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The Arabs and the Holocaust

The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives

Gilbert Achcar


The Arabs and the Holocaust Download image

ISBN10: 0312569203
ISBN13: 9780312569204

Trade Paperback

400 Pages



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The conflicted terrain between the Arabs and the Israeli is dense with ugly claims and counterclaims: one side is charged with Holocaust denial, the other with exploiting a tragedy while denying the tragedies of others.

Political scientist Gilbert Achcar explores these opposing narratives and considers their role in today's Middle East dispute. He analyzes the various Arab responses to Nazism, from the earliest intimations of the genocide, through the creation of Israel and the destruction of Palestine and up to our own time, critically assessing the political and historical context for these responses. Finally, he challenges distortions of the historical record, while making no concessions to anti-Semitism or Holocaust denial. Valid criticism of the other, Achcar insists, must go hand in hand with criticism of oneself.

Drawing on previously unseen sources in multiple languages, Achcar offers a unique mapping of the Arab world, in the process defusing an international propaganda war that has become a major stumbling block in the path of Arab-Western understanding.


Praise for The Arabs and the Holocaust

"This is a refreshing and original study, showing clearly that Muslim anti-Semitism is neither universal, nor inevitable, nor subject to pat explanations."—The Economist

"A systematic and scholarly refutation of the simplistic myths that have arisen following the formation of Israel . . . the best book on the subject so far."—Tariq Ali, The Guardian (London)

"A fascinating, subtle, and original analysis of Israeli and Arab historical narratives."—Simon Sebag Montefiore, BBC History Magazine

"A sensitive and insightful exploration of an important dimension of the Middle East conflict—one that we usually only encounter in angry sound bites. Gilbert Achcar's book, which combines meticulous scholarship and an engaging style, is a significant contribution to the mutual understanding that is in such short supply."—Peter Novick, author of The Holocaust in American Life

"In this study Gilbert Achcar exposes a great deal of spurious scholarship on the subject and places Arab attitudes towards the Holocaust and the Jews in their proper historical and intellectual context. It is an erudite, perceptive, and highly original study that shines much-needed light on a field which has tended to be dominated by partisanship and propaganda."—Avi Shlaim, author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World

"Essential reading for anyone who seeks a balanced understanding of the place of Jews and the Holocaust in Arab thinking today. Whether or not one agrees with Gilbert Achcar on every issue, he provides a welcome and well-informed counterpoint to caricaturists and hate-mongers and fear-promoters of every persuasion. His is a voice of moderation in a bitter conflict, and it is all the more valuable for being steeped in the history and idiom of the Arab Middle East."—Michael R. Marrus, author of The Holocaust in History

"This is a work of breath-taking empathy, examining one of the most painful and emotion-laden topics in the modern world with dispassion, sensitivity and high erudition. Gilbert Achcar combines a historian's profound understanding of the workings of Arab political discourse with a fine appreciation of the traumatic valence of every aspect of this topic. This magisterial study constitutes a welcome advance on the often meretricious and mediocre scholarship produced thus far on the important topic of the Arabs and the Holocaust."—Rashid Khalidi, author of The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood

"The Arabs and the Holocaust is a penetrating analysis of the multiplicity of attitudes and responses in the Arabic-speaking world toward Nazism, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust. The book effectively disproves simplistic notions of a single, monolithic, Holocaust-denying Arabic-speaking world driven by racist and neo-Nazi hatred of all Jews, and effectively demonstrates that there never has been one ‘Arab' narrative on the Holocaust."—Francis R. Nicosia, author of Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany

"Gilbert Achcar's thoughtful, well researched, and very welcome assessment of one of the most explosive topics of Palestinian/Israeli historiography is a courageous undertaking. He succeeds in treating the subject of the relationship of Palestine and the Nazi Holocaust with original thinking, profound scholarship, and meticulous analysis."—Naseer Aruri, member of the Palestine National Council and author of Palestine and Palestinians: A Social and Political History

"In a field fraught with bad faith and sheer propaganda, Gilbert Achcar's book stands out as scholarly, even-handed, and decent."—Idith Zertal, author of Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood

"Political scientist and Middle East scholar Achcar offers a careful parsing of a most incendiary topic: the use of references to the Holocaust in the rhetoric of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Essentially, this is a conflict of historical narratives deployed as argument: on one side are a bundle of sometimes-conflicting narratives that invoke the Nazi genocide as an argument for the necessity of Israel's existence and certain Israeli policies; on the other side are another set of sometimes-conflicting narratives that invoke the Nazi genocide in articulating grievances against the Israeli state. Even more extreme, though unfortunately on the rise, as Achcar shows, is the use of the rhetoric of Holocaust denial as a political weapon. Yet, tracing the history of Holocaust discourse in Arab-Israeli politics, the author suggests that, recent escalations aside, the evolving narratives ultimately intertwine in a way that invites the possibility of common ground. Calm and judicious in tenor yet unyielding in its intellectual rigor, this selection may show the path out of a seemingly intractable dispute."—Brendan Driscoll, Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt

Arabs and the Holocaust

Arab Reactions to Nazism and Anti-Semitism, 1933-47
It ought to be a truism that "the Arabs" do not exist--at least not as a homogeneous...

About the author

Gilbert Achcar

Gilbert Achcar, who grew up in Beirut, has taught at the University of Paris-VIII and at the French-German Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin. He is currently professor of development studies and international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Among his many books are The Clash of Barbarisms: The Making of the New World Disorder and Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy, co-authored with Noam Chomsky.

Gilbert Achcar