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November 22, 2002 - Image 26

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Orli The Fiddler

Fiddler

This Week

Washington Watch

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GLOSSMOIN

26

Congress upset by Egyptian TV show.

JAMES D. BESSER

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12:00

Bias And Dollars

T

he State Department isn't
exactly eating crow, but the
U.S. diplomats who last
week let Egypt off the hook
for the ongoing broadcast of an anti-
Semitic television miniseries are now
backtracking in the face of congres-
sional outrage.
The Capitol Hill backlash could
change the character of the annual
debate over Egypt's $2 billion in for-
eign aid, although it is unlikely to
change the outcome. At the same
time, there are hints the Bush admin-
istration wants to refocus U.S. aid to
Arab countries on democracy build-
ing. And that could pose big problems
for Egypt, the second biggest U.S. aid
recipient after Israel and a state that
has ruthlessly suppressed dissent.
The lateSt controversy involves the
Ramadan broadcast of Horseman
Without a Horse, an Egyptian televi-
sion miniseries based in part on the
anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of

the Elders of Zion. •
Jewish groups report that the Bush
administration pressed the government
of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
hard on the issue — but the Egyptians
steadfastly maintained they couldn't
stop the broadcast because it would be
a violation of free expression.
"That's particularly insulting because
there is no free expression or free press
in Egypt," said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-
N.Y.
But last week, after the first broad-
casts of the 41-part series, State
Department spokesman Richard
Boucher said the Bush administration
was satisfied that "there were no refer-
ences in the program to the Protocols
of the Elders of Zion czarist forgery
designed to incite violence against
Jews. We also welcome the public
assurances by the Egyptian govern-
ment that the program contains no
anti-Semitic material."
But the State Department changed
its tune after subsequent episodes
delved into the Protocols. Over the
weekend, a State Department
spokesperson said the show "does great
harm to Egypt's reputation." Despite
protests from Washington, the pro-

gram has been enthusiastically picked
up by television stations and networks
across the Arab world.
Rep. Engel said a cut in Egypt aid is
unlikely, especially now that
Washington is gearing up for an attack
against Iraq. Even holding some of
Egypt's money in escrow until the gov-
ernment cracks down on media anti-
Semitism, as the Anti-Defamation
League has suggested, is not likely.
But Engel said that there will be a
difference in the aid debate next
spring, with a closer examination of
exactly why Egypt needs more than $1
billion in military aid and more scruti-
ny of how economic aid is used.
"There will be a very active discus-
sion this time around about whether
our aid is contributing to Mubarak's
iron grip — and
whether some of the
aid is supporting the
same propaganda
organizations that are
spewing out all this
anti-Semitism," said a
congressional staffer.
ADL Director
Abraham Foxman
Rep. Engel
said despite mount-
ing pressure on the
Cairo government,
"this will probably not be a turning
point in relations with Egypt. But
there's no question it will sour rela-
tions. They have not shown an iota of
understanding of why this kind of
open anti-Semitism is a problem for
the Jewish community or for the U.S.
government."

Aid For Israel

Aid is also on the minds of Israeli offi-
cials, although with the U.S. budget
crisis producing panic in Washington,
they are broaching the subject with
utmost caution.
Despite a flurry of trial balloons out
of Israel suggesting aid requests that
could go as high as $10 billion, Israeli
sources say no decisions have been
made about how much or what kinds
of aid to ask for.
"In recent meetings (with adminis-
tration officials) we have discussed the
difficulties the Israeli economy is expe-
riencing," said an Israeli official.

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