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March 23, 2014 2:13 pm

Egyptian Satirist’s Plagiarism of Jewish Author Prompts Anti-Semitic Maelstrom on Twitter

avatar by Joshua Levitt

UK-based author Ben Judah. Photo: Twitter.

UK-based author Ben Judah. Photo: Twitter.

Cairo-based satirist Bassem Youssef, the host of Egypt’s popular El Bernameg news program, sparked a controversy this month when he plagiarized an article about Putin’s Russia published in Politico by UK-based Jewish writer Ben Judah.

Judah, the author of ‘Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin,’  graciously accepted Youssef’s online apology, but Twitter users struck at the opportunity to malign Judah with conspiratorial and anti-Semitic comments, the BBC reported at the weekend.

The BBC online said: “It all began when [Youssef] submitted an article to Al-Shorouk, an Egyptian newspaper. Entitled ‘Why Putin does not care,’ the piece was a comment on the events unfolding in Russia. Although it was written in Arabic, sharp-eyed Twitter users spotted striking similarities to a piece called ‘Why Russia No Longer Fears the West,’ by British writer Ben Judah. Dr Youssef was quick to apologise. He posted a correction to the article crediting Judah, and blamed ‘work stress’ for the oversight.”

Judah responded graciously: “Last thing I expected to happen today would be to be involved in an Egyptian media scandal,” he tweeted, and later added. “I accept @DrBassemYoussef apology.” He also said “Egyptians! Free media essential @DrBassemYoussef does important work. We all make mistakes.”

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Youssef has a large following of 2.5 million Twitter users because of the popularity of his television program, reminiscent of Jon Stewart’s satirical Daily Show. Many of those followers “trolled” Judah, one sending him a photo of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. A Twitter user explained that some people saw it as an opportunity to go after Youssef because he plagiarized someone Jewish, “The knives are out for Bassem Youssef, and they think they finally got him,” the BBC reported Nervana Mahmoud as saying.

Judah tweeted: “Dear Egyptians! I was victim of stolen article, I accept apology, forgive man, I explain I believe peace and I get mass hate? Very uncool.”

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