The Holocaust in The Arab World

Gilbert Gilbert Achcar in The Guardian:

There is no dispute that Holocaust denial has been on the rise in Arab countries during the last two decades. This has been illustrated in a disgraceful way by the hero-like reception that Roger Garaudy, the French former communist turned Catholic, turned Muslim, turned Holocaust denier, received in several Arab countries in the late 1990s, after his sentencing by a French court for a Holocaust-denying book. Likewise, the rise of Holocaust denial among Palestinian citizens of Israel has been attested by recent opinion polls.

Yet western-style Holocaust denial – that is, the endeavour to produce pseudo-scientific proofs that the Jewish genocide did not happen at all or was only a massacre of far lesser scope than that commonly acknowledged – is actually very marginal in the Arab world. Rather, manifestations of Holocaust denial among Arabs fall for the most part under two categories.

On one hand, there are Arabs who are shocked by the pro-Israel double standard that is displayed in western attitudes towards the Middle East. Knowing that the Holocaust is the source of strong inhibition of western critiques of Israel, many Arabs tend to believe that its reality was amplified by Zionism for this very purpose. On the other hand, there are Arabs who express Holocaust-denying views out of exasperation with the increasing cruelty of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Unable to retaliate in kind, they believe that they can harm Israel symbolically in this way.

In both cases, Holocaust denial is not primarily an expression of antisemitism, as western Holocaust denial certainly is, but an expression of what I call the “anti-Zionism of fools”. Yet it remains a minority phenomenon in the Arab world, fought by enlightened intellectuals and politically educated activists who explain that such attitudes are not only based on ignorance but do a disservice to the Palestinian cause. They point to the way any utterances of Holocaust denial are relayed by pro-Israeli websites, which use them in their propaganda.

Much less reported, however, are public acknowledgements by Palestinians of the Holocaust and of the universal lessons it bears for all persecuted peoples and groups.