Top French-Muslim Movie Producer Slams Arab World for ‘Hatred of Jews’

Ben Said

TEL AVIV – A top French movie producer slammed the Arab world for its sweeping “Jew hatred” after being booted from North Africa’s most prestigious film festival because of previous collaborations with Israelis. 

In a Tuesday op-ed for French daily Le Monde, Tunisian-born Muslim Said Ben Said said that his invitation to participate in Tunis’ 28th Carthage Film Festival in Tunisia had been revoked because of a future project working with Israeli film director Nadav Lapid as well as his role as a judge at the Jerusalem Film Festival earlier this year.

Ben Said said that while he doesn’t blame the organizers of the festival since they were “probably right to spare both themselves (and me) a media lynching,” there is a hatred of Israel in the Arab world which people claim is the result of the plight of the Palestinians but in truth is far more complex than that.

“No one can deny the misery of the Palestinian people, but it must be admitted that the Arab world is, in its majority, antisemitic,” Ben Said wrote. “This hatred of Jews has redoubled in intensity and depth not because of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but with the rise of a certain vision of Islam.”

The 51-year-old, who has produced films by renowned directors including Brian De Palma, David Cronenburg, Roman Polanski, and Thierry Klifa.

According to Ben Said, part of the problem is that Arabs themselves deny antisemitism on the grounds that they are Semites themselves.

“Nothing could be more wrong,” he wrote. “The term ‘antisemitic,’ invented in Europe in the nineteenth century, never concerned the Arabs. It designated Jews exclusively.”

He recalled growing up in Tunisia and being taught passages from the Koran describing Jews as “treacherous, falsifiers, immoral, evil, etc., and, most importantly, these verses were the words of God.”

“Every Arab child grows up with these images,” he observed. “In an Arab Gulf monarchy, for example, today’s textbooks state that Jews are descended from monkeys because a verse from the Koran (II-65) threatens that Sabbath transgressors will be turned into monkeys.”

The Algemeiner cited Pew opinion polls from the Arab world in recent years that found that between 96 and 98 percent of respondents in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian territories held hostile views toward Jews. It also cited another poll showing that antisemitic views in Tunisia, considered a fairly liberal Arab nation, was at 86%.

Too many Muslims were unaware that “the Jews of the Koran were, in reality, the Jews of Medina, who had first been perceived by Muhammad as potential allies before becoming his mortal enemies, since they did not recognize him as a prophet,” Ben Said said.

“How many times have I heard people say in Tunisia that harvests are bad because the Mossad poisons the soil, or that the Mossad staged the 9/11 attack to help Americans get their hands on Iraqi oil?” he wrote.

Ben Said concluded, “the evil is there, lurking deep inside us.”

“Its roots are deep,” he wrote. “Hundreds of thousands of Arabs are murdered by other Arabs in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, but that is less important to us than crimes committed by the Israeli army.”

It is not the first time the Carthage Film Festival has ostracized participants for their affiliations to Israel or just for being Jewish, the report said. In 2014, French-Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy was greeted with protestors waving signs denouncing “Zionist power” in Tunisia. And iat the beginning og the summer French-Jewish comedian Michel Boujenah was targeted by BDS activists for performing at another cultural festival in Carthage.

A Tunisian court banned movie theaters from screening Wonder Woman earlier this year because of the main actress Gal Gadot’s Israeli background.