This paper seeks to explore the portrayal of Jews in the Pakistani press, both in Urdu and English newspaper editorials articles; the publications under consideration are Roznama Jang, Nawa-i-Waqt, Roznama Ummat, Roznama Express, the Nation a few others, these publications are said to be the most widely read & circulated. This paper will examine conspiracy theories articulated in the press, more specifically the rhetoric of an alleged 'Jewish conspiracy hatching on a global scale to destabilize Pakistan and Muslim and are proactively involved in the issues that Pakistan is facing'. This statement is not alien to any reader or viewer of the Pakistani Media; as such statements are made out repeatedly in reaction to events and are printed and broadcasted as News stories.
A majority of readers of the Pakistani press (more specifically the Urdu language press) perhaps have an understanding that the Socio-Economic crises in Pakistan are created by Israel, the United States of America and India (Jews, Christians, and Hindus respectively). Perhaps such thinking originates from a deep-rooted anti-Semitic sentiment that has become part of the shared belief in the Islamic world and has found rigid roots in the Pakistani public's perception, with Israel (specifically the Jewish community) being blamed for almost every problem, even if they are apparently not even remotely connected to the issue in question.
With India strengthening her ties with Israel since the mid-1990s, and also with the United, these developments is seen by Pakistani religious & political leaders as an alliance that poses a grave threat the Pakistan, and is proactively involved in creating menaces internally, mainly because it is an Islamic state. This is an ideological frame that has evolved into a 'conspiracy-theory narrative' that runs through the shared consciousness of the Public and in turn, this very notion sparks a public debate in Pakistan with these conspiracy theories accepted as Facts.
However, the questions will be more focused on the Jewish community and it's representation in the press, does it fall under Anti-Semitism? And how factual is the representation in general? Is there a distinction made between the Jewish diaspora and the state of Israel?
The articulation of the above problem lies in the general public sentiment in Pakistan, which largely views the Jewish community with hostility and holds them responsible most of their problems, this phenomenon is nothing new and has been there for quite some time, one might also argue it even predates the formation of the State of Israel.
This process mainly done by framing, 'Frames are the organizing principles that are socially shared and persistent over time, that work symbolically to meaningfully structure the social world' i.e. the way events and issues are organized and made sense of, especially by media, media professionals, and their audiences. (Reese)
Most of the hostility and enmity against Jews is largely based on speculation and myths, and in today's time Judaism is often confused with Zionism. Judaism and Zionism are often seen as one and perceived to go hand in hand with each other, it's also the official doctrine of the state of Israel, however this is only a binary viewpoint of the Jewish faith, this doctrine is challenged, debated and even rejected by the diaspora. (Kushner and Solomon)
This raises another question, this time it's towards the Pakistani Media & Journalists, are they are doing their job of informing and educating the public or they are actually promoting cultural and/or state biases? Since there are several hints of the Urdu press generally stereotyping Jews.
Findings & Analysis
Conspiracy theories circulated in the Pakistani press consists of a Triad of Pakistan's imagined enemies, which consist of India, United States of America and the State of Israel (Hindus, Christians and Jews respectively)
Liaqat Baloch is the secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan (JI) which is said to be the largest religious/political party in the country and mobilizes mass public opinion. He said that the Triad (USA, Israel, India) are perusing a one point agenda of destabilizing and weakening Pakistan, the United States aspires to cripple Pakistan on economically and militarily, whilst India wants to weaken Pakistan internally.
Syed Munawar Hasan is the Amir of JI, criticized the Pakistan Army on the military operations conducted against the Taliban, asserting that the main threat the Pakistan faces is not from the Taliban but the 'three enemies (The United States, Israel and India) which are the main source of evil'.
In July 2010, the Taliban carried out a suicide attack on the shrine of a Sufi Saint named Syed Ali Hajveri in Lahore, right after the attack was carried out, and the JI issued a statement accusing US Army Marines, Jews, & Blackwater of carrying out the attack, in spite of the fact that the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
Former JI Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmed also claimed that India and Israel were responsible for this act of terror and said that RAW & Mossad are responsible for attacks on the shrine of the Sufi saints as they want to spread sectarianism in the country.
Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, who secretary general of another religious-political party called Jamiat Ulema e Islam (JUI), also held India, American defense contractors and Jews responsible for the terror attacks in Pakistan; he stated that blaming the Taliban for every act of terrorism only serves the motive of the United States of America.
The fact that Americans and Jews are involved in terrorism activities in Pakistan and across the globe is turned a blind eye to, it's not that the Taliban aren't responsible but blaming them for everything isn't justified.
The statements cited above are not necessarily in reaction to terrorist activities, a few days before Lahore shrine bombing, Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer, who is the general secretary of the a very conservative Islamic group called Jamiat Ahl e Hadees (JAH), had accused India and Israel of fueling terrorism in Pakistan, further stating that the Pakistani government needs to keep a close eye on and monitor the participation of India and Israel in the recent chain of events involving terror attacks in Pakistan. He further asserted India and Israel are funding acts of terror in Pakistan.
The bombing in the Sufi Shrine in Lahore led to the emergence of an organization called the Sunni Itehad Council (SIC), which demanded that the government of Pakistan should act against the right wing militant organizations (which also happens to be from the Sunni genre) in Pakistan, the SIC is an organization which belongs to the Barelvi school of thought of Islam, they stand against The Taliban and organizations such JUI, JI, JAH which subscribe to the Deobandi school of thought.
As a reply to this imitative led by Barelvi clerics, Deobandi clerics organized a conference, where a prominent cleric Mufti Mohammad Naeem condemned the terrorists carrying out the bombing, but he also criticized the SIC for demanding an action against religious organizations who are pro-militant. Furthermore, he told the media in a press conference that the demand for a ban on these organizations by the SIC is equivalent to giving into demands by the Jews and Christians, demands of these sorts are being put forward by India and other anti-Islamic forces.
A few months later, following this conflict; another joint statement was by various prominent clerics which warned the nation against a conspiracy to hatch sectarian strife, in particular the Barelvi-Deobandi conflict, they further expanded that the 'US-India-Israel troika' are implementing plans to further divide and weaken the Muslim Ummah.
Statements of an international conspiracy and a teamed up attack are indeed a fascinating story to tell, but if they are observed rationally, such stories do not have any evidence or facts to back them up, despite the absence of facts and evidence, stories such as these do get published and are passed on as news, the Newspaper Editorial's opinion is perhaps one of the reasons why. Mr. Majeed Nizami is the Editor of an Urdu-language Roznama NawaiWaqt, he stated that India is on a mission to undo Pakistan, and a sinister alliance (U.S., Israel and India) is opposed to Pakistan.
Nizami has campaigned extensively over the years to create a public opinion which agrees to these statements, the main audience for these opinions are Students from schools and colleges, he states that the real target for the United States' war on terror is Pakistan, he further added that the United States is at the forefront of a crusade against Islamic world, this is evident by the Drone strikes being done in Pakistan and they must be replied to.
Conspiracy theories are instrumentally used by the Military
An Urdu language newspaper Roznama Express reported that Pakistani security officials have confirmed that the weapons seized from the Military offence (against the Taliban in South Waziristan on 2009) were of Russian, Indian and U.S origin, with Israel being the sole provider of Modern technology, there is significant evidence that the technology used in the Installation of the FM radio by Molvi Fazlullah was also Israel made.Roznama Jang also reported statements from senior Pakistani military officials that they have significant proof that Israel and India are provoking rebellion in Balochistan and Waziristan.
A Former Jamaat e Islami Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmed described the military operation to be a result of a conspiracy hatched by India & Israel in order to create rift and enmity between Jihadi groups and the Pakistan Army.
'The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism' (Fatah) Addresses in significant details on the issues of hostility that Muslims and Jews face against one other, by offering a historical viewpoint and as well as current and recent events that fuel this notion predominantly found in the Muslim world. He argues, with references to various Islamic Scriptures and sources, that most of the Hatred and hostility has its roots in mere speculations and what he calls 'The rhetoric of the screaming Clerics'.
This book also examines the voice of the Pakistani Muslim, which views the 'Global Jewish Lobby' and Israel for its troubles, one example is how the general opinion of the masses was that Jews were responsible for the Bird Flu outbreak, how in order for a Muslim, to establish his faith and credibility has to fully embrace these myths as facts.
'Diaspora: Generation and the Ground' (Boyarin & Boyarin, 1993) is an essay by two Jewish Rabbis living in NY, USA; they are Talmudic scholars and write extensively on Jewish issues. This piece focuses on the Diaspora, and Jewish identity, this article focuses on the Geographical and Genealogical grounds which shape the Jewish identity. They talk about what does the Jewish faith has to offer as compared to the Abrahamic religions (i.e Christianity & Islam)
Judaism for one, they argue, that celebrates diversity and individualism more, rather than Nationalistic Ideology.
To back this claim, they provide a number of Citations from various Jewish scriptures, writings, sources, et al. It also gives an interesting myriad of perspectives on the question of 'Diaspora' in the Jewish indemnity in different eras and places, most of the Jews had one thing in common, that Jews living outside of Jerusalem did not think themselves as exiled or oppressed, but were very much in roots with where they lived, and they did quite happily.
'What is Antisemitism?' (Halpern) Explains the history of the term, where does it stem from, its variations and its modern day implications, both ideological & psychological. He first explains through his experience, a sentence mapping with describes in detail on what the term 'antisemitism' actually refers to, and reiterates how it specifically refers to the Jewish faith, since Arabs & Ethiopians also fall under the Semitic language category, the term cannot be fully understood without keeping in consideration, according to the Author the events which took place between 1870-1950.
'Exploring the Symbolic Racism thesis: The German Sense of Responsibility for the Jews'. (Jerome) is a thorough evaluation of prejudice and bias against Jews as 'Symbolic Racism', utilizing the Linear Structural Relations method to analyze Data collected from Germans, this study was conducted in 1991. The results reveals that most Germans consider anti-Semite affect is separate from conservative values and the public perception of Jews' work ethics and morality, furthermore, the study indicates that negative racial stereotyping outweighs the other factors in explaining Germans willingness to assume responsibility for 'the Jewish Question,' which suggests that the German public bases its attitudes toward Jews on the crudest and most enduring stereotypes and feels little need to express its reservations in symbolic terms, and chooses the more overt method in doing so.
'Just War and Extraterritoriality: The Popular Geopolitics of the United States' War on Iraq as Reflected in Newspapers of the Arab World.' (Falah, Flint and Mamadouh) Is a study of 65 Newspapers of the Arabic Language, published in 17 Arab countries, out of which four were Iraqi newspapers.
The study specifically looked at the coverage of the US-Iraq War, since the United States positioned the military invasion as just and morally right, the resistance against this articulation is eminent in Arab newspapers, which deemed the invasion immoral. Understanding of the geopolitical rhetoric within newspaper reports and political cartoons published in Arab newspapers highlights the way that arguments of morality and immorality were connected to understandings of territorial sovereignty and hegemonic extra-territorial influence into territorial sovereign spaces.
'Does the Media Matter? A Field Experiment Measuring the Effect of Newspapers on Voting Behavior and Political Opinions.' (Gerber, Karlan and Daniel) Explains a field study conducted to measure the exposure to newspapers on political behavior and opinions, this was done by giving the randomly assigned individuals a free subscription of the Washington post & Washington times, before the 2005 election in the state of Virginia.
The results indicated 'there are no effects of either paper on political knowledge, stated opinions or turnout in post-election survey and voter data', However, the findings did indicate subscription to the papers yielded more support for the Democratic candidate, which suggests that 'media slant mattered less in this case than media exposure'. Evidence from voting records also suggests that receiving either of the newspaper led to an increase in the voter turnout.
'Newspapers and Political Awareness' (Mondak) this quasi-experimental study analyzes the theory of print superiority as it relates to the role of local newspapers in simplifying news and information about U.S. elections. The hypothesis being that the appearance of print superiority reflects variance in the characteristics of different news mediums' audiences rather than a unique capability of local newspapers to convey information.
However, the results indicated that exposure to a major local newspaper does not enhance knowledge of national or international politics, but it does contribute to the self-perceived knowledge regarding local political campaigns, which the reader already knows from various other sources.
'Social Construction of News' (Hall) is a theory which focuses more on a critical approach to the news presented to the public; he argues that the audience doesn't passively accept a text, news features such as Crime, social control etc. are often manipulated of socio-economic and political purposes.
Hall states that the Media does not simply and transparently report events which are 'newsworthy' but in fact; it is an end product of a long and complex process which begins with a systematic sorting and selecting of events and topics according to a socially constructed set of categories.
The news is not simply 'created', nor does it simply transmit the ideology of the 'ruling class' in a conspiratorial fashion, there is a structured relation between the Media and it's sources.
The prevailing tendency in the media is towards the reproduction, amidst all their contradictions, of the definitions of the powerful, the dominant ideology.