ANTI-JEWISH hatred - known as anti-Semitism - is spreading around the globe like wildfire and is not just confined to the current Palestinian conflict.
Now the hatred of Jews, fed by state-sponsored propaganda, threatens us all, argues newspaper legend HAROLD EVANS, a former editor of The Times and The Sunday Times.
JUST before he was given the boot by President Bush, Yasser Arafat made an extraordinary offer - extraordinary because it was not one of the specific demands Bush was about to make, extraordinary because Arafat acknowledged a hidden horror: the indoctrination of the delusional young people who carry out suicide bombings.
In a six-page private memorandum he sent to President Bush and Arab capitals outlining his 100-day plan for reform, Arafat said he would "renounce fanaticism in the educational curricula and spread the spirit of democracy and enlightenment and openness".
There is a lot under the stone Arafat has lifted. Fanaticism has been bred into the suicide murderers and millions of young people throughout the Arab nations with scant attention by media, governments, academia and churches in the civilised world.
The Palestinian schools, financed by Europe, are open sewers in terms of the hatred they see - hatred not just of Israel, but of all Jews and all their friends.
Dr Ahmad Abu Halabiya, former acting rector of the Islamic University in Gaza, speaks the message: "Wherever you are, kill the Jews, the Americans who are like them and those who stand by them."
|Teaching hate: Arafat admits indoctrination|
Arab leaders come to Washington and London and Geneva with formulas for peace, while at home they feed their populations with similar incitements.
It means that even if by some miracle there is agreement on the shape of a Palestinian state, there will be no peace in the Middle East for a generation.
The Israelis may forget or forgive the suicide assassins; the Palestinians may put behind them the humiliations of occupation.
But the political conflict over Palestine is only one aspect of the fanaticism that has been fomented.
It adds up to the dehumanisation of all Jews and it has been manufactured and propagated throughout the Middle East and South Asia on a scale and intensity that is utterly unprecedented.
|Fanatics: Members of Hamas burn Star of David flag|
This is something relatively new in the Islamic world. There was more tolerance for Jews in the Islamic empire than ever there
was in Christian Europe.
I was aware, as we all are, that the Palestinians hate the state of
Israel. What has surprised me is the virulence of this new anti-Semitism through all the Muslim countries.
It is frenzied, vociferous, paranoid, vicious and prolific, and is only incidentally connected to the Palestinian conflict.
Everyone talking about Palestine or terrorism is talking in a vacuum, for nothing can be understood without a proper appreciation of the way minds have been poisoned.
A single skinhead assault on a synagogue in Europe is news, but not the unremitting daily assault on Jews waged from Morocco to Cairo to Damascus, from Baghdad to Teheran, the Gaza Strip to Karachi.
What we are up against is best illustrated by what the Jews did to the World Trade Center.
Everyone in the Muslim world knows that September 11 was a Jewish plot to pave the way for a joint Israeli-US military operation against not just Osama bin Laden and the Taliban but also Islamic militants in Palestine.
On the day of the bombing, 4,000 Jews were absent from the World Trade Center; they had been tipped off.
I thought this canard had long ago vanished up its own orifice, but it was being retailed with all sincerity by a Pakistani taxi driver last week in New York.
Millions believe this rubbish, as a Gallup Poll has found after questioning people in nine predominantly Islamic countries - Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia, Turkey, Lebanon, Morocco, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia - representing about half the world's Muslim population.
Some 67 per cent found the attacks morally unjustified, which is something - why not 100 per cent? But they were also asked if they believed reports that groups of Arabs carried out the bombings.
Only in West-aligned Turkey was the answer Yes, but it was close; 46 per cent to 43 per cent.
In all the other eight Islamic countries, the populations rejected the idea that Arabs or al-Qa'ida were responsible. Who could be naive/crazy/malign/misguided enough to disseminate such fabrications?
The effluent is from official sources, newspapers, and television in Arab states, from schools and government-funded mosques, from Arab columnists and editorial writers, cartoonists, clerics and intellectuals, from websites that trail into an infinity of iniquity.
CNN will film American bomb damage in Afghanistan; al-Jazeera and the Middle East stations would never dream of talking to the orphans and widows whose loved ones were blown apart by a suicide bomber.
How could people be so susceptible to misinformation? Well, conspiracy theories simplify a complex world. But there is another explanation for the potency of lies today. It is the aura of authenticity provided by technology, by the Internet.
A Pakistani editor explaining why he printed the 9/11 conspiracy lie said: "When you see something on a computer you tend to believe it is true."
The smear that defiles the Jews who died in the World Trade Center owes its original currency in September 2001 to a website called InformationTimes.com, an "independent news and information service" whose address was given as the Press Building in Washington.
I thought it worth asking the editor in chief, Syed Adeeb, for the evidence.
He told me his source was the TV station Al-Manar, in the Lebanon. When I asked if he had any qualms about relying on Al-Manar because it was a mouthpiece for the terrorist group Hezbollah, Adeeb's reply was: "Well it is a very popular station."
At the end of the line of incendiary headlines and careless propagation of e-mail there is Danny Pearl, tortured and butchered because he was a Jew and a reporter.
Unfortunately, reporting and comment in the West all too often, with the best of motives, ingenuously reinforce the anti-Semitic mindset.
Take the battle of Jenin. The presumption in the feeding frenzy in the best newspapers in Europe and in hours and hours of television was that the Palestinian stories of 3,000 killed and buried in secret mass graves must be true.
The Guardian was even moved to write the editorial opinion that Israel's attacks on Jenin were "every bit as repellent" as Osama bin Laden's attack on New York on September 11.
Every bit as repellent? Did we miss something? In fact, there was no massacre, no mass graves. Human Rights Watch has since put the death toll at 54.
To describe suicide bombers as "martyrs", as a recent British headline did, is to endorse a barbarity; it is a defamation of historic martyrs who gave their lives to save others, not to kill randomly for financial reward for their families.
The fanaticism Arafat offers to renounce - as a bargaining chip, not a moral principle - is the fanaticism stimulated by his Palestinian Authority which, among other enlightenments, makes educational films of little girls singing their dedication to martyrdom.
It is hard looking for sanity to put in the picture. I thought it might be found in the Department of Psychiatry at Ein Shams University in Cairo.
Well, here is Dr Adel Sadeq on suicide bombers: "As a professional psychiatrist, I say that the height of bliss comes with the end of the countdown: 'ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one'.
"When the martyr reaches 'one' and he explodes, he has a sense of himself flying, because he knows for certain that he is not dead. It is a transition to another, more beautiful world.
"None in the Western world sacrifices his life for his homeland. If his homeland is drowning, he is the first to jump ship. In our culture it is different - this is the only Arab weapon there is and anyone who says otherwise is a conspirator."
The Muslim world's relentless caricatures of the Jew are boringly on the same one note; Jews are always dirty, hook-nosed, money-grabbing, vindictive and scheming parasites.
They are barbarians who deliberately spread vice, drugs and prostitution and poison water.
Apart from the volume and intensity of the multi-media global campaign, there has been an ominous change in political direction.
Arab frustration with the recognition of the state of Israel after the Second World War has for decades been expressed as 'why should the Arabs have to compensate the Jews for the Holocaust that was perpetrated by the Europeans?'
Today the theme is that the Holocaust is a Zionist invention. It is expressed with a vehemence as astounding as the contempt for scholarship.
A typical columnist in Al-Akhbar, the Egyptian Government daily, on April 29: "The entire matter (the Holocaust), as many French and British scientists have proven, is nothing more than a huge Israeli plot aimed at extorting the German Government in particular and the European countries."
By comparison with the phantasmagoria, it seems a small matter that without exception Palestinian school textbooks supplied by the PA Authority, and funded by Europe, have no space in the maps for the sovereign state of Israel, no mention of its five million people, no recognition of the Jews' historic links to Jerusalem.
The Palestinian claim to statehood is unanswerable, and with wiser leadership it would have been flourishing for years. It is tragic that the cause is now being so ruthlessly exploited with Jew as a codeword for extremist incitement of hatred of America and the West.
This is jihad. It is aimed at us all, at Europeans who "look like" Americans because they believe in liberal democracy and are infected by American culture. But its first victims are the Palestinians and the frustrated masses of the Muslim world.
Their leaders have led them into ignominy in three wars. They have failed to reform their corrupt and incompetent societies.
Habits of mind tending to approve terror are becoming ingrained in the Muslim world, sanctioned by the lethargy and prejudice in Europe: Those Palestinians who danced for joy on September 11 were not al-Qa'ida, but their acceptance of terror as a substitute for politics does not augur well for the future of their country or the possibilities of peaceful political dialogue in any of the Arab states.
This article is abridged from a Harold Evans lecture prepared for the 30th anniversary of Index On Censorship.