Houthis must not be allowed to poison Yemeni youths’ minds
The brazen missile attack on Abu Dhabi last week served as a reminder to the world that the Houthis pose a threat not just to the people of Yemen, but also to the broader stability of the Middle East and beyond. It is really a reminder no one should have needed.
But as people see the Houthis, in political terms, through the lens of a national and regional conflict, we should not forget that they are heavily contributing to the evil of anti-Semitism. A fanatical and extremist ideology of anti-Semitism undergirds the Houthis’ political doctrine and platform.
Their motto, inscribed on their flag, reads: “Allah is Greater, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.” In schools, government buildings and the military, Yemenis must recite such statements as official credo.
As the movement’s founder wrote in the Houthis’ founding ideology: “Arab countries and all Islamic countries will not be safe from Jews except through their eradication and the elimination of their entity.” Eradication, elimination, extermination — we have heard these words before in humanity’s darkest chapters and we know that, once the seeds of prejudice and division are sown, it takes generations to rebuild understanding and unity.
Even though the Houthis have reportedly forced the last Jews to leave Yemen — ending a 3,500-year-old community history that long predates Islam — they persist with monstrous anti-Semitic propaganda.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph last year, Yahya Al-Yinai, a spokesman for the Yemeni Teachers Syndicate, noted that the Houthis have replaced nearly 90 percent of principals of the schools they control with their supporters. They have also made many changes to the curriculum, using it as a blueprint for hatred and anti-Semitism.
Independent studies of the textbooks used in Houthi-controlled schools feature animations and passages stating that America is the “Greater Satan” and that Israel is a “cancerous growth.” They include images of dead Yemeni children to desensitize youth to violence and motivate hatred of the West for alleged “aggressions.”
It would be one thing if these were only educational materials, but the Houthis are literally brainwashing Yemeni children into killing themselves for a cause nobody could naturally support.
Yemeni school plays now feature “martyrs” defying their grieving mothers to sacrifice themselves for the Houthis’ political purposes. Children who should be learning to read chant in unison and perform Nazi-style salutes. And images smuggled out of Houthi-controlled territory document forced marches of children to the front lines, where they have died in droves.
For what and to defeat whom?
Even though the group has reportedly forced the last Jews to leave Yemen, it persists with monstrous anti-Semitic propaganda.
Rabbi Marc Schneier
In a relatively short time, the Houthis have compiled a strikingly long list of official enemies: Yemeni moderates and dissenting tribes, Jews and Christians, Saudis and Emiratis, Americans and Westerners. With such a profoundness of hate embedded into their philosophy, it is no wonder that the Houthis have proved to be a menace to just about everyone who has attempted to engage with them. Everyone except their patrons, Iran and Hezbollah, that is.
It is lamentable that it took the unprovoked and heinous attack at Abu Dhabi — involving cruise and ballistic missiles, as well as drones — to prompt renewed global action to restore regional and collective security. We also once again witnessed the scourge of anti-Semitism in the US this month with the hostage crisis at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. It is obvious that the world must come together to prevent the proliferation of such acts of violence.
As UN International Holocaust Remembrance Day is commemorated on Thursday, we must remain vigilant and closely monitor the crisis in Yemen to ensure that the Houthis do not poison the minds of Yemeni children by sowing and propagating anti-Semitism, racism and hatred into the fabric of what was once a religiously diverse society.
- Rabbi Marc Schneier is president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and a noted adviser to many Gulf states.