The Arabs and the Holocaust
The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives
By Gilbert Achcar
(Metropolitan Books, Hardcover, 9780805089547, 400pp.)
Publication Date: April 27, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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An unprecedented and judicious examination of what the Holocaust means—and doesn't mean—in the Arab world, one of the most explosive subjects of our time
There is no more inflammatory topic than the Arabs and the Holocaust—the phrase alone can occasion outrage. The terrain 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.
In this pathbreaking book, political scientist Gilbert Achcar explores these conflicting 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.
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.
“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