French authorities have subpoenaed the editor of the largest Egyptian government daily newspaper as part of an investigation into his alleged anti-Semitism and incitement to violence, reports the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI, an independent, nonprofit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.
The Paris subpoena comes nearly two years after Ibrahim Nafi’, editor of Al-Ahram, published a story on Oct. 10, 2000, titled “Jewish Matzo is Made of Arab Blood.” The story was based on the 1840 accusation that the Damascus Jewish community murdered a priest and his assistant to obtain their blood for making Passover matzo, or unleavened bread.
According to MEMRI, Nafi”s subpoena was described by the Arab media as “intellectual terrorism,” “a blow to freedom of expression,” “a Zionist attack on the Egyptian press,” “extortion by the Zionist lobby in France,” and even “an insult to the entire Arab press,” since Nafi’ is chairman of the Association of Arab Journalists. The Arab press accused the Zionist lobby of attempting to “silence [the Arabs] and prevent revelations of [Israel's] racist and terrorist actions against the Palestinian people.”
The Arab media further claimed that Arabs could not possibly be accused of anti-Semitism since they themselves are Semites. Instead, they accused Jews of attempting to monopolize the term “Semite.” In the same vein, Jews were accused of “brandishing the sword of anti-Semitism” against anyone opposed to Israel and Zionism. In all references to the matter, the Arab press presented the blood libel underpinning the subpoena as a “[true] historical event.”
Since the announcement that Nafi’ was to be subpoenaed, Al-Ahram has been inundated with declarations of support from Egyptian and Arab public figures and organizations. Various organizations expressed willingness to help with his legal defense, while top clerics, politicians, diplomats, newspaper editors, journalists, jurists, intellectuals, businessmen, financiers and many Arab organizations published statements of solidarity.