Human Rights Organization: Antisemitic Literature at US-Backed Riyadh Book Fair a ‘Tragedy for the Jewish People’
A recent book fair in Saudi Arabia backed by the US government that exhibited and sold antisemitic literature is a “tragedy for the Jewish people,” one of the heads of an international human rights organization told The Algemeiner on Monday.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was responding to reports of the US’s involvement in the Riyadh International Book Fair 2016, which took place in March and saw some 500 local and international publishers displaying literature on a host of topics.
According to revelations by pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon, US Deputy Chief of Mission Timothy Lenderking at the US Embassy in Riyadh attended the fair, as did US Cultural Attache David Edginton, who was quoted by Arab News congratulating the Saudi leadership on hosting the event.
“First, I would like to congratulate Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Ministry of Culture and Information for professionally organizing this large event. We are very happy to participate in this major Saudi culture event because of its importance to our bilateral cultural relations,” he said. “The fair is a good opportunity for us and all participants and visitors to exchange ideas and information freely.”
In its report, Elder of Ziyon provided a photo of booth F66, which displayed books for sale on Jewish conspiracy theories, such as the antisemitic propaganda tome The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Jews and Freemasonry and Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Other works included several pieces of literature by Mansour Abdel Hakim, Islamic author of Women Who Deserve to go to Hell, a religious guide for women that issues warnings and punishments for those who divert from the path of Islam.
“The book fairs are in fact quite important world wide as they are a place for publishers, authors and, especially in the Arab world, a place for members of the general public to be exposed to knowledge, expand their horizons and their limited access to ideas from around the world. This is especially true when talking about countries that are not democracies,” Cooper said.
“I can understand why a diplomat would say they welcome such an opportunity as a book fair. The bad news is that unfortunately, when it comes to vetting and reinforcing antisemitic stereotypes, people publish books because they know there is going to be a potential readership,” Cooper continued. “Tragically — not just in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Egypt — you can go to airport bookstores in Malaysia and other Muslim countries in which ‘The Protocols’ are on sale and frankly, you might even say best-sellers.”
Cooper described The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as “an open-ended source of poison and hatred against the Jewish people.” He called on the US to partner with Arab countries to “fight the narrative of Jewish conspiracy on every single level.”
“Hatred of the Jewish people and the conspiracy mindset is part of the embedded staple mindset of tragically millions of young people who are brought up thinking this way,” Cooper stated. “The comment from the diplomat appearing to give his blessing over the book fair seems to be boiler-plate language. But what’s the tragedy? Whether or not the US embassy or the ambassador to Saudi Arabia would ever raise the issue of antisemitism with the rulers of Saudi Arabia to end Jew-hatred invoked by the likes of Hitler?”
The Algemeiner reached out to the US State Department and the US Embassy in Riyadh for clarification on the government’s involvement in the book fair. Both failed to respond by press time.