Tuesday, December 19, 2006

We the Arabs

On The Holocaust And Palestine

[MFL notes: Special Thanks to Dr. Traboulsi, he linked me with the translation of his latest article on Znet]

[Translator's note: The following article first appeared in the Beirut daily as-Safir of 14 December 2006. Its author, Fawwaz Traboulsi, is a historian, long-time political commentator, and weekly columnist for as-Safir. In this piece Traboulsi is addressing an Arab audience. The original title in Arabic "We, the Holocaust, and Palestine" was thus rendered into "We the Arabs, the Holocaust, and Palestine." -- Assaf Kfoury]

The two-day Tehran conference on the Holocaust, on December 11 and 12, was attended by an assortment of well-known Holocaust deniers from Europe and Australia, by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, by anti-Zionist orthodox rabbis, and by many others. In a speech to the conference, Iran's president Ahmadinejad predicted that Israel would disappear just as the Soviet Union did. The majority of the participants vied in denying the Holocaust, maintaining it is a myth, or putting in doubt the number of its victims. Nevertheless, the conference concluded with the announcement of the formation of an international committee to investigate the facts about the Holocaust.

The Tehran conference epitomizes a kind of discourse on the Holocaust, Zionism and the state of Israel in general, which is in vogue among certain Arab (and Iranian) elites. At one time, such conferences and this kind of discourse were a specialty of the Libyan regime of Colonel Gaddafi. Today, it is the Islamic Republic of Iran that has taken over the role. The discourse in question is fraught with delusions, a form of hallucination which is at once obsessed with the West and incapable of breaking away from it.

One side of this discourse is the urge to engage the West. More specifically, they want to do this on terms understood by Western democrats opposed to Nazism. They thus make analogies between Zionism and Nazism as a way to explain the hideous crimes perpetrated by Israel's aggressive policies. "Just as you fought Nazism in the past, we too fight Zionism today," declared a Lebanese legislator from Hizbullah to visiting Ségolène Royal, the French Socialist Party's presidential candidate, a few days ago. The comparison triggered a political storm in France, still blowing unabated and fanned by right-wing French politicians trying to score points against Royal.

But there is a second side of the same discourse, contradicting the first. This is the desire of some Arabs (and Iranians) to emulate the Nazis and identify with them. Their unstated premise is: "Too bad he didn't finish them off". The "he" is Hitler and the "them" is of course the Jews. To these Arabs (and Iranians) we can apply the saying "the suspect nearly asked to be indicted" -- in that they can barely veil their genocidal intentions. They wish to be associated with the Nazi crime or to complete a crime left unfinished by the Nazis!

What business do the Arabs have in all of this? The crime occurred in Europe, committed by Europeans against other Europeans. Nevertheless, in internal European debates on the Holocaust, many Arabs find it opportune to intervene and take sides -- on the wrong side! Thus, a number of Arab intellectuals hurried to vent their support for Günter Grass this past August, when his confession, that he had served in the Waffen SS as a 17-year-old at the end of WW2, unleashed a fierce controversy in Germany. This should not diminish in any way our concern for the human tragedy resulting from the Nazi crimes, and its implications for the rest of us, in particular Arabs. Between 1942 and 1945, the Nazi regime organized the genocidal extermination of the Jews and the Gypsies, in a massive campaign that also went after anti-Nazi resisters in occupied territories, after Catholics and after communists, of various nationalities and political orientations. But just to recall: While Nazi theories of the master race ranked the Jews among the lowest racial groups, one group they considered still inferior to the Jews were ... the Arabs!

Although the Zionist movement started several decades earlier, the Holocaust was the main event that contributed to the success of its project for establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. The Holocaust supplied Jewish emigration to Palestine with hundreds of thousands of refugees running away from the Nazi inferno, just as it aroused an enormous sympathy for the victims of Nazism that Zionism succeeded in mobilizing to its advantage in pursuit of its project in Palestine.

Yes, Zionism and Israel have exploited the Holocaust to justify their policies in Palestine. Serious critics of Zionism, such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, have shown how the exploitation of the Holocaust was turned into an "industry" after the June 1967 war. Note carefully: The focus on Israel as a refuge for the remnants of the Nazi genocide came after, not before, the Israeli victory in that war! This has become by now a familiar tactic of Zionist propaganda: Claiming the role of the victim while acting as the executioner.

How can we ever hope to make a convincing contribution to the unmasking of the "Holocaust industry" if we deny Nazi crimes against the Jews? How can we ever hope to draw attention to the crimes of the "new Nazis" against the Palestinian people if we decrease the number of victims of the historical Nazis? What is the significance of making comparisons between Nazism and Zionism, in order to denounce the latter, if we also exonerate the Nazis of their greatest historical crime, which is the Holocaust? And is this not the mirror image of what the Zionists have done when they appropriate the role of victims and deny the Palestinians of even claiming they are victims?

Two further remarks must be added.

First, in saying that Israel will disappear just as the Soviet Union disappeared, President Ahmadinejad seemed to draw inspiration from a time-honored practice of the European and American far right, which conflates Judaism with communism and spreads the canard of a "Jewish-communist conspiracy" to control the world. If Iran's president cared for the cause of the Palestinian people, he would know that the "disappearance" of the Soviet Union contributed to the strengthening, not weakening, of the state of Israel in pursuit of its aggressive policies. But closer to home, if President Ahmadinejad had reviewed the reports of the Iranian embassy in Beirut, he would have discovered that, in the most recent international conference in support of the Lebanese resistance and Hizbullah, held in Beirut at the end of November 2006, the majority of the participants belonged to the secular left, including Marxist and communists of different orientations.

Second, would it not be more appropriate for the Islamic Republic of Iran to help instead organize an international commission of inquiry into the crimes committed by the state of Israel against the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples? And into the use of forbidden weapons by the Israeli army in its war on Lebanon in July and August 2006?

This writer is on record for supporting the right of the Islamic Republic of Iran to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, and even to possess a nuclear option until there is an agreement to ban all nuclear arms in the region. But this should not prevent us from criticizing policies pursued by the Iranian regime, both internal and external, and from strongly condemning some of its practices, including its recent campaign against secular activists, among which are now clerics calling for the separation of religion and state. This critique is not just a right, but a duty for all of us.

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