entire region. If Palestinians have never found the will to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn it is in no small measure because doing so is viewed as treason to the general anti-Zionist cause.

It is that context an item brought to our attention by the Elder of Ziyon website. In one we are informed that a new blockbuster miniseries slated for broadcast throughout the Muslim world in July as part of the region’s version of sweeps week for the Ramadan holiday may not be aired after all. But rather than “Khaybar” being axed for its widely reported anti-Semitic theme, the series may be in trouble because it portrays some of the Prophet Muhammad’s “companions” and therefore offends the religious sensibilities of Dubai TV and other broadcasters. While I have no position about what Muslims ought to consider taboo, the fact that “Khaybar” is still slated to run in most of the Middle East tells us more about what the contemporary Arab world thinks about Jews than canned statements about peace intended for the Western press that peace advocates rely upon.

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Much of the discussion about the Middle East peace process tends to focus almost entirely on what Israelis do and what the implications of more concessions to the Palestinians will be for the Jewish state. Some of this emphasis is justified, as Israel ought to do what is not only right but is in its long-term interest. For some on the left that means ignoring not only the openly stated intentions of the Palestinians and their supporters in the Muslim and Arab worlds but also their long record of rejecting peace. But as difficult as it might be to focus the international press as well as liberal Jews on the historical record of the Palestinians and their political culture that makes peace improbable if not impossible, it may be just as important to broaden the discussion to that of the culture of the entire region. If Palestinians have never found the will to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn it is in no small measure because doing so is viewed as treason to the general anti-Zionist cause.

It is that context an item brought to our attention by the Elder of Ziyon website. In one we are informed that a new blockbuster miniseries slated for broadcast throughout the Muslim world in July as part of the region’s version of sweeps week for the Ramadan holiday may not be aired after all. But rather than “Khaybar” being axed for its widely reported anti-Semitic theme, the series may be in trouble because it portrays some of the Prophet Muhammad’s “companions” and therefore offends the religious sensibilities of Dubai TV and other broadcasters. While I have no position about what Muslims ought to consider taboo, the fact that “Khaybar” is still slated to run in most of the Middle East tells us more about what the contemporary Arab world thinks about Jews than canned statements about peace intended for the Western press that peace advocates rely upon.

As the Anti-Defamation League reported in February, there isn’t much doubt about the intent of people that made “Khaybar”—which centers on the historical conflict between early Muslims and Jewish tribes in the Arabian Peninsula during the Prophet’s lifetime:

In an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm, an Egypt-based daily news­paper, on January 16, Al-Jindy said, “The goal of the series is to expose the naked truth about the Jews and stress that they can­not be trusted.”

Commenting on the recent changes in the region, Al-Jindy described the importance of recognizing the parallels between “the era of the Khaiber battle” and “contemporary times.”

Al-Jindy also seemed to sug­gest that the series will have a global effect. “I think it is time to expose them [the Jews] even in America itself. I am confident that the United States will realize that it paid a high price for supporting them.”

Khaybar has resonance with those seeking to destroy Israel because the Jewish tribes of the Medina area were conquered, treated with great cruelty and eventually expelled from the region in the year 642. Al Jindy authored another miniseries with anti-Semitic context called “The Wandering Jew.” Its producers are hoping to repeat the success of another series based on the fraudulent “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” that was a huge hit during Ramadan a decade ago.

Rather than dismissing this as irrelevant to the discussion of peace, the popularity of such smears should send a chill down the backs of those who continue to argue that Palestinians and the Arab world are ready to give up their hundred-year-old war to eradicate the Jewish presence in the region. So long as Khaybar remains a safe theme for broad-based Muslim popular culture, we’re a long way from peace in the Middle East.

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Arab Filmmakers to Celebrate Genocide

While Jews around the world commemorate the inability of an ancient villain to make good on his threat to wipe out the Jews of Persia with the holiday of Purim, some in the Arab world are preparing to celebrate one such effort that did not fail. In the seventh century, the large Jewish community in the Arabian Peninsula fell victim to the influence of the newborn Muslim movement. The result was that after a futile effort to defend themselves, the three Jewish tribes of the region–the Banu Nadir, the Banu Qainuqa and the Banu Qurayza–were all forced into exile after the battle of Khaiber. The Prophet Mohammed’s followers mercilessly slaughtered the bulk of the latter tribe. This sad chapter of history is little known in the West even among Jews but it is familiar to Muslims who, even today, use the phrase “Khaiber” as a battle cry to rally opposition to Israel and as an indication of their desired fate for the Jews who live in the Middle East today.

But as the Anti-Defamation League’s blog reports, a Qatar-based production company is slated to start filming next month of a multi-millionaire dollar television series focused on the events of Khaiber. The author of the script is Yusri Al-Jindy, whose work has previously depicted Jews and Israelis as bloodthirsty villains.

Arab countries, includ­ing Morocco, Egypt and Jordan, and will apparently feature several well-known Arab actors. Echo Media Qatar has reportedly started build­ing sets with struc­tures similar to the ones inhabited by Jews 1,400 years ago.

A report on Al Jazeera in Ara­bic yes­ter­day described “Khaiber” as “the most important feature of the Islamic-Jewish fight. Muslims always raise its name in their ral­lies against Israel because it constitutes a memory of a harsh defeat for the Jews who lived in the Arabian Peninsula during the time of prophet.”

The story of “Khaiber,” accord­ing to most Islamic sources, ends with the exe­cu­tion of thou­sands of Jews, includ­ing women and chil­dren. Protesters at anti-Israel ral­lies around the world, including the U.S., often evoke this battle in their chants to galvanize supporters.

According to Al Jazeera, Al-Jindy said he wrote the script because “the Zionist movement is currently passing through a turning point as a result of the changes in the Arab world.”

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While Jews around the world commemorate the inability of an ancient villain to make good on his threat to wipe out the Jews of Persia with the holiday of Purim, some in the Arab world are preparing to celebrate one such effort that did not fail. In the seventh century, the large Jewish community in the Arabian Peninsula fell victim to the influence of the newborn Muslim movement. The result was that after a futile effort to defend themselves, the three Jewish tribes of the region–the Banu Nadir, the Banu Qainuqa and the Banu Qurayza–were all forced into exile after the battle of Khaiber. The Prophet Mohammed’s followers mercilessly slaughtered the bulk of the latter tribe. This sad chapter of history is little known in the West even among Jews but it is familiar to Muslims who, even today, use the phrase “Khaiber” as a battle cry to rally opposition to Israel and as an indication of their desired fate for the Jews who live in the Middle East today.

But as the Anti-Defamation League’s blog reports, a Qatar-based production company is slated to start filming next month of a multi-millionaire dollar television series focused on the events of Khaiber. The author of the script is Yusri Al-Jindy, whose work has previously depicted Jews and Israelis as bloodthirsty villains.

Arab countries, includ­ing Morocco, Egypt and Jordan, and will apparently feature several well-known Arab actors. Echo Media Qatar has reportedly started build­ing sets with struc­tures similar to the ones inhabited by Jews 1,400 years ago.

A report on Al Jazeera in Ara­bic yes­ter­day described “Khaiber” as “the most important feature of the Islamic-Jewish fight. Muslims always raise its name in their ral­lies against Israel because it constitutes a memory of a harsh defeat for the Jews who lived in the Arabian Peninsula during the time of prophet.”

The story of “Khaiber,” accord­ing to most Islamic sources, ends with the exe­cu­tion of thou­sands of Jews, includ­ing women and chil­dren. Protesters at anti-Israel ral­lies around the world, including the U.S., often evoke this battle in their chants to galvanize supporters.

According to Al Jazeera, Al-Jindy said he wrote the script because “the Zionist movement is currently passing through a turning point as a result of the changes in the Arab world.”

The filming of “Khaiber” is just the latest instance of major TV productions in the Arab world (which are often broadcast in prime time during Ramadan) being used to promote anti-Semitic themes. Egyptian TV’s “Knight Without a Horse” blockbuster centered on the forged “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” canard. Echo Media Qatar has previously produced a film blaming the Jews for the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

But the “Khaiber” film is especially significant because it blends ancient hatreds with contemporary hopes for a similar destruction of the Jews. The goal of such a film is to dehumanize the Jewish people and to delegitimize their rights, especially to self-defense.

The genocide of the Jews of Arabia is a historical fact that speaks to the intolerance of early Islam that need not inform contemporary relations between Jews and Muslims. But the glorification of the slaughter of Arabian Jews more than 1,300 years ago is a not-so-subtle signal that justifies the efforts of those who intend a similar fate for the 6 million Jews of Israel. The embrace of these ideas by a popular Muslim audience is an ominous sign that the sea change in Arab culture that will be required to create a genuine peace in the Middle East is nowhere in sight.

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