Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £29.99 £19.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

Antisemitism in the media: varying trends

Antisemitism in the media: varying trends
In modern times, the media has become a powerful tool in shaping the collective consciousness. It is therefore extremely interesting to see how antisemitic discourse is expressed and transmitted in the various types of media active in the Arab and Islamic world today. Antisemitism is expressed in the media and Muslim world in many ways. It can be occasional statements against the Jews, of Jewish control over the world media, Jewish control over the banking. For instance in Turkey, when Turkey was under pressure by the IMF and had some economic problems, various … including Turkish politicians accused the “interest lobby in the world” which in Turkish parlance is very clear - it means the Jews.
We can see manifestations of antisemitism in Western media, be it by occasional citations of antisemitic tracts, in order to explain various political events or, sometimes, special programs dedicated to supposedly Israel, but using antisemitic texts such as The Protocols or even sometimes blood libels against Jews. Another very common media phenomenon is broadcasted sermons of Muslim preachers all over the Muslim world, in which you can hear almost all the time anti-Jewish themes and you can also sometimes see it in … there’s one very popular thing is that in the recent years anyone you don’t like becomes Jewish.
During the Arab upheaval from 2011 onward we saw that leaders such as Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Bashar al Assad in Syria, Muammar Qaddafi have all become Jewish. The Iranians, for instance, when they attack the Saudi royal family, they in fact claim a Jewish ancestry to this Saudi royal family. You can sometimes, by the way, find it inside Iran. Enemies of Ahmadinejad accused him of being a descender of Jews etc. This phenomenon is very important because in a sense the Jew has become the metaphor of evil. The moment you say something is Jewish, it is clear that it is bad.
Another - you can say - indirect manifestation of antisemitism is the total refusal or opposition to show any let’s say foreign movies, programmes, or documentaries that may show positive sides or, for instance, discuss the Holocaust. This is a taboo in most Arab and Muslim media which means that then the viewers or listeners know only one side of the picture. They never get to see anything that may present the Jews in any positive way. So you can sum it up in a sense of sometimes direct, concerted, antisemitic programs or efforts and, very often, occasional bypassing anti-Jewish statements which reveal - you can say - how deeply rooted these feelings are among at least the media personalities.
We can see that antisemitic discourse has clear and extreme expressions in the media of the Muslim world. This does not mean that Jews and Israel are the main interest in the media of this world. There are of course other issues, originating in the Arab world itself, such as the tumultous events of the Arab Spring, that figure more prominently. However, antisemitic discourse continues to appear. As we will now see, though, in certain forms of media, such as the printed- written form, there does appear to be some level of change. When we talk about the media today, we talk not only about newspapers but of course social networks, the internet.
And they are involved in a kind of antisemitic discourse although the situation today of the Arab world as a result of the upheavals of the Arab Spring make it quite awkward to deal with antisemitism because after all they have many more problems to tackle. But still we find a lot of antisentiments. Most of the manifestations of antisemitism are in fact verbal. And we have two kinds of things - written stuff and sermons. The sermons usually are again in Mosques - religious. There is no state antisemitism. The way it was in earlier stages of the Arab-Israeli conflict except for Iran which still promotes Holocaust Denial.
But in general I think that the level of antisemitic writings is decreasing mainly because the cirumstances, the political circumstances, changed. Although the regimes do not control every article but still the atmosphere is that times are changing and we have to accept in a way Israel as a matter of fact. To this I would add that there are also many critical voices of antisemitism in the Arab writing nowadays, and this is connected really with the criticism leveled against a Muslim extremism and corruption and all kinds of I wouldn’t say backwardness but closed-minded society.

Prof. Meir Litvak, Dr. Esther Webman

In modern times, the media has become a powerful tool in shaping the collective consciousness. It is therefore extremely interesting to see how antisemitic discourse is expressed and transmitted in the various types of media active in the Arab and Islamic world today.


  • Ben Moussa, Mohamed and Aziz Douai, eds., Mediated Identities and New Journalism in the Arab World Mapping the “Arab Spring” (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

  • Gunter,‏ Barrie and Roger Dickinson, eds., News Media in the Arab World: A Study of 10 Arab and Muslim Countries (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013).

  • Shavit, Uriya and Ofir Winter, Zionism in Arab Discourses (Manchester: Mancherster University Press, 2016).

  • Webman, Esther, “Discourses on Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Arab Media,” European Societies, vol. 14, no. 2 (2012), pp. 222 – 239.

  • Webman, Esther, “The ‘Jew’ as a Metaphor for Evil in Arab Public Discourse,” Journal of the Middle East and Africa, vol. 6 (2015), pp. 275 – 292.

This article is from the free online

Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now