March 29, 2001
ANOTHER TACK: Fiendish hypocrisy IBy Sarah Honig
(March 29) Little wonder Arab spokesmen who gear their message to Western intellectuals were embarrassed by the international convocation that almost was in Beirut this weekend. From their vantage point Holocaust-denial is counterproductive. Beirut's unsavory assembly wouldn't have made the task of Prof. Edward Said any easier, which is why he came out against it.
It could have drawn attention to inextricable links between undying Arab enmity to the Jewish state and the Nazi final solution to the Jewish problem.
Said's line, and that of like-minded soft-spoken extremists, is to claim that Arabs are in fact Nazism's true victims. That's way more effective than fiery oratory about throwing the Jews into the sea.
Objectives haven't altered, but the rhetoric was refined. The trendy assertion is that the Christian world whined about the Jews and sought to expiate its guilt at the expense of peace-loving Arabs by forcing the Jewish state into their midst. This goes over big with credulous foreigners and the intellectually indolent who hanker for facile formulas, especially the sort which are ostensibly iconoclastic and wallop the Jews from yet another direction.
There's perverse satisfaction in accusing Jews of using Nazi tactics against Arabs. In this context, closures imposed on Arafat's terror fiefdom can be likened to death camps. Anything can serve such spurious analogies.
A Bir Zeit university professor once regaled overseas visitors with tales of Jewish inhumanity. As evidence he produced the pass which allows his entry to Israel proper, arguing that it reduced him to a number, rendering him as dehumanized as Auschwitz inmates whose personas were replaced by tattoos.
Such comparisons are worth their weight in propaganda gold. Turning the limelight on Arab-Nazi collusion can prove devastating to the demagogues. By dissociating himself from the Beirut travesty, Said cleverly preempts the damage.
Of course Said's denial that Holocaust-denial is on the mainstream Arab agenda is disingenuous. Disputing the Jewish tragedy, in fact, is an Arab national sport. Yet previous strains of orientation to the Holocaust aren't thereby supplanted.
The latest variant is quite compatible with its predecessors. There's no real inconsistency. Arabs always espoused any given period's most blatant brand of antisemitism. Their consideration is purely utilitarian. They'll opt for whatever works. To pose as underdogs, they'll draw parallels between the darkest days of the Holocaust and the misfortune they brought on themselves (largely because they aspired to continue from where Hitler left off). Arab defeats in battles they launched become akin to the systematic, industrialized annihilation of noncombatants who never aggressed against their tormentors.
Last November 29 the Palestinian Media Watch recorded an "educational broadcast special" on Arafat's official TV. Dr. Issam Sissalem, Gaza's Islamic University historian and reputed "expert on Judaism," contended that "lies surfaced about Jews being murdered here and there and the Holocaust. These are all unfounded claims. No Chelmno, no Dachau, no Auschwitz existed. They were disinfection sites."
Jewish deceptions were intended to help establish Israel, "this foreign entity, implanted as a cancer in our country. They always portrayed themselves as victims and made a Center for Heroism and Holocaust. Whose heroism? Heroism is ours and the holocaust was against our people."
The image of the Jew as an unbridled fabricator and persecutor meshes perfectly with the demonization of Jews in older-fashioned Arab propaganda, still profusely promulgated. Caricatures of thick-lipped, hook-nosed conniving Jews which abound in official Arab papers, like Cairo's al-Ahram, would have been eagerly reprinted by Julius Streicher's Der Strummer. Josef Goebbels would have enthusiastically endorsed the frequent vilification of Jews in Arafat's controlled publications. Already in 1937 Goebbels praised the Arabs' "national and racial awareness," noting that "in Palestine they hoist Nazi flags and deck their homes with swastikas and portraits of Hitler."
Indeed, Arabs were among the first to latch onto Nazi ideology. Undisguised fascist parties proliferated -- from Syria's Nationalist Socialists headed by Anton Saada to Ahmed Hussein's Young Egypt. But the kingpin was revered Jerusalem Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini. His association with Nazi Germany predates his wartime activities in Berlin. His bloody uprising of 1936-39 was funded by Hitler and actively abetted by German Templars, resident here since the 19th century.
During WWII, mufti disciples hoarded arms and trained to assist Rommel's invading Afrika Korps. They harbored German paratroopers, engaged in espionage and disseminated Third Reich propaganda. They greeted each other with Nazi salutes, accompanied by loud Heil Hitlers.
Such salutes are still used in PA ceremonies. The PLO is a direct descendent of Husseini's forces, and its ongoing ties to neo-Nazis are amply documented. Suffice it to say that Mein Kampf tops the PA bestseller list, rivaled only by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
But perhaps speaking loudest are the names given to Arab newborns in 1942 to honor Rommel, who, it was hoped, would soon overrun the region and deliver its Jews into their enemies' hands.
Many Israelis knew Nablus antiquities dealer Abu-Rommel. He derived his moniker from the name he conferred upon his firstborn. Salim el-Mahri, for many years chief of Arafat's own Force 17, was called Abu-Hitler, since he named his eldest son after the fuehrer, and his second Eichmann.
Can even bearers of such names deny the Holocaust?
Why not. If the Jew is the embodiment of absolute evil that must be eradicated, then Hitler and Eichmann weren't villains. This is a view to which the shady participants of Beirut's nearly held conference would no doubt subscribe. Like their Arab hosts, they too cheer what Hitler did, vow to complete his job and yet, in the same breath, insist nothing untoward happened to Jews between 1939-45. The inherent contradictions complement each other in the worst tradition of antisemitic dialectics.
Yet the fiendish hypocrisy of sundry US and European hate-mongers -- as distinct from the kindred Arab counterpart -- poses no existential threat to the Jewish state.
Edward Said et al don't cajole gullible Israelis to appease assorted German skinheads and US Klansmen. It's to the mufti's torchbearers, touted as peace partners, that we're exhorted to surrender vital strategic assets.