In the Straightjacket of Anti-Zionism: A critical review of Gilbert Achcar’s The Arabs and the Holocaust
This review is published exclusively on Engage
In almost every part of the world, since the end of the Second World War, “Nazi” has been a synonym for “criminal”. Not so, however, in the Arab world, where positive references to Hitler and the destruction of the Jews have been an accepted part of public discourse for decades. For this reason alone – but also in the light of the current upheavals in the region – the topic of Gilbert Achcar’s recent book, The Arabs and the Holocaust, is of great importance.
In the first part of his book, Achcar tackles the issue of “Arab Reactions to Nazism and Anti-Semitism, 1933-47“. A good half of this part is devoted to an account of the origins of the Islamist movement, described as the “reactionary and/or fundamentalist pan-Islamists”, in the Arab world. Further chapters deal with the attitude of the other political currents in existence in this period: the “Liberal Westernizers“, “Marxists“ and ”Nationalists“.
In the second part the author deals with “Arab Attitudes to the Jews and the Holocaust from 1948 to the Present“. The treatment of these matters is divided into three successive epochs, “The Nasser Years (1948-67)“, “The PLO Years (1967-88)“ and “The Years of Islamic Resistances (1988 to the Present)“.
“A straightforward and logical structure”, thinks the reader, as he opens the book with eager anticipation. Alas, the experience of actually reading it confirms the verdict of two history professors, Stephen Howe and Jeffrey Herf, that “Achcar is a man at war with what he has written in his own book“ and “a combatant, and even victim, in such a war within his own pages“.
Another way of putting it would be: this is a book in which an author from the political left seeks to protect the dogmas of Western anti-Zionism from the reality of Arab antisemitism….
Dr. Matthias Küntzel is a political scientist and teaches political science at a technical college in Hamburg , Germany.
Dr. Colin Meade teaches at London Metropolitan University, in the Faculty of Law, Governance and International Relations.
This review is published exclusively on the Engage
Gilbert Achcar is invited to respond to this review on the Engage website.
UPDATE: Matthias Küntzel and Colin Meade have changed the order of the references in footnotenumber 30