From empathy to denial: Arab responses to the Holocaust

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"Based on years of research conducted mostly in Arabic sources, Meir Litvak and Ester Webman track the evolution of post-World War II perceptions of the Holocaust and their parallel emergence in the wake of the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1948. Following the establishment of the State of Israel, Arab attitudes toward the Holocaust became entangled with broader anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic sentiments. Litvak and Webman track this discourse through the work of leading intellectuals and turn to representations of the Holocaust in the media and culture of Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and among the Palestinian people. Their chronological history, which spans sixty years, provides a remarkable perspective on the origins, development, and tenaciousness of anti-Holocaust belief" -- Publisher's description. Based largely on the Arab press from 1945 to the present, examines the evolution of Arab Holocaust discourse, which is essentially one-sided; it deals with the implications of the Holocaust for the Arab world, but not with the event itself. Resistance to the establishment of the Jewish state overshadowed the Arabs' willingness to empathize with the Jewish tragedy. In the first postwar years, Arab leaders expressed compassion toward Jews as victims of Nazism, but later, with the exacerbation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, they increasingly identified with the perpetrators. This tendency, as well as Holocaust denial which began in the Arab press as early as 1945, has been a reaction to the growing instrumentalization of Holocaust memory by the State of Israel. Shows that the Arab Holocaust discourse did not develop into one coherent narrative; e.g. both denial and justification of the Holocaust exist in the Arab world, as well as the myth of affinity between Nazism and Zionism and cooperation between them. The tendency to dissociate from Nazism coexists with justification of Nazi Germany and its actions. Among more recent tendencies is that of comparing the "Nakba" (the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948) to the Holocaust. Since the beginning of the peace process, the tendency to recognize the Holocaust as an undisputed fact can be marked among Arab intellectuals. At the same time, Holocaust denial is still on the rise, as manifested in the popularity of Roger Garaudy's ideas in the Arab world.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherColumbia University Press
Number of pages435
ISBN (Print)0231700741, 023170075X, 9780231700740, 9780231700757, 9781850659242
StatePublished - 2009

ULI Keywords

  • uli
  • Antisemitism -- Arab countries
  • Arabs -- Attitudes
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Public opinion
  • Jews -- Public opinion
  • Public opinion -- Arab countries
  • Zionism -- Public opinion
  • Arab countries -- Ethnic relations
  • Judaism -- Public opinion


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