A camera’s candid depiction of Egyptians’ hatred of Jews which the Guardian won’t report

For those unaware, Candid Camera was a popular U.S. show which involved concealed cameras filming ordinary people being confronted with unusual situations, sometimes involving trick props and false identities. When the joke was revealed, victims would be told the show’s catchphrase, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.”

Imagine the following scenario.

A new U.S. version of Candid Camera is aired on a national network.

On the first show, a famous older white, Southern American actor is interviewed about his career by a journalist who claims she is filming the show for a European TV station.

Then, sometime during the show, it is revealed to the actor that the journalist is not, in fact, working for a European station but, rather, for a African-American cable station: Black Entertainment Television (BET).

The actor is visibly enraged by the duplicity and especially furious that the interview is being aired on a black station.  He then expresses his outrage by throwing furniture, physically assaulting the female host and exclaiming “I hate blacks to death”.

What do you think would be the reaction by the American public to such a disgusting display?

Please keep that in mind while watching the following video of an Egyptian version of Candid Camera which aired recently, and translated by MEMRI.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFSDTyygeKs]

One of the many scenes which stand out is this one, near the end, when the actor reacts to finding out after his violent display that he was not in fact being filmed by an Israeli station.

A more exquisite example of raw antisemitism would be difficult to find.  

However, more broadly, such animosity towards Jews represents the views of the overwhelming majority of Egyptians – per a Pew Global Survey in 2010 which demonstrated that a remarkable 95% of those polled admitted to disliking Jews as such, and not merely Israelis. (Results were similar for the other Arab countries in the study).

But beyond such statistical evidence, further proof of the endemic antisemitism in the Arab world relates to the consequences of the anti-Jewish racism displayed by the actors on the Egyptian TV show. 

Will the actors be condemned by the nation’s opinion leaders or public officials?

Will they suffer any harm to their acting careers?

Will their lives in any way be negatively affected by such a disgusting display of bigotry?

Do we really even to need to briefly meditate upon such questions to arrive at the obvious answer? Of course not.

In truly democratic, liberal countries such crude behavior and expressions of animosity towards minority groups are often kept in check not, per se, by laws or other formal codifications of anti-racist norms but rather by the simple fear of public opprobrium.  

Such social costs for Judeophobic expressions in Arab public life are clearly absent.

Back in 2010, a few dozen rabbis in Safed signed a legally non-blinding religious decree forbidding Jews from renting apartments to non-Jews.  The decree was widely condemned by Israel’s political leadership, including the Prime Minister and President.  Further, the rabbi behind the letter (Safed’s Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu) was investigated by police on suspicion of incitement to racism.

At ‘Comment is Free’, Mya Guarnieri framed the decree as nothing short of a sign of Israel’s lurch towards fascism and a dynamic which “strikes at the soul of Judaism”. The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent published two additional stories on the incident. Moreover, the story garnered wide coverage, and condemnations, throughout the Israeli media.

Will the Guardian – or for that matter the media in Egypt – so much as mention (yet alone condemn) the ugly spectacle on Egyptian Candid Camera? 

No; democracies can not eliminate racism from the souls of their citizens, but in their most vibrant and genuine expressions, such progressive societies possess a natural social bulwark against the burgeoning of such moral darkness.

If the Arab world is ever truly to experience a genuine political spring, it must begin the process of adopting truly democratic cultural norms involving pluralism and tolerance.

The ugly display by Egyptian journalists and actors broadcast on Egyptian TV – for which they will almost surely enjoy social and legal impunity – is a sad reminder that though Egyptians may now enjoy political future which includes periodic democratic elections, genuine democracy is a long, long way off.

 

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