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April 6, 2016 11:56 am

State Department Denies Knowledge of Antisemitic Material at Saudi Book Fair Attended by US Embassy Reps (VIDEO)

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US State Department spokesman Mark Toner. Photo: Video Screenshot.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner. Photo: Video Screenshot.

The State Department on Tuesday denied knowledge of antisemitic literature promoted at a Saudi book fair in March, at which US Embassy staff were prominently in attendance.

During his daily briefing with reporters, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner responded to questions from the Associated Press‘s Matt Lee on the issue of US backing of the event, which had been highlighted by pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon and reported by The Algemeiner hours earlier.

“So, first of all, this is a – actually, first of all, we condemn antisemitism in all of its forms, as well as any other hate speech,” Toner said. “Second is, representatives of the US Embassy in Riyadh have participated in the International Riyadh Book Fair for multiple years as part of an effort to essentially distribute books to Saudi citizens that include books about democracy, tolerance, diversity, human rights, et cetera. The book fair itself is run by the Saudi Government’s Ministry of Culture and Information. So what I want to clearly state is we were just a participant. We weren’t aware that these books were going to be featured in this book fair. So we’re not a partner, we’re not a funder, we’re not a sponsor. We’re just simply a participant and we obviously, as I said, condemn any kind of antisemitic literature.”

Toner was referring to the report that literature on sale at the Riyadh International Book Fair 2016 included the antisemitic propaganda work, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; books on the alleged Jewish connection to Freemasonry; and Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf — and to the fact that Deputy Chief of Mission Timothy Lenderking at the US Embassy in Riyadh and US Cultural Attache David Edginton were in attendance.

According to Arab NewsEdginton congratulated 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.”

When asked to specify the US Embassy’s involvement, Toner asserted, “We have a booth at the fair, sell a wide assortment of American books, biography, children books, other materials, study in the US, and we do pay a fee for just that space.”

After Lee noted that he recalled the book fair also featuring antisemitic titles in previous years, Toner said the US was “not aware of the history here. My understanding is that we were not aware that these books were going to be featured at the fair. And I can also check on whether we raised this directly, our concerns, with the Saudi government.” 

When asked whether the US intends to participate in the fair next year, Toner replied: “I think we would weigh this very heavily, considering this incident.”

Watch the full exchange below:

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