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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
US anti-Semitism law perturbs Arab press

Many Arab newspapers have condemned the new US law authorising the State Department to monitor anti-Semitism worldwide and produce annual reports critical of those countries where it is seen to be prevalent.

President George W Bush announced a few days ago that he had signed into law the bill authorising the US to rate countries on the way they treat Jews.

Racist legislation which is anti-Arab and Muslim
Al-Quds Al-Arabi

Most commentators believe it panders to the Jewish lobby in the US and is aimed against Arabs and Muslims. However, one dissenting voice considers it a positive move in the battle against racism.

The London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi considers the law "basically racist legislation which is anti-Arab and Muslim under the guise of outlawing anti-Semitism".

Accusations of bias

"President Bush does not want to acknowledge that Arabs are also a Semitic people who have suffered a great deal from wars launched by him alongside his friend [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon."

Saudi Arabia's Al-Jazirah argues that the promulgation of the law "shows the extent to which the US is prepared to go to protect such an aggressive and renegade state" as Israel.

It accuses Washington of "abandoning the principles of international law and justice to put its weight behind such a pariah entity".

For another popular pan-Arab daily, Al-Hayat, "this law affirms once again that whatever is in Israel's interest is in America's interest and vice-versa".

A commentary in the paper is headlined "God's chosen people".

The Palestinian paper Al-Ayyam is convinced that any State Department list of states where anti-Semitism is considered to be a problem will "be a 100% Israeli".

'Foolish policies'

Al-Arab al-Alamiyah, a pan-Arab daily with a pro-Libyan stance, argues that the issue "should not be about anti-Semitism but about Israel's racist policies".

"Israel refuses to accept this truth and Washington accepts Israel's argument in its entirety when it comes to the definition of anti-Semitism."

No wonder, Al-Arab al-Alamiyah believes, that "enmity towards America and its foolish policies in the world is growing".

It is better to say yes to this law and demand it should be extended to everyone who encourages racism against Muslims, blacks and other minorities
Al-Sharq al-Awsat

However, another influential pan-Arab daily, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, is convinced the law could turn out to be a force for good.

"There are fears that the anti-Semitism Law signed by the US Administration will turn out to be against the rights of Arabs in their dispute with Israel.

"However, despite the likelihood that the word anti-Semitism will be construed in various ways, we should take it for what it is - a law to monitor and not punish.

"In view of the fact that this law is an anti-racism law, one should encourage it rather than condemn it. It is better to say yes to this law and demand that it should be extended to everyone who encourages racism against Muslims, blacks and all other minorities."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

US diplomats baulk at Jewish bill
14 Oct 04  |  Americas

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