One of the most hotly talked about books issued this year has been Gilbert Achcar’s ‘Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives.' Achcar is a Professor at the School of Oriental & African Studies. He is also a member of the Fourth International and sees himself, I assume, as a revolutionary socialist.
This is an important book, but it is limited to the Arab East and not the Maghreb, the countries of Arabic North Africa which the Nazis actually invaded and occupied. The book therefore only partially covers its chosen topic. Its other major weakness is that despite the author's pretensions to a Marxist analysis this is very much a descriptive book. It deals with various phenomenon but doesn't for the most part locate them in a historically materialist dimension. It is in short a good example of bourgeois history at its best!
The book has, however been warmly received by what I call the literary chatting classes. So it was no surprise to me that Brian Klug, founder of Independent Jewish Voices introduced the book in glowing terms at its book launch, though to be fair Brian does have criticisms (at least he assures me he does!). Brian is a good example of how the liberal and more thoughtful wing of the Jewish establishment, as opposed to the Melanie Philips and Geoffrey Aldermans of the Jewish Chronicle/Daily Mail axis, have become disenchanted with the mind numbing nationalist hysteria that defends Israel right or wrong,
The book covers a topic that has lacked any thorough or detailed research. Zionism has, through its scribes like Bernard Lewis, already decided that anti-semitism was endemic in the Arab countries. The emigration of the Jews of the Arab countries from 1948 onwards is seen by them as proof positive of this fact. In fact this form of bastardised empiricism, taking facts at their face value and building subjective interpretations upon them, is the hallmark of what passes for Zionist historiography.
The obvious connection, between the Palestinian Nakba and the subsequent emigration of Arab & Oriental Jews is conveniently passed over. Also passed over is the historic role of the Arab countries as a refuge for Jews from European anti-semitism such as the Inquisition. No less than Judaism’s foremost medieval philosopher, Moses Maimonedes, whose Guide to the Perplexed, is acknowledged as a foremost contribution to the Jewish philosophic tradition, had to escape for his life to Morocco and Egypt. Likewise the Jewish communities of the Arab countries, Tunisia, Morocco largely escaped the holocaust. Yet despite the opposition of the vast majority of Arabs to the Nazis death plans, not one Arab has been given ‘righteous gentile’ status by Yad Vashem, Zionism’s holocaust propaganda institute.
Some 1%, about 5,000 of the Maghreb’s Jewish population died under Nazi occupation and perhaps about 100 were deported to the death camps in Europe from Tunisia, primarily because they were ‘politicals’. Compare this with the overall average in Europe of around 70% extermination. In the Arab Righteous of the Maghreb, Robert Satloff researched into the "lost stories of the Holocaust's long reach into the Arab lands". This is the answer to those who claim that ‘anti-semitism’ is rife in Arabic countries.
Achcar’s book is particularly incisive when it comes to analysing the demonisation of the British-Zionist appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, the minor war criminal and leader of the Arab Higher Committee, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. The Mufti’s biography occupies more space in the Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust than any other Nazi leader – Himmler, Eichmann, Heydrich (the Engineer of the Holocaust – Reitlinger’s Final Solution) bar Hitler himself. So absurd is this that on Zionist sites such as the Emperor’s Clothes, in an article ‘Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin's Role as an Instigator of the Shoah (Holocaust)’ we learn that ‘There is overwhelming documentation of the role of Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, as a leading instigator of Nazi mass murders.’
Over the summer I wrote a review of the book for Permanent Revolution. I am in the process of writing a much longer review article for an academic journal, although this won’t appear for some months.
The mistreatment and persecution of Jews was no secret in North Africa. The North African Jews interviewed by Satloff who lived through this time repeatedly describe the indifferent reactions of many Arab Muslims. And cases of collaboration, as informers to the authorities and German troops or as guards in the numerous camps.
Which makes the stories of other experiences all the more moving. The express refusal of the Algerian religious and political establishment to become an accomplice in the French policy of Jewish expropriation is one example.
The Imams' resistance foiled the French authorities' attempts to buy the sympathies of Algeria's Muslim population with anti-Jewish laws. And even Messali Haj, the leader of the nationalist Parti Populaire Algérien, contradicted the French: "Restricting the rights of Jews will not bring new rights for Muslims."
The story of a Jewish woman from Tunis, who was hidden along with her family by a Muslim acquaintance for several months as a child, is a moving testament. When a German officer told this acquaintance that he intended to rape the child's mother, the family was spirited away by night to hide in a house in the country.
Review of Gilbert Achcar’s ‘Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives’