Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Friday 11 November 2011

Academically Playing Down Arab Antisemitism

In a typically impressive feature, the blog Point of No Return currently draws attention to the disabling legislation, worse than apartheid, which, in living memory, faced Jews in Arab lands, noting, for example:

Jews were not granted (or stripped of) citizenship in Arab states.
Jews had to carry special ID documents marked 'Jew'.
Jews had their communal institutions dissolved or nationalised
Jews were subject to restrictions and quotas.
Jews were sacked from public service jobs.
Jews were not allowed to travel or leave the country.
Jews were subject to arbitrary arrest for being 'Zionists'.
Dozens were executed on trumped-up charges.
Jews had their bank accounts frozen and property sequestrated.
Jews were forced into business partnerships with Muslims.

Such facts are still not as widely known as they ought to be.

Cinnamon Stillwell and Rima Greene in an online article entitled "The Anti-Zionism of Fools," describes a lecture last month that Lebanese-born Gilbert Achcar, of the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), gave to a seemingly sympathetic audience at the University of California, Berkeley, relating to his book The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (2010).

The blogger Richard Millett described a similar event at the SOAS last year, at which (as in the Berkeley lecture) the Mufti's role in the Holocaust was apparently minimised.

Says the Stillwell and Greene article, inter alia:
'Achcar’s book, which according to the lecture description purports to “cover Arab attitudes to Zionism, anti-Semitism, Nazism and the Holocaust from the aftermath of the First World War to our time,” joins a growing body of scholarship that employs Holocaust studies to deny Israel’s legitimacy and downplay contemporary Islamic anti-Semitism. Such work enjoys significant legitimacy in academic circles, as it masks its outlandish conclusions with scholarly apparatus while confirming the biases of the left-leaning, anti-Israel Middle East studies establishment. In their critical review of Achcar’s book, atypical professors Matthias Kuntzel and Colin Meade conclude, “this is a book in which an author from the political left seeks to protect the dogmas of Western anti-Zionism from the reality of Arab anti-Semitism” (click here to access a debate between the reviewers and Achcar).'
According to the article, the Dr Achcar put his cards on the table straight away by declaring
"Don’t expect me to take a pro-Israel view. I’m an Arab."
Comment Stillwell and Greene:

"Those in the audience hoping for scholarly objectivity were thus informed that Achcar’s ethnicity trumped intellectual independence and that, despite evidence to the contrary (Nonie Darwish, the founder of Arabs for Israel, comes to mind, as do the majority of Israel’s Arab citizenry), an Arab could not be pro-Israel. One had to give him credit for at least confirming his biases up front.'

Dr Ashcar reportedly said:
"Mine is a scholarly investigation fixed into a current frame aiming at revising the image in western scholarship. The lies of [historian] Bernard Lewis are extremely biased, which produced an image of Arabs being pro-Nazi, the locus of the new anti-Semitism.
The audience chuckled in agreement as Achcar extended his attack on Lewis. He claimed that a close reading of Arab newspapers of the 1930s and 40s found an overwhelming rejection of Nazism in the name of liberal values. He identified four predominant positions: liberal Westernizers, communists, nationalists, and fundamentalists. Only among the latter, he alleged, were there serious numbers of anti-Semites—the result of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This tired argument of blaming anti-Semitism in the region on the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 is trotted out by apologists for Arab anti-Semitism despite ample historical evidence of its previous existence....
Achcar was determined to assign anti-Semitism’s origins to the West:
The discourse of conspiracy theories about Jews is very Western. The shift was with increasing tensions in Palestine; the discourse was imported from the West.
He briefly acknowledged a Koranic basis for anti-Semitism, but then pivoted to blame Christianity:
Yes, there is an anti-Judaic element in Islam, but it’s part of the three monotheistic religions, and certainly there’s more enmity to Jews in Christianity than Islam.
He addressed anti-Semitism in the modern-day Middle East, but, as with his treatment of Bernard Lewis, blamed the messenger by alluding to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a website that provides translations of regional media:
Today in Israel there’s a huge amount of literature which monitors anti-Semitic expression. There are websites devoted to this search and funded by the [U.S.] State Department; biased websites such as the one founded by a high ranking person in Israeli intel. Anti-Arab attitudes in Israel are not monitored.
The latter comparison is a red herring. Achcar didn’t acknowledge that, unlike its anti-Semitic counterpart, “anti-Arab attitudes in Israel” are neither widespread, promulgated through state-provided education and other official means, nor the primary reason for the continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict.'

Read the entire article here

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