The second meeting of the CHGS Reading Discussion Group was held on February 15th, 2011. The book discussed was From Empathy to Denial: Arab Responses to the Holocaust by Ester Webman and Meir Litvak. Below are some talking points and questions that were generated through the discussion. Please feel free to comment on any or all of the points.
A paradigm shift in Holocaust denial
● Denial in the Arab world - ideologies imported from European/North American deniers
Ex. Western deniers are well received in Arab countries - Mein Kampf, "Protocols of the Elders of Zion"
● Inspiration from Europe when it comes to Jew-hatred
-Terror and Liberalism (Paul Berman)
- Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies (Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit)
● Demonstrate how certain forms of hatred, terrorism and totalitarianism were born in Europe and then exported to the Arab world.
Ex. Compare images of members of Hamas and Hezbollah with images of followers of the worst ideologies born in Europe
The link between Holocaust denial in Arab world and the Israeli/Arab conflict
● If one does not deny the Holocaust, then anti-Jewish propaganda is more difficult to create
● Arab deniers accuse Jews of being racist Zionists - they claim Jews are racial supremacists
● They equate Zionism with colonialism
● Secular Arabs see Zionist entity as arrogant avant-garde of Western colonialism
*Are there voices in the Middle East who question Israel's policies but who aren't anti-Semitic?*
Further Reading: When Antisemitism Goes Hand in Hand with Philosemitism" by Keith Kahn-Harris guardian.co.uk 2-16-2011
Competition of victimhood
● The difficulty of the Arab people to reconcile Jews as vulnerable (victims of Holocaust) with the Zionist power they wield - this cognitive dissonance is mirrored in Western/European anti-Zionism (p. 158).
- Sartre - "Let us not forget that these Israelis are also Jews"
Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate by Jean-Paul Sartre
● Competition of victimhood as a way to rationalize denial - if there is recognition of the Holocaust, then it eclipses the suffering of the Palestinians.
The dangers of pseudo-scholarship
● Pseudo-scholarship feeds the anti-Semitism. A relativist approach to truth allows that a lie can be cloaked in the language of legitimacy.
● Most dangerous and sophisticated Holocaust deniers are not the fringe neo-Nazis, but those who trivialize and relativize.
● Arabs look to the so-called "Laws on Memory" as proof that the Holocaust did not happen - this plays into conspiracy theories