Triangulating Nigel Kennedy

A bit of an update on Israel-boycotting violinist Nigel Kennedy. These days he plays with one of Gilad Atzmon’s musical associates Yaron Stavi and has earned himself the support of Paul Eisen*. So when Robert Wyatt mentions Stavi and Kennedy approvingly in the Morning Star directly after a reference to ‘zionazis’, it’s not so much surprising as shameful.

Because it suits Paul Eisen’s politics to cheer for holocaust denial**. Because Gilad Atzmon denies the Holocaust even while nodding along with  The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Because Wyatt’s ‘zionazi’ isn’t criticism, it’s just a good way to hurt a bunch of people who lost loved ones, homes, futures to the Nazis. Because Yaron Stavi is chummy with all of them. And because the Morning Star hasn’t resembled a genuine communist paper for years.

How is any of this pro-Palestine? Palestine supporters who think that picking on Jews is activism – they always damage their cause. They always end up sending a message that Jews and Israelis should be scared and defensive. Their work is a mockery.

HT Jim


Matthias Küntzel and Colin Meade debate with Gilbert Achcar

Here is Matthias Küntzel and Colin Meade’s critique of Achcar’s book, The Arabs and the Holocaust.

Here is Achcar’s resposne.

Now Matthias Küntzel and Colin Meade have responded as follows:

Gilbert Achcar has decided, at least for the time being, not to deal with our central arguments, writing that “I won’t here discuss the substance of the two authors’ comments.“  This is his prerogative and we have no objection to his exercising it.

We are, however, surprised to find him indulging in ad hominem attacks: “Küntzel is the author of an infamous Islamophobic book” and both of us are “pro-Zionist zealots”, who are “much more fanatical in their defence of Israel than the Israeli mainstream itself” and to whom “standard academic practices … seem to be totally alien.”

Our critique of his book is not about Zionism or Israel, but about antisemitism and Holocaust denial in the Arab world – topics of major importance and topicality. By resorting to insults, Achcar confirms what we say in our review: that he considers those who takes these matters seriously to be Zionist propagandists.

The explicit message to the readers of this homepage is: don’t start reading the book review by Küntzel and Meade. The implicit message is: those in Britain who wants to avoid such insults should refrain from taking a serious interest in contemporary Arab antisemitism.

He supplements his attack with a hefty dose of self-praise.  Almost half of his text is devoted to an approving article from April 2010, to which he later adds: “My own book was praised by prestigious Holocaust scholars and Israeli scholars (Michael Marrus, Francis Nicosia, Peter Novick, Avi Shlaim, Idith Zertal).“

True enough. But does he think this is some sort of answer to the points we make? Leaving aside the fact that we mention his book’s supporters in our text, it should be noted that the support is reciprocal: Achcar praises or favourably quotes all the above authors in his book.

However, the centrepiece of his response, is the following extract from one of his interviews:

“The [Holocaust] denial in the Arab world today comes mainly from ignorance. However, you have to distinguish it from the Holocaust denial in the West, which is a pathological phenomenon. In the West, these people are mentally ill, complete anti-Semites. In the Arab world, the denial that exists among certain strains of public opinion, who are still in the minority, comes from rage and frustration over the escalation of Israeli violence, along with the increased use of the Holocaust. It began with the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.”

This quote is not taken from his book but from the journal that we mentioned in our (now corrected) footnote.

We quoted this paragraph as follows: “The denial in the Arab world … began with the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.” Achcar calls this a distortion and claims: “It is clear from the context that what I mentioned – and, mind you, this was an interview done over the phone – as beginning in 1982 is Israel’s ,increased use of the Holocaust’.”

Our interpretation of this passage was the obvious one. If Achcar now wishes to make it clear that he believes Arab Holocaust denial began earlier, then that is fine by us; we are not interested in distorting his point of view.

However, the key problem remains the same, regardless of how the passage in question is interpreted or where it originally comes from. This problem is the distinction Achcar attempts to draw in this interview between Holocaust denial in the West, on the one hand, and, on the other, Holocaust denial in the Arab world, which he considers forgivable because it is, in his view, ultimately caused by “rage and frustration over the escalation of Israeli violence” and stems “mainly from ignorance”.

Achcar’s response to our paper does not address, but distracts attention from this key issue and the substantive points we make, namely:

– that antisemitism and Holocaust denial are widespread in the Middle East at both the popular and leadership levels;

– that antisemitism and Holocaust denial cannot be adequately explained as responses to Israeli policies or any other real world political events;

– that antisemitism is not a marginal ideological twitch, but a political worldview that determines behaviour;

– that Achcar’s anti-Zionism makes him unable fully to grasp and draw the consequences of points 1-3.

This discussion has to start yet. We remain willing to engage in it in any appropriate forum, including in direct debate with Achcar himself.

Gilbert Achcar responds to Matthias Küntzel and Colin Meade

Matthias Küntzel and Colin Meade reviewed Gilbert Achcar’s book, The Arabs and the Holocaust, here.

Gilbert Achcar has now responded as follows:

Follow this link for Achcar’s response in full, in a PDF file



 By Gilbert Achcar

Since I have been courteously invited to respond, I will oblige, but only succinctly as I do not have time for a 20-page reply, which is what it would have taken, had I addressed every single distortion and misrepresentation in what is definitely the most dishonest discussion of my book, The Arabs and the Holocaust, that I have read to this day.

I won’t here discuss the substance of the two authors’ comments as they are so often vile that no person who has read my book or knows my positions could in good faith take their slanders for true, such as when my two critics write: “Achcar criticises Arab antisemitism not because it

Gilbert Achcar

envisages the murder of Jews and renders the Middle East conflict insoluble, but because it impedes the necessary struggle against Israel.” (p. 6). I will here content myself with examining only one example of their method, leaving it to interested readers to refer to the book itself and check all the quotes produced by my two critics—generally out of context, thus distorting my meaning, even when they seem to quote approvingly at the start of their essay.

They write about me:

“When standard academic practices fail him, Achcar resorts to other means, selecting and underlining whatever supports his prejudices and leaving out or dismissing the importance of everything else. A random examination of his use of quotations has brought to light several significant distortions.”

It is their review and this accusation itself that are entirely based on the above-described “other means.” As for standard academic practices, they could not “fail” my two critics since such practices seem to be totally alien to them…

Follow this link for Achcar’s response in full, in a PDF file


Defiance, not denial

In Ha’aretz, Amnon Be’eri Sulitzeanu’s analyses apparent Holocaust denial on the part of Israel’s Arab citizens:

“In a correct reading of the situation of Arab citizens, the “denial” of the Holocaust should not be understood as a lack of knowledge of the subject or as a failure to recognize its importance for the Jewish people, but as simple defiance: “If you don’t recognize us and our pain, we will retaliate by not recognizing your pain.” Paradoxically, the painful use of “denial” by the Arabs polled in the survey actually implies recognition of the Holocaust and of the depth of the pain it represents for the Jews.

This complexity assumes an additional current and tragic dimension, because the decision of the Education Ministry regarding the matriculation exam is being made parallel to a series of steps by the government, including legislation, whose objective is to forbid Arab citizens and groups from teaching or commemorating − even in a low-key manner − the historical story of the Palestinian tragedy that took place with the establishment of the State of Israel, the Nakba, and to persecute and punish those who do so. In that sense, we can assume that if the above-mentioned survey were to be conducted now, the percentage of Arab “Holocaust deniers” would skyrocket.”

Read the whole thing. Denial is a dangerous game to play. For the adults it may be a tactic, but what will the children understand?

2nd part of the BBC World Service Documentary by Wendy Robbins Now Available

To listen to the second part of the series, on Holocaust obfuscation and normalisation, click here

Holocaust denial, it was thought, was put to rest with the humiliation in court of David Irving.

However, denial is rampant in the Middle East, and across Europe there is a political manipulation of the Holocaust, its trivialisation or obfuscation, and its labelling as just one genocide among many.

In this episode, Wendy Robbins visits Lithuania where 95% of its Jews didn’t end up in concentration camps, but instead were herded – often by their neighbours – into specially-dug pits, and shot. Yet the popular Museum of Genocide Victims in Vilnius doesn’t even mention it.

As the Baltic states look for an identity in the wake of independence from the communists, the Holocaust is being politically manipulated. The public wearing of swastikas is legal and the few remaining Holocaust survivors are being hounded as “war criminals.”

The programme website is here.

The first part of the series is here.

Jeffrey Herf Reviews Gilbert Achcar’s “The Arabs and the Holocaust”

Hamas condemns UN for teaching children that the Holocaust happened

From Reuters

Hamas condemned the United Nations Sunday, saying it planned to teach Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip about the Holocaust — but the U.N. agency which runs schools in the enclave would not confirm any change.

Branding the Nazi genocide of the Jews “a lie invented by the Zionists,” the Islamist movement which runs the Gaza Strip wrote in an open letter to a senior U.N. official that he should withdraw plans for a new history book in U.N. schools.

A spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which educates some 200,000 refugee children in Gaza, said the Holocaust was not on its current curriculum. He would not comment on Hamas’s statement that it was about to change.

Palestinians resent the way world powers reacted to the Holocaust by supporting the establishment of Israel in 1948, a move that left half the Arab population of then British-ruled Palestine as refugees in Gaza, the West Bank and abroad.

Hamas said it believed UNRWA was about to start using a text for 13-year-olds that included a chapter on the Holocaust.

In an open letter to local UNRWA chief John Ging, the movement’s Popular Committees for Refugees said: “We refuse to let our children study a lie invented by the Zionists.”

UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said: “There is no mention of the Holocaust in the current syllabus.” Asked if UNRWA planned to change that, he declined to comment.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, run by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, teachers said there was no official guidance on teaching about the Holocaust.

Israelis are angered by denial of the Holocaust among some in the Middle East, notably lately by leaders in Iran, who provide support for Hamas. Abbas, who has engaged in negotiation with Israel, has had to distance himself from his own 1980s doctoral thesis, which cast doubt on the scale of the Holocaust.

Hamas’s official spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, said he did not want to discuss the history of the Holocaust but said:

“Regardless of the controversy, we oppose forcing the issue of the so-called Holocaust onto the syllabus, because it aims to reinforce acceptance of the occupation of Palestinian land.”

From Reuters

(Editing by Erika Solomon and Alastair Macdonald)


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