Posted by: sean | August 2, 2010

Review of The Arabs and the Holocaust

Things have been getting really tense in Lebanon as of late. Tensions with Israel have been rising, and with the news that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) will likely indict members of Hezbollah for the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the domestic front isn’t looking so great lately either.

I haven’t been paying nearly as much attention to the situation as I should, but you know who has? Qifa Nabki. He has had a string of posts dealing with the STL lately. I strongly suggest going over there to check out the recent developments, if you don’t already.

Otherwise, I have a review of Gilbert Achcar’s newly translated book, The Arabs and the Holocaust-The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives in this last weekend’s edition of The National:

While in 1956 the former French Prime Minister Guy Mollet considered Gamal Abdel Nasser to be a “Hitler on the Nile”, and David Ben-Gurion called Menechem Begin “a Hitler type” in 1963, these comparisons emerge more from the realm of political hyperbole than historical argument. The trend of painting Arabs (and Muslims) as Nazis, reinforced most recently by the neoconservative popularising of the neologism “Islamofascism,” can also be seen in depictions of Saddam Hussein in 1991 and 2003, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today. For some, all of these men are Hitler, Israel is European Jewry, and it is perpetually 1938.

Although the two often go hand in hand, there is clearly a distinction to be made between distasteful analogy and the historical argument put forth in what has become a cottage industry of recent books, websites and “expert analysis” purporting to draw a straight line from Hitler to Saddam, Hizbollah and Hamas by way of Hajj Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

The use of the Holocaust to tar Israel’s enemies in the Middle East has ebbed and flowed, becoming much more common after the 1973 surprise attack by Egypt and Syria, later dying down in the wake of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the subsequent Sabra and Shatilla massacres and the first Intifada – an event that pitted stone-throwing Palestinians against the Israel Defense Forces. But in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, we have seen a fierce renewal of the Arab-Nazi narrative. And it is onto this ideological battleground that Gilbert Achcar jumps with his fascinating new book, The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives.

Go read the rest here.



  1. I have to say that is a rather brave interpretation of History to say Husseini didn’t participate in the Final Solution. He is on record arguing publicly for the transfer of Jews from countries where they were not being exterminated to Poland where according to his public annoucements they would be taken care of… I only flicked through Achcar’s book but I certainly didn’t get the impression he was trying to seriously defend the indefensible. There was the usual BS about it not being pro-Nazism rather anti-British. He strangely doesn’t extend such “understanding” to the miniscule extreme right-wing segment of the Zionist movement that tried exactly once to contact pro-Nazi officers in Syria and as usual he tries to paint some sort of vague correspondence between a fringe group trying to come to a modus vivendi at a time when Nazi Germany was at the peak of its power with the Palestinian movement whose two major leaders sat out the whole war in Berlin. He also doesn’t mention that leader of the IZL died fighting on the side of the British – ironically in Iraq helping to put down the pro-nazi uprising caused in part by… the major leader of the Palestinians.

    As for the supposed difference in anti-semitism, whilst it is true the Arabs never carried out a genocide on the order of the Holocaust, neither did the Europeans until the Nazis and it is a truly heroic interpretation to say that there was no mal-treatment of Jews under Islamic rule prior to Zionism. One only has to look at the Koran for an example of one expulsion and one massacre.

    I am not sure what Achcar thinks has changed in Hamas that makes it no longer relevent to “judge” Hamas by a document it still enthusiastically supports, whereas the Likud has clearly and vocally changed it’s views on a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians – which doesn’t stop people throwing up a manifesto from over 10 years, a manifesto it should be pointed out that lost them the election.

    I am also amazed at the claim that Israelis refuse to “acknowledge the Nakba”, given the Palestinian refugee issue is officially in Israeli textbooks, that an Israeli historian – Benny Morris – is pretty much the only person to have done any primary research on the subject. The real reason Palestinians don’t want to acknowledge the Holocaust is because they want a monopoly on suffering and anyone who gives the topic more than 5 seconds of thought is going to be hard pressed to claim the Palestinians come even close to what the Jews – and others – suffered under the Nazis.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: