BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - A TV channel run by the Hezbollah guerrilla group is offering viewers something special during the Muslim holy month: a miniseries about Israel's founding that Israel and the United States are denouncing as anti-Semitic propaganda.
``Al-Shatat,'' Arabic for ``The Diaspora,'' is airing nightly on the Al-Manar satellite channel during Ramadan, when religious sentiment runs high. Television viewership also runs high, and stations trot out their best programs - making the season the equivalent of sweeps month in the United States.
The series offers al-Manar's view of ``the stages of the Zionist movement ... how it was able to affect the decision-making centers in Europe and establish the Zionist entity in Palestine by criminal and dirty means,'' according to a statement from the station.
The U.S. State Department says it borrows from the ``Protocols of the Elders of Zion,'' a 19th-century anti-Semitic tract.
Al-Manar is known for airing diatribes against Israel and video of the Lebanese Hezbollah attacking Israeli soldiers. It commissioned a Syrian company to produce the series, which debuted Monday.
In one episode, Jews speak of a global Jewish government. In one scene, a diseased prostitute in a European brothel run by a Jewish madam says she doesn't want any Jewish customers because she doesn't want to infect them - implying that she would willingly infect non-Jews.
In another part of the program, Zionist pioneer Theodore Herzl is portrayed explaining how poor Jews worldwide should be brought to Palestine and given land.
Raanan Gissin, an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told The Associated Press in Jerusalem Wednesday that ``Al-Shatat'' was an example of ``what feeds the hatred and ... what feeds terrorism. The terrorism will never end so long as they (Arabs) are fed lies and hatred.''
``This is the greatest anti-Semitic diatribe that you can have,'' Gissin said.
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement the Jewish civil rights organization was ``greatly concerned about this program's potential to foment anti-Semitism at a time when anti-Jewish sentiments are rampant in the Arab world.''
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in Washington Tuesday that ``Al-Shatat'' presents as fact the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The protocols, which depict a supposed plot by Jewish leaders to take over the world, have long been dismissed by historians as a forgery concocted by Russian Czar Nicholas II's secret police to blame the country's problems on Jews.
Boucher said the United States was in contact regarding its concerns about the program with the governments of Lebanon and Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon, which also backs Hezbollah.
Gissin said Israel has not formally complained about ``Al-Shatat.'' Israel and Lebanon are formally in a state of war and have no diplomatic relations.
Al-Manar's assistant director general, Nasser al-Akhdar, said he didn't expect Lebanon to bow to U.S. requests because ``this is a matter of state sovereignty.''
There was no immediate comment from the Lebanese government.
Ramadan, a month of fasting by day and evenings spent feasting and watching television with friends and family, is traditionally a time when Arab producers try to display their best wares. Al-Manar billed its Ramadan offering as an ``artistic and historical Arab production'' and denied the program was anti-Semitic.
Last year, the Ramadan series ``Horseman without a Horse,'' aired on Egyptian television and on al-Manar, sparking criticism for its roots in the ``Protocols of the Elders of Zion.''
Lebanese viewer Hajj Hussein judged ``al-Shatat'' very good, ``and very strong against the Jews.'' He said he was watching it every night.
For Abbas al-Nouri, who stars as a Romanian Jew named Albert in the miniseries, ``Al-Shatat'' is about Arabs exercising their right to speak.
``I am honored to participate,'' al-Nouri said.
Al-Akhdar told the AP Wednesday the program is based on ``historical facts.'' The American criticism, he charged, ``unveils more of the level of connection between the American administration and Zionist decisions.''
You don't have the right to freedom of expression, press & speech. Only I have that so don't bother responding.
Isn't that what Israel & the US are saying? No, wait, American & Isaeli TV don't have hatred programs, don't report in new or act in movies with false "facts" about countries/groups, and definetley don't portray Arabs & Muslims as "bad" ppl in almost every movies & news.