A Critical Review of Gilbert Achcar, The Arabs and the Holocaust

Writing a good book review of a bad book is always a challenge, and I always admire those who do so successfully. So here is a very well-done review by Matthias Kuntzel and Colin Reade of “The Arabs and the Holocaust.” One quick excerpt:

Achcar even manages to find excuses for the dissemination [in the Arab world] of Hitler’s textbook for the Holocaust, the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion. “There is a qualitative difference,” he claims, “between a delusive, anti-Semitic approach that believes, or seeks to make others believe, that the leaders of the Jews of the ‘Jewish race’ are conspiring against the rest of the world, and an equally delusive but not racist [!!!-DB] approach that seeks consolation by mobilizing a conspiracy theory [that Jewish leaders are conspiring against the rest of the world!–DB] to explain Zionist successes.” And that’s not all: he even deplores the failure of other authors to “make the necessary distinction between the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist reading of the Russian forgery.”

Given that the Protocols constantly talk not about Zionists, but about “Jewry,” which, the Protocols claim, is seeking to take control of the world, Achcar’s attempt to defend Islamist propagators of the Protocols from the charge of antisemitism is truly bizarre. One might just as well recommend an “anti-Zionist reading” of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, another book with a wide circulation in the Middle East, and one which has an explicitly anti-Zionist orientation.

One could easily dismiss Achcar’s book as typical fringe claptrap, but for the fact that Kuntzel and Reade report that it’s being taken seriously in mainstream circles, in part because, as they acknowledge, there is some serious historical work mixed in with the vociferous efforts to justify, minimize, and sanitize anti-Semitism when the perpetrators are Achcar’s ideological fellow-travelers.

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