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The anti-Semitic outburst by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at the Islamic summit conference he was hosting last week is not surprising. Back in 1984 Malaysia - a country in which there are no Jews - prevented a visit by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra because of its intention to perform a work by a Jewish composer (Ernst Bloch's "Schelomo - A Hebrew Rhapsody") and this even before the intifada and with no connection to Israel. In 1997 Mohamad blamed Jewish billionaire George Soros for the currency crisis in his country.

Therefore, what is more worrying than the statement itself is a different phenomenon: that Mohamad's claim that, among other things, the Jews control the world, received the blessing of the Egyptian representative and aroused no reservations among the 57 states that participated in the conference and supported the renewal of the boycott of Israel. Indeed, the attitude of the Muslim world - Arab and non-Arab - toward both Israel and Jews, has become threateningly more extreme. Anyone who believes that it is necessary to make a supreme effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or to reduce its dimensions, will see in this development yet another reason to do so.

However, Arab-Muslim anti-Semitism also has an independent source and therefore it is difficult to believe that it will disappear even if the conflict ends. The anti-Semitism from the Arab-Muslim workshop, which is full of statements dripping with hatred, in fact increased during the Oslo years. In March, 2002, Al Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian government daily, described how Jews slaughter a non-Jewish boy and use his blood to bake cakes.

Following a harsh reaction from the United States, the editor of the newspaper published a kind of apology. However, no real apology ever came from Egyptian television for the broadcast of the anti-Semitic series "Headless Horseman." Egyptian intellectuals, as well as President Hosni Mubarak's advisor Osama Al Baz, did express reservations about the series, but "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," which was mentioned in the series, was reprinted and distributed in Egypt following the series.

In August of this year, Syrian Defense Minister Mustapha Tlass vehemently rejected the criticism of his book "The Matzah of Zion," which was first published in 1968 but was recently translated. In the book, the defense minister repeats the old canard of the Damascus blood libel of 1841 and describes how the Jews murdered a French priest in order to use his blood to bake matzos. Tlass relates how the Jews, with the help of their money and their influence, succeeded in saving the murderers from trial and how they tried to cause the affair to be forgotten, but in vain: "Today every mother knows that she must warn her son about the Jew who will put him into a sack, slaughter him and use his blood to bake the Matzah of Zion."

The use of the Damascus libel by Muslims is interesting. The element of blood is a key part of the mythology of Christian anti-Semitism, which sees the spilling of blood as an essential element of Judaism because of the covenant of circumcision, which involves blood. When Shakespeare put the famous monologue into Shylock's mouth, presumably the audience of its day thought: True, you have eyes and when you are pricked, you bleed, but you are circumcised and therefore you can't be like me.

The motif of blood in Christian anti-Semitism is also expressed in the belief - commonly held until very recently - that Jewish men menstruate. This characteristic is also attributed to Leopold Bloom, the hero of James Joyce's "Ulysses." Jewish men menstruate because they are not real men.

The blood motif originally had no Muslim parallel. The Jews are an inferior subject people but they are not different bodily from Muslims, who are also circumcised. The Damascus libel was therefore imported to the Muslim east from Christian Europe. This process is occurring even more strongly in our own time. "The Protocols," for example, are an import from Czarist Russia.

The problem is that in recent years there has also been movement in the opposite direction. Mahathir Mohamad and his ilk are fanning the fires of European anti-Semitism, which had appeared to have been extinguished. The most recent example of this reciprocal relationship is France, whose President Jacques Chirac prevented the publication of a harsh condemnation by the European Union of Mohamad's statement.

While, with respect to Arab-Muslim anti-Semitism, we can perhaps console ourselves that it will perhaps wane when peace prevails in the Middle East, with respect to increasing European anti-Semitism, fanned by the encouragement it is getting from the Arab-Muslim world, it is impossible to enlist similar consolation.