Foreword to the Arabic Edition of Garaudy's
The Founding Myths of Modern Israel

Mohamed Hasanein Heikal

Whereas "Holocaust denial" is a crime in France, Germany and some other European countries, skepticism of the familiar Six Million story is widespread in Arab and Muslim countries. Gamal Abdel Nasser, the charismatic Egyptian president and pan-Arab leader, said in a 1964 interview: "No one, not even the simplest man in our country, takes seriously the lie about six million murdered Jews." More recently this skepticism was manifest in an outpouring of support from across the Muslim world for French scholar Roger Garaudy when he was brought before a Paris court for daring to challenge Holocaust claims in his book on Israel's "Founding Myths." (See T. O'Keefe, "Origin and Enduring Impact of the 'Garaudy Affair'," July-August 1999 Journal.)

Mohamed Heikal has for decades been widely acknowledged as the most influential journalist in the Arab world. Under his editorship, the Cairo daily Al Ahram became one of the world's most often quoted newspapers. His weekly column in the influential paper was eagerly read as a reliable reflection of informed and official opinion in Egypt.

Born in Cairo in 1923, he was for years a personal friend of Gamel Nasser, and served as a cabinet minister in President Nasser's government. A skillful writer and leading Arab authority on contemporary Middle East politics, Heikal is the author of numerous books, several of which have been published in English.

Because of his international stature, it is significant that he not only agreed to contribute a foreword to the Arabic edition of Garaudy's controversial book, but that in doing so he endorsed the revisionist view of the Holocaust issue. (The Arabic-language edition of Garaudy's Founding Myths, translated from French by Mohammad Hisham, was published in Cairo in 1998 by Dar Al-Shurooq. The Founding Myths of Modern Israel is published in the US by the Institute for Historical Review.)

Here is the complete text of Mohamed Heikal's foreword, translated for The Journal of Historical Review by Dr. Abdullah M. Sindi, an author (The Arabs and the West: The Contributions and the Inflictions) and Journal contributor ("How the Jewish-Zionist Grip on American Film and Television Promotes Bias Against Arabs and Muslims," in the Sept.-Oct. 1998 Journal), and by E. G. Mueller, an Arab studies specialist who translated "Foiling Espionage in Berlin Radio's Arabic Service," in the Jan.-Feb. 2000 Journal.

-- The Editor

I don't exactly know how to present this book to Arabic readers. I want to recommend it. Yet I don't want to get involved in a discussion of its contents -- something that writing a foreword usually entails.

I would have preferred that this book in particular not include a foreword written by someone other than the author. Some manuscripts -- including this book -- can do very well without them. In fact, it is possible that a foreword can become a burden on a book rather than a support for it.

In such cases the forewords, directly or indirectly, offer an interpretation of the book according to the bias of the person writing the foreword. Such a slanted interpretation can sometimes distort a work's message. This is a sensitive matter in the case of a book such as this: The Founding Myths of Modern Israel by Mr. Roger Garaudy. This is a collection of Zionist myths summarized by Garaudy as follows:

  1. The "Promised Land" for Jews in Palestine
  2. The Jews as God's Chosen People
  3. A "Land Without People for a People Without a Land"
  4. The Nazi Holocaust
  5. The Jewish faith and political Zionism, and the distinction between the two

In his presentation of these founding myths of Israeli policy and the state of Israel, Garaudy did not author a book in the traditional sense, but rather was careful to weave events into a fabric of facts. The author's task in such a case is to act like a loom, stretching the threads horizontally and vertically to create an expanse of material that can be looked at, studied, and examined for its cohesiveness and tenacity.

In relating each of these founding myths of Israeli policy, Garaudy did not want to discuss or contradict them himself. Instead he drew the facts out of the primary sources and the original documents and let them speak for themselves, and follow their logical courses to reach their own natural conclusions by themselves.

There were others, in fact, before Mr. Garaudy, who tried to approach this subject. Yet he surpasses them in the comprehensive way by which he deals with all the Israeli myths. All Garaudy's predecessors, at least so far as I know, concentrated on a single myth. Most of the focus was on the Nazi holocaust, which according to Israeli myth claimed six million Jewish victims alone. Perhaps the furor that has surrounded this myth in particular stems from the struggle between the European conscience or feeling of guilt, on the one hand, and on the other, the attempt by Zionists to put pressure on that conscience and torture it for the benefit of their own project.

It was natural for the European conscience to try to seek the truth and to put this period in its proper place in the context of human history. On the other hand, it was also natural for the Zionist movement to do its utmost in order to put Israel where it wanted it to be on the map of the Middle East!

I have been following these battles ever since I read Far and Wide, a book by Douglas Reed that was published in the United States in 1947 [1951]. Reed was one of the most prominent British journalists who covered World War II. After the war, the legend of the Nazi Holocaust and its promotion, particularly in the US, attracted Reed's attention. Reed's approach in discussing this myth in practice was based primarily on demographic data and what they pointed to. Such data, Reed felt, do not lie. He cited the statistics of the League of Nations on the number of Jews in the world in 1938, the last annual report of this global organization before World War II. Then he compared those data with the figures found in the first post-war population statistics published in 1947 by the United Nations -- the organization that replaced the League of Nations. The comparison revealed that the number of Jews in the world after the war of 1939-1945 was the same as it had been before the war -- just under eleven million persons.

Douglas Reed estimated that the number of the victims of the Nazi holocaust -- which had indeed occurred -- did not exceed 300,000 or 400,000 -- the range of natural growth of the Jewish population over a period of seven or eight years.

This is, in any case, a dreadful figure -- enough not only to torture the European conscience, but that of all humanity. Nevertheless the Jews were not the ones who sacrificed the most victims in the Nazi inferno; more were Germans themselves, and Russians, Poles, and Gypsies. (And then there were the Palestinians, who were blameless, but who were forced by the Zionist movement to atone for the guilt that weighed on German and European consciences. It fell on them to pay that debt with compound interest many times over, and to pay with their native homeland of Palestine itself, their history, land, people, and future!)

Douglas Reed was subjected to a vicious campaign. His book disappeared from libraries and bookstores. He himself vanished from journalistic life and from public life as a whole, buried in oblivion!

Later I was able to see for myself -- and not just by reading -- what happened to the meticulous British historian David Irving. By chance I witnessed the vicious physical beating he received [on July 12, 1992] while eating breakfast at the Richoux restaurant in South Audley Street in London, near the Egyptian Embassy. The reason for this beating was not that David Irving wrote about the Nazi holocaust, but that he spent time investigating and researching it. It became widely known in many circles that he was on the verge of finding the truth, because he had obtained access before everyone else to the Soviet archives, whose vaults held the real secrets of the Nazi holocaust due to the circumstances surrounding the end of the war.

For it was the Soviet army that marched into Poland to pursue and chase out the Nazi army in 1944. Since more than 80 percent of pre-World War II Jewry had been living in Poland, the most important and famous of all Nazi camps for Jews, such as Dachau [sic], Auschwitz and Treblinka, were on Polish territory. Accordingly, it was the Soviet military that entered them, and were the first to uncover and observe their secret contents. Later, all of the documents of the camps with all their secrets came to rest in the vaults of the Soviet state archives, which the state then closed and locked, just as it closed and locked everything else. Finally the doors to these archives were opened to Irving, when the grip of that state loosened and its power collapsed due to the decay and collapse of the Soviet state itself.

David Irving knew where and how to dig out the secrets of the Nazi holocaust. His feet trod the damp corridors and his hands reached for the shelves and into the drawers!

An angry storm erupted against Irving and escalated so far that he was harassed and physically assaulted in the street. There was incitement against him that went so far as a boycott. All of this occurred before he had written up his findings in a book. It was enough that he had come the closest of all researchers to the truth by using sources that were more precise and more accurate.

Apparently the evidence David Irving turned up led one to conclusions similar to those reached by Douglas Reed. In other words, the comparison of the figures published by the old League of Nations with those of the post-war United Nations -- and also the figures that could be extracted from the Soviet archive material were all notably similar. Thus it is probable -- perhaps certain -- that between 300,000 and 400,000 Jews paid with their lives as a result of the insane notion of racial purity that led to the Nazi madness.

Still, it is evident that even within the limits of these figures it is humanely and even politically possible for the Arab mind to realize two facts:

First, that there was indeed a tragedy inflicted on the Jews in Europe under Nazi rule (and also before it). It is not acceptable fundamentally to deny the tragedy just because Israel uses it to camouflage and cover up another, even more catastrophic tragedy: that perpetrated by Israel on the Arabs of Palestine, whose people were killed and whose homeland was stolen.

Second, that the "myth" of the holocaust plays a real role in the existence and subconscious of contemporary Jews. It is therefore a dangerous mistake to leave the true part of the holocaust story to the scheming of the Zionist movement, so that it can be exploited as myths have usually been exploited throughout history.

All through history -- and this is the difference between myth and general tall tales and fairy stories -- the raw material of myth has been extracted from the convolutions of the distant or recent past to be remade and reconstructed for the purpose of carrying out its assigned task. The task of myth has always been to mobilize people. Mobilization is a preparation for confrontation, while confrontation is preparation for struggle, and the struggle that follows is simply a ready description of war. Hence, myth is often haunted by the specter of a fighter, and in some circumstances this spectral fighter is better able to kill than a real cavalier is able to fight.

Perhaps it was the desire to distinguish between history and its facts, on the one hand, and the myths and their specters, on the other, that moved an Arab intellectual of the stature of Edward Said to demand that the Arabs acknowledge the holocaust. He believes that this is the only way to "banish the specter," allowing the facts of history to remain as much as possible, while the effects of myth could be removed from it -- at least as much as possible.

There have been other writers and historians who have tackled other founding myths of the Israeli policy, particularly the myth of "a land without a people for a people without land." Their writings, however, did not set off as many battles as have been sparked by the subject of the holocaust. The reasons for this could be understood in the fact that these writings were part of political or moral debates that lacked the heat of the tragedy or the flame of the holocaust. In addition, none of these writings evoked that confrontation between a tortured European conscience, trying to place facts in their proper places, on the one hand, and a Zionist movement that exploits the pains of the whole of humanity in order to put Israel on the map of the Middle East!

Professor Garaudy's attempt has finally come, all the same. And he has made it a much more difficult battle because he did not tackle just one myth, but all the myths at once.

He did not publish a book, but rather wove a complete tapestry out of the fabric of events.

The most distinguishing feature of Garaudy's attempt, though, is that it comes from a man who knows what awaits him and is well prepared for it in advance. In addition, with his notoriety and stature, he is not a man who could be easily buried in oblivion, as happened to Douglas Reed, for example, or be beaten and boycotted, as happened to David Irving.

Even so, it has been proved that when confronting Zionist power no one is impregnable and there are no guarantees. Yet, to judge from the long discussion I had with him in Cairo recently, Garaudy knows the danger that faces him and I saw that he was ready for it. It was strange for me to see this man who has passed the 85th year of his life, not only ready for danger, but even relishing it. That is one of the traits of courage. To choose a course where danger is known to be waiting is different from accidentally leaping into its path. The first situation is a case of bravery, while the second is a sign of foolishness, and there is a great distance between the two!

From The Journal of Historical Review, Nov.-Dec. 2000 (Vol. 19, No. 6), page 30.