The Socio-historical Background of Holocaust Denial in Arab Countries:

Arab reactions to Roger Garaudy's
The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics

By Goetz Nordbruch


Historical revisionism and Holocaust denial are widely encountered in Arab countries. References to the Holocaust as a Zionist myth are continuously expressed in public discourse, coming to a height in 1996 when numerous articles were published about Roger Garaudy’s book, The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics. Articles denying the historical reality of German crimes against the Jews during the Nazi period are often regarded as mere “curiosities” and explained away as being merely an instrument used to delegitimize the existence of the State of Israel. This paper reconsiders that assumption. Given the presence and vigor of Holocaust denial in the Arab media, an analysis of the reactions to Garaudy’s book can reveal some of the farreaching social and historical origins of Holocaust denial. Irrespective of its function within specific social conflicts, the dissemination of antisemitic codes — which includes Holocaust denial — has to be explained within the context of more general ideological developments. This study, therefore, provides new approaches to the analysis of the elements of Arab antisemitism through tracing antisemitic thought back to its socio-historical interaction with nationalism, and contemporary Islamist thought, reviewing both content and cause. This way, the origins of anti-Jewish expressions in Arab public discourse can be concretized.

Roger Garaudy and Holocaust Denial in the Arab Media

Six million Jews dead? No way, they were much fewer. Let’s stop with this fairytale exploited by Israel to capture international solidarity. (La Republicca, 24 March 2000)

This comment by Ikrima Said Sabri, the Palestinian Authority-appointed imam of the al-Aqsa mosque and Mufti of Jerusalem, is the anticipated harsh response to the Vatican document “We Remember,” that asked forgiveness for actions committed by Roman Catholics during the Holocaust. In addition, French President Jacques Chirac’s plea for forgivenesss for French collaboration in the persecution and extermination of Jews during World War II, and statements made by the Pope during his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in spring 2000, sparked negative reactions in the Arab media. Somewhat earlier, countless articles and comments in the Arab media on Roger Garaudy’s The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics (1996) depict the Holocaust as a “Zionist myth” or “Zionist lie” which has become a central issue in contemporary Arab political-historical discourse. While some journalists and academics (Hazem Saghiyeh and Azmi Bishara, for example) demand recognition of the Holocaust as an extraordinary crime against humanity, opponents of any concession to the Jewish or Israeli collective memory remain numerous and prominent. [1]

     Well-documented studies have shown that Holocaust denial can be found in the majority of Arabic newspapers, but detailed surveys of the social and historical background of this phenomenon are still missing. Even though Holocaust denial (as with anti-Jewish stereotypes in articles and caricature) is identified as a manifestation of antisemitism, it is usually ascribed as merely an element of the protracted Arab-Israeli conflict, an instrument for delegitimizing the Israeli state. [2] Bernard Lewis, who has studied different facets of antisemitism in Arab countries, concludes that “[i]f mainstream Arab leaders can bring themselves to follow the example of Sadat and enter into a dialogue with Israel...then it is possible that the anti-semitic campaign will fade away, and be confined, as in the modern West, to fringe groups and fringe regimes.” [3]

     My aim is to reconsider this assumption. Given the presence and vigor of Holocaust negation in reactions to The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics, and the wide range of voices from different religious and political spectra articulated within this debate, I will use this controversy as an example of different patterns of reception within the Arab political-historical discourse. [4] Contextualizing Holocaust denial within a wider framework of ideological and historical developments, the phenomenon appears as a specific expression of a cultural pattern of antisemitic thought. Far from being simply an arbitrary import from European antisemitism, the ideological basis for the adoption of European stereotypes into Arab societies should be scrutinized. The negation and questioning of German crimes against the European Jews — expressed within the context of the contemporary Arab-Israeli conflict— should thus be explained as a “most modern form of anti-Semitism.” [5] Hence, without neglecting the importance of the specific political conflict in which these articles are articulated, I will stress the historical formation of underlying thought patterns and ideological concepts in order to understand the attraction of Holocaust denial in Arab public discourse on Garaudy’s book.

     Soon after the release of The Founding Myths, Arab newspapers published interviews with the author and reports on the charge of antisemitic incitement he was facing in the French courts. [6] His enormous popularity in the Arab countries obviously contributed to the intensive debate triggered by his book. In view of the numerous translations of his earlier writings about Marxism and Islam, it was only a question of time before Arab editors would find interest in his latest work. [7] In France, a first edition of The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics was produced in French and distributed in late 1995 for subscribers of the French publishing house La Vieille Taupe. With extensive chapters about an alleged Holocaust myth and comparisons of Nazism and Zionism, Garaudy openly referred to Robert Faurisson and David Irving and their Holocaust denying publications. The beginning public controversy and the report to the police in January 1996 on his call for incitement forced him to rearrange for the already-envisaged second edition. Published as samizdat at his own expense, a slightly revised edition was released in spring 1996. Despite efforts by him and his lawyers to present his theses as directed against Zionism as a political movement, and not against Jews or Judaism as a religion, in February 1998 a Paris court ruled against him. Garaudy’s book questioned the number of Jewish victims during the Holocaust, and argued that there was no extermination policy as such, and therefore the court found his book to be in violation of the Gayssot Law, under which Holocaust denial and antisemitic incitement is a punishable offence.

     Despite his obvious turn to the French extreme Right, the favorable reaction to Garaudy in Arabic newspapers and magazines was overwhelming. [8] Garaudy was invited to the Cairo International Book Fair in 1998, and during his visits to the Middle East, gained widespread public support and funding for his legal case, peaking in the weeks before the French court delivered its verdict. A number of Arabic translations of his book were offered by publishers such as Dar ash-Shuruq in Cairo and Beirut, and Dar al-Kitab in Damascus. [9] Protest letters on his behalf were written by the Palestinian Writers Association, the Arab Lawyers Federation, and other organizations. Well-known politicians and intellectuals, such as Shaykh Muhammad Al-Tantauwi of the al-Azhar University, former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, Egyptian author and Nobel laureate Nadjib Mahfus, and historian Muhammad Hassanin Haikal publicly commented in his favor. None of these figures questioned Garaudy’s claim that the Holocaust was a Zionist invention.

The “Holocaust Myth”: Turning Victims into Perpetrators


A particular focus of the Arab media is Garaudy’s revisionist view of the history of Nazism. [10] The discussion centers on the historical roots of antisemitism in Germany and Europe, and charges that the Zionists collaborated with the Nazi anti-Jewish policy, and questions the existence of gas chambers, and claims that Israel invented the Holocaust in order to justify its occupation of Arab land.

Origins of Antisemitism: Non-Jews reacting to Jews

Since many Arab authors believe that the Holocaust is used by Zionists as the primary argument for the legitimacy of the Jewish state, their writings therefore seek to explain the historical origins of anti-Jewish aggression in European societies, and go on to blame the Jews themselves for their being rejected and excluded from these societies. Hasan Alam, for example, writes of the “cancerous” spread of Zionism, which sparked riots and pogroms in nineteenth-century Europe against the “separatist” Jews. Alam suggests that the “defensive measures” taken by non-Jews were merely a response to the Jewish threat (al-Yassar, June 1998). Muhammad Ibrahim al-Fiyumi is quoted in a debate as speaking of the “hostility of Semites toward Western civilization” in al-Liwa’ al-Islami (13 June 1996). Muhammad Barakat described the beginnings of the antisemitic movement in Germany founded by Wilhelm Marr in the 1870s in “Are you an antisemite?” He concluded that the Jewish war profiteers of the Franco-German war of 1871 contributed to the expansion of the movement of political antisemitism (al-Watan al-‘Arabi, 23 January 1998).

     In his extensive monograph about the Garaudy case, Saleh Zahr ad-Din also traces anti-Jewish measures to a Jewish threat. Among other things, he claims that the late nineteenth-century pogroms in Russia resulted from the assassination attempts against Tsar Alexander II, “which not only rendered impossible any further integration [of the Jews] but also brought antisemitism to the surface.” (Zahr ad-Din, Background, 85). Zahr ad-Din also looked at the causes of the Reichskristallnacht pogroms of November 1938, and accepts the claim of Nazi propagandists that the disturbances were the result of the assassination in Paris of the German diplomat vom Rath by the Polish Jew Hershel Grynszpan (Zahr ad-Din, Background, 124).

     One further example comes from the writings of Mahmud Fauzi, who speaks of a Jewish “declaration of war” on Germany, referring to Chaim Weizman’s 1939 letter to the British prime minister, in which he expressed his support for Great Britain and democracy in their confrontation with Germany. [11] Fauzi concludes: “Naturally, the reaction of the Germans to the declaration of war by this people [the Jews] was the internment of the German Jews in concentration camps. The same thing happened to the American citizens of Japanese origin when America entered the war against Japan” (Fauzi, Garaudy, 100).

Zionism as Nazism

Numerous articles in the Arab press link Zionism and Nazism. Because of supposedly similar ideological components, as well as historical connections with Nazism, Zionism is depicted as a racist colonial movement. This derives, in part, from perceived similarities between the Zionist definition of who is a Jew, and the Nazi definition of the Volk. ‘Abd al-Aziz Mauwafi (al-Arabi, vol. 460 [1997]) sees an affinity in the “idea of purity of blood” as a fundamental trait of both. Zahr ad-Din (Background, 82) speaks of Zionism “as a spiritual heir of Nazism” while Radjab al-Bana, editor-in-chief of the Egyptian weekly Uktubar claims that “Judaism is the origin, the mother and pattern of all kinds of racism seen in the world” (Uktubar, 17 January 1998); Zionist crimes are said to top those of the Nazis.

     Claims of Nazi-Zionist collaboration are made based on quotes from various Zionist representatives without taking into account the broader historical context in which such statements appeared. Thus, any of the negotiations of Jewish leaders with the Nazis is labelled “collaboration.” To give only one example, a letter of the Zionist Association for Germany (ZVfG) written in June 1933 is without reservation viewed as an authentic expression of approval for the Nazi seizure of power (see al-Musawwar, 16 January 1998 ) . [12]

     Another “proof” of Zionist-Nazi collaboration is offered by ‘Anan Bardji and Fathi ‘Amar, who quote from Alfred Rosenberg’s The Track of the Jews in Changing Times (1919) to show that the enforced emigration of German Jews to Palestine was a central aim of the Nazi movement (al-Mauqif, vol. 127 [1998]; al-’Arabi 19 January 1998). Thus, Rosenberg’s writings of the 1920s, reflecting the aggressive antisemitism of the völkische Bewegung, is presented as the basis for Nazi-Zionist cooperation.

     The character and aims of Nazism are further distorted in references to the “Haavara” agreement of August 1933 which permitted a number of German Jews to emigrate to Palestine. Zahr ad-Din calls the German Ministry of Economic Affairs (which organized the necessary financial transfers) the “backbone of Zionism” (Zahr ad-Din, Background, 107). Sharif ash-Shubashi and Ahmad ‘Abd al-Ma’ata Hidjazi present the Zionists as unscrupulous in their pursuit of Jewish emigration (al-Ahram, 9 May 1996, al-Ahram, 16 October 1996), and like many authors, ignore the Nazi interest in “cleansing” Germany of its Jews, and the bypassing of the international economic sanctions on Germany.

     Jews themselves are said to be responsible for the persecution and deportations. The Hungarian Zionist leader, Rudolph Kasztner, in an ill-fated attempt to get Jews released from concentration camps, is accused of “maintaining law and order in these camps out of which hundreds of thousands were deported to the gas chambers of Auschwitz” (Zahr ad-Din, Background, 124; with comparable stories in al-Wafd, 22 January 1998, ash-Shahid, vol. 151[1998]). Similarly, ‘Abd as-Subur Marzuq concluded that “Zionist leaders played an important role in supporting the Nazi security service. The Jews could even gain supremacy during World War II” (al-Liwa’ al-Islami, 13 October 1996).

     Garaudy’s arguments are adopted and extended when discussing the “Nazi” elements of Israeli politics. The Oslo agreement, for example, is depicted as mirroring the contract made by Adolf Hitler and France’s Marshal Pétain that defined the status of occupied France (al-Ahram, 19 October 1996). Another article, in ash-Shahid, states that “place and time alone differ between Auschwitz and the Zionist camps in Palestine” (vol. 151 [1998]). George Sa’ad referred to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 as another Reichskristallnacht (al-Tariq, vol. 5 [1996]), and Zahr ad-Din’s book alludes to German terms like Judenfrage (the “Jewish Question,” Background, 110), and Hasan Radjab cites a common charge that “the Palestinian people are the true victim of the Nazis” ( al-Akhbar, 6 February 1998).

     The Egyptian academic, ‘Abd al-Wahab al-Missiri, well-known for his writings on the history of Zionism, also authored one of the first more comprehensive works in Arabic on National Socialist ideology. In Zionism, Nazism, and the End of History (1997), he attempts to prove the common ideological origins of Zionism and Nazism. [13] He criticized Garaudy for his “journalistic” research, doesn’t share Garaudy’s doubts about the existence of the gas chambers, nor is he outspokenly in agreement with Garaudy’s minimizing of the number of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Nevertheless, al-Missiri joined the campaign to support Garaudy and edited a volume on various aspects of the controversy. [14]

     Al-Missiri claims that the Holocaust can be understood as the inevitable consequence of modern Western thought, with its secularization and decline of values. Citing Jürgen Habermas, Hannah Arendt, and Zygmunt Bauman, al-Missiri depicts Western societies as a “civilization of extermination” (al-Djadid fi-l-’Alam al-Kutub wa-l-Maktabat, Winter 1997). Modernity, with its reverence for the human person, its claim of “objectivity” in science, and its neglect of God and religious values, is the source of Western destructiveness. Al-Missiri criticizes the denial of the Holocaust found in the Arab-Islamic world, for it prevents one from assessing the true danger of either Nazism or Zionism, and the impact of Western thought. Despite his acceptance that the anti-Jewish persecution and extermination did take place, al-Missiri’s thesis represents a distorted and banal understanding of both Zionism and Nazism.

     In addition, al-Missiri attempts to demonstrate a Western anti-Muslim bias. In the concentration camps, inmates who had lost all hope and became passive unto death were called Muselmänner (Muslims). Although a number of Holocaust historians have noted that this designation reflects a European misunderstanding of the little-known Islamic culture, al-Missiri sees in it a clear anti-Muslim bias and says that the Jews were really “substitute Muslims” — ultimately, the “real” intended enemy and victims. [15]

     To sum up, Zionist pressure to foster Jewish emigration to Palestine is claimed to be the driving force for the formulation and enforcement of anti-Jewish measures in Europe, thus reversing cause and effect. Responsibility for the extermination of European Jewry is shifted from the Nazis to the Zionists.

Denying the Holocaust

Not surprisingly, articles denouncing Zionism as Nazism often include Holocaust denial as well. Besides pointing to “classic” revisionist writers such as Robert Faurisson, Paul Rassinier, and Henri Roques, who are quoted in Garaudy’s Founding Myths, one finds references to the writings of David Irving and others. Through questioning the existence of the gas chambers, minimizing the number of Jewish victims, and pointing to the thousands of non-Jewish victims, readers are led to doubt whether there was any specific antisemitic policy of extermination.

     It is claimed that it was technically impossible to operate the gas chambers as such, and that they were merely crematoria and disinfection sites (ash-Sha’ab, 24 March 1998, al-Ahram, 20 May 1996, al-Akhbar, 14 July 1998). Noting that Garaudy stated there were no gas chambers in Dachau, Hilmi an-Namnam and others take this as evidence that no gas chambers existed anywhere (al-Musawwar, 16 January 1998, al-Wafd, 22 January 1998).

     Accusations that the Zionists have magnified the number of Jewish victims follows Garaudy’s mixing up of the estimated number of victims in Auschwitz compared to or added to those of other concentration and death camps. Baha Tahir, for example, distorts the known statistics in order to “expose the lie” and cites the downward revision of the number of victims killed in Auschwitz (Tahir, 1996); and Sharif ash-Shubashi bases his articles on a claim that only three to four million Jews lived in Europe during the 1940s (al-Ahram , 12 May 1996; see also al-Madjalla, 1 March 1998, ash-Sha’ab , 24 March 1998). And by citing other victims of World War II, including Germans killed, several authors thereby diminish the importance of the Jewish victims (al-Ahram, 9 May 1996, al-Ahram, 4 April 1998, al-Watan al-’Arabi, 23 January 1998).

     Even the use of the term “Holocaust” is questioned, particularly when denying the intent of the complete extermination of the Jews. Zahr ad-Din, for example, wrote that “this lie [of intending to murder all the Jews, G.N.] was unmasked by Americans after the arrest of a great number of black marketeers in Germany and Austria proved to be Polish Jews” (Zahr ad-Din , Background, 143).

     In this false historiography of the Holocaust, the crimes of the Nazi era are viewed only as general “crimes against humanity” with no acknowledgement of the importance of the specifically anti-Jewish components within the National Socialist ideology and poli cy.

Instrumentalization of the Holocaust

Revision of Holocaust historiography is the central aim of a number of writers, some of whom suggest that “genuine” historical research is banned. The French Loi Gayssot, under which Garaudy was tried and sentenced, is identified as a Zionist attempt to consolidate the “founding myth of Israeli politics.” The Holocaust is depicted as a manipulative forgery that was used to bring about the Israeli state and justify the politics of occupation.

     In many articles, well-known revisionists like Henri Roques, Wilhelm Stäglich, and Gerd Honsik are presented as respectable historians and are cited as challenging the “forgeries of National Socialist history.” They are often prosecuted under the laws of their countries, because “denying historical facts about the massacre of the Jews is more dangerous than an accusation of premeditated murder” (al-Madjalla, 25 January 1998). In the words of Ahmed Rami (who was himself sentenced in Sweden for racist incitement), this has led to the imprisonment of “hundreds of Germans as political detainees” (ash-Sha’ab, 24 March 1998). Rami clearly supports the European extreme Right, and popular columnists like Fahmi Huwaidi do not hesitate to cite representatives of the völkisch-antisemitic National Democratic Party of Germany (al-Madjalla, 1 March 1998). Laila ‘Inan assumes that the Loi Gayssot was passed in order to prevent further research on French collaboration under the Vichy regime (ash-Sha’ab, 22 January 1998). Most authors, however, stress the role of the Holocaust in legitimizing the establishment of the state of Israel, and thus they accuse Zionist lobbies of initiating this kind of legislation. “During the 20th century, the ‘Holocaust’ in the Zionist account was never more than a pretext used by international Zionism for a justification of the existence of Israel” (Tarikh al-’Arab wa-l-’Alam, vol. 2 [1998]). The Zionist lobby is also accused of imposing political pressure on the Pope, the United Nations, on France, and other countries to compel remembrance of the Holocaust (al-Ahram, 6 May 1996; Uktubar, 25 January 1998); the distorted and exaggerated narrative, the Zionist “forgery” was imposed not only on Germany, but even on countries unconnected with it.

     Not surprisingly, it is suggested that financial interests are behind the “Holocaust lie” (al-Ahram, 20 May 1996). Zahr ad-Din (Background, 141) points to the “mentalities of ‘usury,’ ‘trading,’ and ‘business’ which are the eternal pillars of the Jews’ profit.”

     At the same time, public awareness of the Holocaust has led to the claim that a Holocaust or genocide is being conducted against the Palestinian people. [16] The term Holocaust then is also applied to the increasingly unpopular UN embargo against Iraq, as seen in the article by Salama Ahmad Salama published in al-Ahram (25 February 1998).

     Thus, we find a widespread acceptance of the assumptions upon which The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics is based. Any special significance of the events of the Nazi era to the Jewish collective memory are rejected, for the Holocaust is seen as merely a myth used to justify Israel’s existence and to claim reparations payments.

Images of the Jews

Articles by Arab authors provide a negative picture of the Jews that relies on well-known stereotypes. Popular perceptions of the Holocaust are tied to these stereotypes, and integrated into anti-Zionist statements.

     While Garaudy, for his part, claimed that his book was a critique of the Zionist political movement, Arab authors reacting to The Founding Myths, frequently ignore any distinction between “Zionists” and “Jews”. Both Garaudy’s wife, Salma, and his defence attorney, no doubt concerned about the implications of this in the legal proceedings, complained vehemently about the interchangeable usage of the two terms in Arabic translations and quotes from the book (al-Musawwar, 16 January 1998). Yet Ahmed Rami insisted on synonymous usage of the terms, claiming that the Talmud calls on Jews to hate and commit crimes, which is evidence of the racism of all Jews that makes any distinction between Zionists and non-Zionists irrelevant (ash-Sha’ab, 24 March 1998).

     Speaking of the Jews as differing like fingerprints, but all having an identical aim, Fauzi clearly identifies the Jews as a collective (Fauzi, Garaudy, 15). Other writers make the same point in headlines reading “Search the Jews” (al-Ahram Hebdo, 4 February 1998), “The Jews are ruling the world by law” (Ruz al-Yussif, 19 January 1998), and “Garaudy and the attack of the Jewish lobby” (as-Safir, 12 January 1998).

     It is only a small step from this to the various imaginations of Jewish conspiracies, such as the charge that Jews control the media (i.a. al-Ahram, 24 February 1998). Suggestions that the Jews/Zionists operate a worldwide conspiracy to undermine Arab influence in the world draws not only on classics of antisemitism like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but on analyses of contemporary events. For example, the United States supposedly appointed several secretaries of state who were of Jewish origin; [17] while perhaps the most original theory concerning a Jewish conspiracy centered on the Monica Lewinsky scandal: in an attempt to prevent U.S. President William Clinton from putting pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the affair and the Jewish origins of Monica Lewinsky were taken as evidence of a conspiracy against the Palestinians (al-Ahram Hebdo, 4 February 1998). [18]

     The ultimate aim of the Jewish conspiracy was summed up by Ahmed Rami:

The disastrous power of Jewish Zionism is not only aiming at an occupation of Palestine, but is in fact occupying all countries of the west, the world economy, the media and the international and regional organisations. It will be possible that Zionists are going to judaize Christianity. This judaization started with St. Paul and was extended by some judaized popes. Today we have reached a situation in which the head of the French Church is a Jew called Lustiger.” (ash-Sha’ab, 6 February 1998).

     However, even when describing conspiracy theories in which the Jews are not explicitly named, the underlying semantic construction of the Jews is revealed in the images of “Freemasons” and “Zionists.”

     Negative stereotypes of Jews as treacherous, cunning, and sly resemble classic anti-Jewish images found in European antisemitism. Appearing in the general context of widespread anti-Jewish stereotypes, these images are not limited to discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead, they reflect the diversity of anti-Jewish accusations and conspiracy theories used to explain various unaccepted social phenomena in Arab societies that are said to result from Jewish influence.

Reconstruction of a discourse

Four basic patterns emerge within the discourse surrounding Garaudy’s book:

An apologetic stance toward National Socialis . Emphasizing and extending Garaudy’s doubts about the antisemitic motivations of Nazism, Mahmud Fauzi and Salah Zahr ad-Din’s writings minimize Nazi crimes and the background to them. They assert that Hitler himself was not antisemitic, and go on to claim that the Zionists themselves were guilty of the crimes. Although the alleged Nazi-Zionist collaboration is primarily used to underline the “criminal essence” of Zionism, the delegation of Nazi crimes to the Zionists in fact stems from the desire to shift responsibility for those crimes away from the Nazis.

Anti-Zionism. Writers like Ahmed Rami and Muhammad Salmawi may make detailed reference to Garaudy’s work. However, instead of focusing on the issues found in the book, they focus instead on the idea that there is a conspiracy on the part of Zionists and Jewish organizations to control Holocaust historiography as part of a drive to achieve contemporary political aims. These writers see a Jewish conspiracy behind the prosecution of Garaudy.

An Islamic Alternative. ‘Abd al-Wahab al-Missiri writes that Zionism and Nazism share similar traits, leading to genocide, and promote a value system directly opposite to that of Islam. In this line of argument, the extermination of the Jews is not denied, but the Holocaust is seen as analogous to Israeli policies toward the Palestinians during the occupation. Only Islam offers an alternative to the Western model of modern civilization.

An Undifferentiated anti-Zionist/ anti-Nazi Pattern . Articles written from the perspective of the Arab Left often combine arguments that are anti-fascist and anti-Zionist, yet contain statements minimizing Nazi crimes. George Sa’ad, for example, criticized the European Right’s support for Garaudy while walking a tightrope between his anti-fascist and anti-Zionist stance. Accusing Israel of having a fascist or Nazi character enables one to avoid being charged with Rightist sympathies.

     Similar to Lewis, Yehoshafat Harkabi, an Israeli scholar, wrote that “Arab anti-Semitism is the outcome of political circumstances,… not a cause of the conflict but a product of it. [19] In the following sections of my paper, I will argue that Holocaust denial is not to be understood as something that developed as part of anti-Zionist rhetoric within the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but rather as a specific expression of antisemitic thinking.

Antisemitic Perceptions of the Outside World:

On the Origins of Holocaust-Denying Anti-Zionism

The development of popular perceptions of social change and conflict in patterns of antisemitic “cultural codes” — as described by Shulamit Volkov — has been worked out particularly for early twentieth-century Germany. [20]

     The development of an antisemitic ideology is essentially bound to the modern transformation of social structures, along with fundamental changes in the individual’s integration into society. The weakening of traditional relationships in kinship and religion decisively enforced the formation of substitute ideologies and patterns of perceiving the outside world. The rise of national movements during the late nineteenth century were meaningful expressions of the renewed sense of cultural and political identity. The antisemitism that emerged in that period served to explain otherwise incomprehensible social changes. The underlying patterns of antisemitic thought, then, are essentially “determined by a dual schematic which figured Judaism as the opposite or antithesis of one’s own ideal and self-understanding and which — despite all specific ‘fillings’ in substance of the Jewish or one’s own ‘nature’ — always formed the negative pole.” [21] As such, the content of antisemitic thought did not depend on the behavior of Jewish communities.

     Having in mind the considerable research that has been done on antisemitism in European societies, we can compare and contrast what is known about the phenomenon in Arab-Islamic societies. Ideologies in general, and antisemitism in particular, should be understood in this regard not as authentic phenomena of specific cultures, but rather as certain patterns of thought originating in particular socio-historical contexts. Antisemitic stereotypes are often assumed to have been imported from Europe into Arabic societies, suggesting that this is an exclusively European phenomenon. [22] A survey into some of the parallel, though certainly not identical, social and historical developments should indicate something of the consistency and endurance of antisemitic thought. Leaving aside the psychological and socio-psychological background of antisemitism in Arab societies, I will focus on the historical context, to facilitate understanding of the Arab perceptions of the Holocaust within the debate on The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics. [23] Three aspects enable us to see the historical contexts of the development of contemporary antisemitic thought. First, there is the importance of Islamic and Christian religious thought in the formation of anti-Jewish stereotypes that were later transformed into racist antisemitism. A second area concerns the development of nationalism and its underlying patterns of thought. The third area is the recent emergence of Islamism. A survey of these three areas will provide a greater understanding of the pattern of antisemitic thought in Arab culture. Without assuming that nationalism and Islamism are necessarily expressed in antisemitic terms, the latent antisemitism of its ideological constructions should be stressed.

The Development of Anti-Judaic Images in the Arab-Islamic Context

Bearing in mind the Christian anti-Judaic codes that were part of the European “teaching of contempt” toward Jews and Judaism, one may look for similar factors in the development of anti-Jewish attitudes in Islamic cultures. [24] However, the recent use of negative images of Jews derived from classical Islam does not represent an unchanged continuity of Islamic anti-Judaic thought. [25]

     A number of studies indicate that the Jews were for the most part tolerated in Islamic societies, with few episodes of persecution and pogroms similar to those known from European Jewish history. Viewed as the “People of the Book” in the Quran, both Jews and Christians obtained a position allowing for a certain amount of religious autonomy and security, albeit with a second-class status as dhimmis under the “protection” of Islam that was offered to religious believers whose faiths derived from the teachings of recognized prophets of Allah. [26]

     Despite formal guarantees of tolerance, the fact remains that the Quran (the revealed word of Allah given to Muhammed) and the Hadith (the sayings and teachings of the Prophet Muhammed recorded during the early history of Islam) provide numerous negative images of the Jews, and castigates them for earning the wrath of Allah. Thus, we find that sura of the earlier period of revelation stressed the importance of Judaism as part of the divine messages, but those from the later period take a much more negative view of the Jews, due to the refusal of the Jewish communities of the Arabian peninsula to heed the call of Muhammed for their conversion. [27] Jews are depicted as cunning, deceitful, and cowardly; they are accused of intriguing against Muhammed and the early Muslim community; and they stand accused of deliberately distorting their own sacred texts. [28] Jews were not accused of “deicide” as happened in Christian lands, since Islam vigorously rejects claims that Jesus [the prophet Issa] was divine. However, classical Islamic literature does contain stories about Jewish attempts to poison the Prophet Muhammed; although such stories were of limited influence in Muslim-Jewish relations. [29]

     In Greater Syria and Egypt, Muslim ambivalence toward the Jews were further enforced by the encounter with anti-Judaic thought among the local Christian minorities. The blood libel was spread in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and Christian monks disseminated ritual murder charges against the local Jewish population in Damascus on the eve of Passover in 1840 (the “Damascus Affair”). [30] In this period, too, Arabic translations of French antisemitic literature were produced, and European residents were responsible for the diffusion of anti-Jewish stereotypes found in European Christian culture. [31]

     An important change in the history of Islamic anti-Jewish attitude took place in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. Religious stereotypes were “modernized” by the increasing integration of racial motifs. In the aftermath of the Young Turk revolution, a campaign against the so-called “hidden Jews” —Jews who had converted to Islam — rendered visible the increasing perception of the Jews along racial categories. Similarly, attacks against persons accused of Jewish origin further illustrated the transformation of religious into more essentialist approaches to Judaism and Jews.

     Thus, the ambivalent attitudes toward Jews found in Islamic culture can be summarized as “benign contempt” (Gudrun Krämer). Despite having privileges and the limited protection which Jews enjoyed under Islamic rule, various ambivalences within the religious sources formed the basis for the development of distinct anti-Jewish sentiments among Muslim populations. Not surprisingly, similar to the tradition of Christian anti-Judaism, numerous references to stereotypes deriving from religious sources can be found in contemporary public discourse.

Patterns of Arab Nationalism and its Antisemitic Latency

Understanding the relationship between antisemitic thought and various forms of European nationalism may provide a useful comparison when examining nationalist ideologies of the Middle East. As in Europe, specific socio-economic conditions led to a wide-ranging diversity of ideological expression — religious, secular, pan-Arab, local, revolutionary, and liberal. It is important to look to the historical context of the formation and development of the various movements, as well as their religious and ideological aspects. George L. Mosse assumed that European nationalist movements contained a latent antisemitism. Along with this assumption, certain keywords and concepts of nationalist thought will be illustrated as they interrelate with and enforce antisemitic perceptions of society. [32]

     The development of Arab nationalism is commonly perceived as a phenomenon that began in the early part of the twentieth century. However, the formation of specific Arab nationalist movements in the last decades of the Ottoman period should not lead us to ignore the earlier manifestations of an Arab “awakening” that flowered in a variety of nationalist ideologies. [33]

     The nineteenth century was one of vast social and economic change in the Arab world, evident in the modernization within the Ottoman Empire during the Tanzimat (lit., reorganization, 1839–1879) and in Muhammed ‘Ali’s reforms in Egypt. Economic reform, including industrialization and the capitalization of trade and agriculture, coincided with Ottoman decline and the growing influence of the French and British governments in the region. The socio-economic changes were reflected in new perceptions of the outside world, while the sense of identity rested largely on traditional views from earlier periods. Any analysis of Arab nationalism must therefore take into account the origins of concepts like umma (the collective body of believers) and watan (identification with one’s place of living or home town) in Islamic sources. [34]

     In the late nineteenth century, the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the disintegration of communities increasingly challenged the religion-based concepts of identity and belonging. [35] The revival of Arab art and literature during the nahda (“Renaissance”) in this period advanced by the various Christian minorities in the Greater Syria region further encouraged the perception of non-religious Arab identities. While previous religious fragmentation (evident in the tensions between the various non-Muslim minorities as well as between different groups within Islam) had helped to preserve Ottoman supremacy, the newly secularized Arab identities promised to guarantee a united stance towards external challenges.

     Two popular moderate nationalists ideologies from the beginning of the twentieth century - that of Egyptian Mustafa Kamil (1874–1908) and the pan-Arabist Sati’ al-Husri (1882–1968) can illustrate the correlation between nationalists ideologies and antisemitic patterns of thought. Bearing in mind the diversity of nationalist ideologies in the Arab world, the common underlying structural patterns implied by nationalist thought in general are relevant within this context. [36]

Mustafa Kamil: wataniyya-Nationalism and the Fight for Arab Unity

The Egyptian political situation of the late nineteenth century, characterized by a steady conflict with Britain’s colonial aspirations, provided the backdrop for the formulation of Mustafa Kamil’s wataniyya nationalism. Egypt was relatively autonomous within the Ottoman Empire, and thus, unlike the situation in Greater Syria, the nationalist resistance movement was directed against the colonial powers. Kamil acknowledged a certain support for the central Ottoman regime, and his nationalism combined a dual loyalty to both the Egyptian watan and Islam. [37] The Egyptian nation had developed in a particular way as a result of its unique geography, Kamil believed, and he believed that both the Muslim majority and its Christian and other minorities felt a strong loyalty to their homeland, “one umma, [which is] indeed one family.” [38] Individuals experience a natural need for social integration, and the nation can serve as a broader “family” to whom the individual has a fundamental obligation. [39]

     Kamil depicted his concept of nationalism in mystical language, asserting that the individual possessed a strong emotional orientation toward his own distinct nation. [40] Although he rejected racial concepts of the nation, his thinking did demand enforced and unlimited loyalty from all citizens. The rights of individuals were subordinated to the needs of the state. Kamil used the term ad-dukhala (“intruders”) to refer to elements from within or without the nation who might threaten its unity or stability. [41] The term could be applied to different groups at different times in history. Kamil’s writings, for example, use it to refer to allegedly anti-Ottoman Syrian immigrants, whom he saw as collaborators of the British.

     Kamil claimed that an authentic national consciousness derived from the watan itself. Religious cleavages within the community, for example, could be surmounted by the common striving against foreign rule. This sense of distinct national identity, however, led to the emphasis of a friend/enemy dichotomy. With the concept of ad-dukhala representing both internal and external “enemies,” Kamil’s nationalist wataniyya was directed against alleged threats both within and outside of Egypt.

Sati‘ al-Husri and the Struggle for an “Arab 1871”

In contrast to Kamil’s local Egyptian Arab nationalism, Sati‘ al-Husri inspired a pan-Arab nationalist ideology. Al-Husri was a high-ranking official with the Iraqi and Arab League educational administration, whose thought influenced Iraqi, Syrian, and Egyptian nationalism.

     Al-Husri placed great importance on the Arabic language as “the nation’s soul and her most important element.” [42] Language was not merely a means of communication, but the means of transmitting tradition, and the authentic expression of the Arab nation’s existence. Al-Husri himself was influenced by some aspects of German nationalism as formulated by Herder, Fichte, and Arndt. He looked to Bismarck’s example of uniting Germany as a model to be followed: “The organic unity of the Arab nation should find political expression by following the German example of 1871.” [43]

     Al-Husri ostensibly rejected a racial basis for defining the Arab nation, rejecting theories of evolution and biological concepts of the nation, yet his own concept of qaum (which is best translated as the German Volk) is problematic. Al-Husri looks to language, however, as the unifying feature of the nation:

Every Arabic-speaking people is an Arab people, and every one who belongs to the Arab people is an Arab. But should he not know himself…or should he not cherish Arabism (al-‘uruba) … then must we find out the reasons that make him adopt such a stand. It may be of ignorance, in which case it is our duty to teach him the truth…or it may be due to unawareness or credulity, and we must awaken him and direct him to the right path. [44]

The freedom of the individual is thus secondary to his function as part of the nation, with its “ties and chains of spiritual gold…of the gold of tradition, of history, and of duty.” [45]

     This ultimate submission to the community and the primacy of cultural homogeneity implied by al-Husri’s pan-Arabism can hardly be distinguished from similar principles that underlie racial theories, even though his theory does not insist on common descent. Like Kamil, al-Husri rails against foreign influence which will weaken cultural ties. Looking to European history, al-Husri saw a parallel in the situation of German lands occupied by Napoleon in the early nineteenth century; territorial fragmentation, he felt, was the reason for the decline of the Arab nation and its ‘uruba.

Anti-Jewish Objectivizations of Nationalist Thought

As seen in these two different examples of Arab nationalist ideas, the definition of national belonging essentially presupposes the construction of an “enemy” or “outsider” of some sort. As George Mosse put it, “the fight for the nation’s unity requires enemies.” [46] The preservation of national characteristics is achieved by facing whatever may be seen as fragmenting cultural homogeneity from within or outside the community. [47]

     Notwithstanding the historical changes in stereotypes, the underlying patterns of nationalist ideologies coincided to a large extent with anti-Jewish depictions and made Jews latent representatives of these “others.” Commonly perceived as both a nation and a religious group and assumed to be living without ties to a specific country, they were seen as anti-national cosmopolitans, by definition excluded from being part of Arab or Egyptian nations. Anti-Jewish perceptions are further implied in the dichotomy of self and “other” found in the constructions of various nationalist ideologies as exemplified here. The adoption of anti-modern Romantic thought thus comes close to the German nationalist concept of the Gegenrasse, that “viewed as alien a whole series of phenomena and ideas which would become increasingly important in the course of the nineteenth century, such as capitalism, liberalism, democracy, and socialism.” [48] In light of existing Christian and Islamic anti-Jewish depictions and the developement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the identification of this Gegenrasse with the Jews became more than just an option. The transformation of religious differences into a national antagonism between Arabs and non-Arabs thus based on new patterns of thought which took on some anti-Jewish a spects.

Islamic Awakening and the Imagination of an Overall Cultural-Religious Confrontation

Rooted in the decline of nationalist ideologies and the de-facto defeat of Arab armies in the wars with Israel, Islamist movements, calling for as-sahwa al-islamiyya (Islamic awakening), have integrated the essential currents of previous intellectual debates and the popular mood. The failure of the most promising nationalist reform projects in Nasser’s Egypt and Ba’athist Syria and Iraq led to an increasing attraction to religious renewal movements. The romantic images of collective cooperation envisioned by nationalist ideologues who modernized the Islamic concept of the umma, and the call for al-wahda al-arabiyya (Arab unity), has been replaced by the slogan Islam huwa al-hal — Islam is the solution. Unlike the nineteenth-century reform movements and the Arab nahda, Islamism in the second half of the twentieth century has tended to interpret the defeat and decline of Arab societies as the result of more existential threats:

While earlier generations were responding to problems of internal decay and foreign intervention, the current challenge is perceived as coming form more overbearing, coercive, and intrusive quarters. [49]

     The religious distinction between dar al-islam  (the house of Islam) and dar al-harb (the house of war) posits the ultimate opposition and conflict between Islam and the non-Islamic world. [50] Islamists likewise refer to jahiliyya (the “time of ignorance”) and hakimiyya allah (the rule of God) not in their historic sense of the time before and after the promulgation of Islam, but rather, referring to the present confrontation between the “degenerate” Western world and Islam. Among those who spoke of jahiliyya as a cultural, psychological, and social state of anomie illustrated by the antagonism between Islam and Western societies was the well-known Islamic philosopher Sayyid Abu l-‘Ala Maududi (1903–1979). [51]

     The perception of social and political conflicts as religious-cultural confrontations is increasingly articulated after the loss of Palestine in 1948 and the Israeli occupation of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem after 1967. Islamist groups interpreted the establishment of the state of Israel as a God-given punishment for the Arabs’ adoption of alien ideologies, estrangement from Islamic belief and practice, along with the unchallenged menace of socialism, capitalism, and nationalism, and social disintegration. A radical rejection of all things “Western” — including the integration of any European elements within Arab nationalist movements — is accompanied by an insistence on a return to the religious foundations of Arab society. The Arab-Israeli conflict is thus raised to an eternal and spiritual dimension, “a struggle between truth, represented by Islam, and falsehood, represented by total disbelief, by Zionism and its supporters: Crusaderism and atheism.” [52] Regarded as an aspect of colonial aspirations of the first half of the twentieth century, and dependent on European and American support, Zionism was thus perceived primarily as a tool for Western expansion. The Jews were no longer the “wretched” of the Quranic image, but began to symbolize the eternal opponent within this conflict. Various interpretations assumed that “the interests of both Jewish and European consciousness were joined,” [53] with its mutually reinforced racist attitude toward Islam, along with the depiction of Judaism and Zionism as the embodiment of the “enemy.” [54] Quotations from the Quran were drawn on to demonstrate the inherent characteristics of both the Jews and the Zionist state. Western support for Israel seemed to place the Jews at the center of harmful developments within many Muslim nations. Israel, depicted as a “cancerous tumor” and “parasite” is thus associated with a “Westoxication,” the threat of disintegrating and destructive influences onto Arab-Islamic societies. [55] While similar to stereotypes found within nationalist thought, the widespread interpretation in antisemitic terms of troubling social phenomena such as family disintegration or the spread of disease clearly demonstrates that these charges are not connected to the Arab conflict with the Israeli state.

     The virulence of conspiracy theories in Islamist thought is linked to its common perception of social change and development as expressions of overall cultural-religious confrontations. [56] . Regarding actual trajectories and substantial conflicts in contemporary Middle Eastern societies, their causes are shifted onto abstract powers and mysterious plots as a functional explanation. Taking up the religious-based dichotomy of a two-sided antagonistic world and its existential conflict between good and evil helps to reduce social complexities. The anti-Jewish stereotypes within Islamist thought thus contributes to antisemitic codes prevalent in Arab-Islamic societies.


My intent in this analysis of current patterns of thought was aimed at indicating the socio-historical backgrounds of antisemitic codes within Arab public discourse. Similar to the situation with Christian anti-Judaism, Islamic anti-Judaic stereotypes are interrelated with contemporary perceptions of social conflict within the context of Arab-Islamic societies. Arab nationalist ideologies construct an image of some essential threat to the theoretically homogeneous national unity in which the category of “intruder” shows structural affinities to antisemitic patterns of thought. The Islamist perception of reality and its depiction as an existential confrontation between antagonistic civilizations further emphasizes similar interpretations of conflicts and strongly propagates conspiratorial views of the outside world. The vigor of Islamist belief and nationalist ideologies in contemporary Arab societies, finally, demonstrates how fundamental these assessments are to society. In this regard, the dissemination of anti-Jewish stereotypes and accusations can be understood as consequence of various ideologies contributing to the formation of consistent antisemitic codes within Arab-Islamic societies.

     The public controversy over Garaudy’s Founding Myths of Israeli Politics with its manifest denial of the Holocaust, gives reason to consider it one of the most significant contemporary expressions of antisemitic thought. Despite fundamental ideological gaps between the contributors to the debate, a common perception of the Holocaust and the Jews became evident. Having made the negation of Nazi antisemitism and the Holocaust a central issue in reviews and commentary on Garaudy, Holocaust denial is revealed as a binding interest between various political spectra. As such, Helen Fein’s conclusion holds:

“there is no reason why the attackers’ justification should define the phenomenon to be explained in a scientific explanation. The alleged justification [i.e., anti-Judaic, anti-capitalist, or antisemitic by its own profession] or ideology is not an explanation of an antisemitic movement or behavior but an example of the data to be explained.” [57]

Whatever the specific contexts and the expressed aims of certain articles, the interpretations of Nazism and its crimes against the European Jews can be traced back to common antisemitic premises.

     Two years after the height of the repercussions, Garaudy and his works remain visible in the Arab media. Far from being an argument applied temporarily within the Arab-Israeli conflict, various forms of Holocaust denying statements remain widespread. Even though public figures have renewed their calls on the public to acknowledge the Holocaust as a historical fact, others persistently continue to support Garaudy’s theses. [58] With media coverage of the libel of the British writer David Irving against historian Deborah Lipstadt in spring 2000, and the publication of Norman Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry by Lebanese publisher Dar al-Adab later that year, the topic remains omnipresent in Arab media.

[1]      Hazem Saghiyeh and Saleh Bashir, “Universalizing the Holocaust,” Palestine Israel Journal, no. 3-4 (1998-9): 90-97. For latest insight into the debates see Rainer Zimmer-Winkel ed., Die Araber und die Shoah (Trier: Aphorisma, 2000), 9–33 and especially Esther Webman, “Rethinking the Holocaust: An Open Debate in the Arab World,” in Anti-Semitism Worldwide 1998/9 (Tel Aviv: Stephen Ross Institute, 1999). Within the debate on Garaudy, Hasan ash-Shami was one of the most profound critics of Holocaust denial in Arab media, al-Hayat, 29 March 1998.

[2]      See Edmond Cao-Van-Hoa, “Der Feind meines Feindes...” Darstellungen des nationalsozialistischen Deutschlands in ägyptischen Schriften (Frankfurt/ Main: Europäische Hochschulschriften, 1990). Other approaches neglected in this paper assume a determinist and by this timeless antisemitic attachment of Muslims and Arabs. By suggesting a monolithic essence of Islam and an almost essentialist understanding of Arab societies, these efforts prevent any substantial insight into the origins of antisemitic thought and its interrelation with specific historical contexts.

[3]      Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites (New York: W. W. Norton, 1986), 259.

[4]      The material I used consisted in 150 articles from newspapers, magazines and scientific journals, most published in Egypt and Lebanon. In addition I examined two monographs, Saleh Zahr ad-Din, Historical Background of the Process against Roger Garaudy (in Arabic) (Beirut: al-Markaz al-’Arabi li-l-Idjat wa-t-Tawthiq, 1998) and Mahmud Fauzi, Garaudy, Islam and the Rage of Zionism (in Arabic) (Cairo: Dar ash-Sha’ab, 1996?). Selections from Fauzi’s book appeared in the Egyptian magazine al-Ahram al-Iqtisadi. In the appendix of Zahr ad-Din’s work several newspaper articles on Garaudy, as well as an Arabic translation of the chapter “The Holocaust Myth” are reprinted.

[5]      See Klaus Holz and Elfriede Müller, “Die Affäre Roger Garaudy/Abbé Pierre. Bemer­kungen zum Revisionismus in Frankreich,” in Jahrbuch für Antisemitismusforschung, edited by Wolfgang Benz (Frankfurt/Main: Campus, 1997), 157. Cf. Pierre-André Taguieff, “L’Abbé Pierre et Roger Garaudy. Négationisme, Antijudaisme, Antisionisme,” Esprit, no. 8-9 (1996): 215.

[6]      For details on the Garaudy affair in France, see: Valérie Igounet, Histoire du Négationisme en France (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 2000), 472-83.

[7]      More than a dozen of Garaudy’s books were translated into Arabic, including many from his communist period up to the early 1960s when he began to distance himself from the French Communist Party. Other books written after his conversion to Islam in 1981 were translated during the 1980s and 1990s.

[8]      Examples for the support Garaudy gained in Arab countries are given by Mouna Naim, “Critiqué, jugé, sanctionné pour ses thèses en France, l’ancien théoricien du PC, Roger Garaudy, est décoré et louangé dans les pays arabes,Le Monde, 1 March 1998.

[9]      Additional complete or abridged Arabic versions were published in Cairo by Dar agh-Ghad al-’Arabi and in Morocco by Edition Ezzaman. Translations of some chapters appeared in various newspapers.

[10]     I understand Holocaust denial not only as a negation of the extermination as such, but more generally as any attempt to distort the origins and the reality of Nazism and the Holocaust.

[11]     See Barnet Litvinoff, ed., The Essential Chaim Weizmann (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1982), 125ff.

[12]     For an overview of these charges, see Francis Nicosia, “Victims as Perpetrators: German Zionism and Collaboration in Recent Historical Controversy,” in Remembering for the Future, edited by Yehuda Bauer (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1989), 2134-2148.

[13]     ‘Abd al-Wahab al-Missiri, Zionism, Nazism and the End of History (in Arabic) (Cairo and Beirut: Dar ash-Shuruq, 1997).

[14]     ‘Abd al-Wahab al-Missiri, ed., Garaudy — Forged Myths and the Victory of Man (In Arabic) (Cairo: Itihad al-’Am li-l-Fananin al-’Arab, 1996).

[15]     Al-Missiri, Zionism, 228.

[16]     As a prerequisite for an Arab recognition of the Holocaust against the Jews, the editor of the London-based al-Hayat demanded an acknowledgment “of the other Holocausts committed by Israel against the Arab world,” al-Hayat, 15 January 1998.

[17]     Accusing someone of being Jewish is common in Arab public discourse. Interestingly, Garaudy himself was accused of having a Jewish origin and thus a potential agent against Islam. His Muslim critic ‘Adil at-Tal, suspects that Garaudy’s “materialistic approach to Islam” is an indication of Jewish origins (‘Adil at-Tal, The Thinking of Garaudy — Between Materialism and Islam — A Critique of His Writings in the Light of Quran and Sunna (in Arabic) (Beirut: Dar al-Bayyna, 1997), 19). A Jordanian journalist explained Zionists’ attacks against Garaudy as a response to his alleged conversion from Judaism to Islam, The Star , 22 January 1998. Because of a widespread antisemitic belief linking Jews to Communism, both authors probably are alluding to Garaudy’s communist period.

[18]      Further details are summarized in P. R. Kumaraswamy, Monica Lewisnky in Middle Eastern Eyes, Middle East Quaterly (March 1999): 57–66.

[19]         Yehoshafat Harkabi, “Contemporary Arab Anti-Semitism: its Causes and Roots,” in The Persisting Question. Sociological Perspectives and Social Contexts of Modern Antisemitism, edited by Helen Fein (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1987), 412-27, here 420.

[20]     Shulamit Volkov, Antisemitismus als kultureller Code (Munich: Verlag C. H. Beck, 2000).

[21]     Christard Hoffmann, “Das Judentum als Antithese. Zur Tradition eines kulturellen Wertungsmusters,” in Antisemitismus in Deutschland: Zur Aktualität eines Vorurteils, edited by Wolfgang Benz (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1995), 25.

[22]     This argumentation is common in most of the literature, which suggests and supports the conclusion that the use of these stereotypes depends on an instrumental application. Similarly, the history of Arab nationalism is often presented as a European import. Although Arab writers found inspiration in European nationalism, one should not conclude that the nationalist idea was foreign to the Arab world.

[23]     A rare article that discusses the specific psychological background of antisemitism in the Arab Middle East, related to conspiracy theories is Marvin Zonis and Craig M. Joseph, “Conspiracy Thinking in the Middle East,” Political Psychology, no. 15 (1994): 443-59.

[24]     Yehuda Bauer, “In Search of a Definition of Antisemitism,” in Approaches to Antisemitism. Context and Curriculum , edited by Michael Brown (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1994), 17.

[25]     See Esther Webman, Anti-Semitic Motifs in the Ideology of Hizbollah and Hamas (Tel Aviv: Project for the Study of Anti-Semitism, 1994), 18f.

[26]     A short discussion of the limitations of the legal definition and the de-facto dhimmi-status is given by Gudrun Krämer, Gottes Staat als Republik. Reflexionen zeitgenoessischer Muslime zu Islam, Menschenrechte und Demokratie (Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 1999), 162-73.

[27]     See Léon Poliakov, Geschichte des Antisemitismus. Religiöse und Soziale Toleranz im Islam, vol. 3 (Worms: Verlag Georg Heintz, 1979), 21f and 58-85.

[28]     See Yehoshafat Harkabi, Arab Attitudes towards Israel (London: Valentine Mitchell, 1972), 266, in which he notes the relevant sura; also Bernard Lewis, “Muslim Anti-Semitism,” Middle East Quarterly (June 1998): 43.

[29]     Ronald Nettler, “Islamic Archetypes of the Jews: Then and Now,” in Present-day Antisemitism, edited by Yehuda Bauer (Jerusalem: Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1988), 65; see also Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites, 150.

[30]     Harkabi, Arab Attitudes, 270f.

[31]     On Arabic translations of antisemitic “classics,” see Sylvia Haim, “Arab Antisemitic Literature,” in Jewish Social Studies, no. 4 (1956): 307-309; on the influence of European residents in the development of anti-Jewish attitudes in the Arab Middle East and Maghreb see Michel Abitbol, The Jews of North Africa during the Second World War (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989), 19-22.

[32]     On the relationship between nationalism and antisemitism, see Shmuel Almog, Nationalism and Antisemitism in Modern Europe 1815-1945 (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1990), 14; Peter Alter and Claus-E. Bärsch et al., eds., Die Konstruktion der Nation gegen die Juden (Duisburg: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1999), 9.

[33]     Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939 ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 260-323.

[34]     See Sylvia Haim, “Islam and the Theory of Arab Nationalism,” in Die Welt des Islam, no. 2-3 (1955): 131; Bernard Lewis, The Political Language of Islam (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 32.

[35]     Armando Salvatore, Islam and the Political Discourse of Modernity (Berkshire, U.K.: Ithaca Press, 1997), 189ff.

[36]         Intentiously, I did not choose the ideas of Sami Shawkat, Michel ‘Aflaq, Zaki al-Arsuzi or Antun Sa’ada, for it might me argued that they are only representing the most radical spectra of Arab nationalism. In this context, however, it is possible to illustrate the problematic patterns of thought as reflected in more moderate nationalist ideologies.

[37]     Fritz Steppart, “Nationalismus und Islam bei Mustafa Kamil. Ein Beitrag zur Ideengeschichte der ägyptischen Nationalbewegung,” Die Welt des Islam, no. 4 (1956): 267.

[38]     Kamil, cited in Israel Gershoni, Egypt, Islam and Arabs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 8.

[39]     Steppart, “Nationalismus und Islam,” 263.

[40]     Ibid., 264f.

[41]     Ibid., 258f; Gershoni, Egypt, 16f.

[42]     Sati‘ al-Husri cited by Bassam Tibi, Vom Gottesreich zum Nationalstaat. Islam und panarabischer Nationalismus (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1987), 134.

[43]     Tibi, Gottesreich, 143.

[44]     Husri, cited by Haim, “Islam,” 144.

[45]     Ibid., 126.

[46]     George Mosse, “Jews in the Age of Modern Nationalism,” in Konstruktion der Nation, 23.

[47]     This view strongly coincide with the depiction of the Jews as constituting “a state within a state,” an idea especially relevant for the national thought of Johann Gottlieb Fichte; see Jacob Katz, “ ‘A State within a State.’ The History of an Anti-Semitic Slogan ,” in Zur Assimilation und Emanzipation der Juden, edited by Jacob Katz (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1982), 124ff.

[48]     Almog, Nationalism, 14.

[49]     Yvonne Haddad, “Islamists and the ‘Problem of Israel’: The 1967 Awakening,” Middle East Journal, no. 2 (1992): 272f.

[50]     Rivka Yadlin, An Arrogant Oppressive Spirit — Anti-Zionism as Anti-Judaism in Egypt (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1989), 113; Larbi Sadiki, “Occidentalism: The ‘West’ and ‘Democracy’ as Islamist Constructs,” Orient, no. 39 (1998): 112f.

[51]     Another important source for today’s Islamists are the writings of Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna. See Israel Gershoni, “Rejecting the West: The Image of the West in the Teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood, 1928-1939”, in Great Powers in the Middle East, edited by Uriel Dann (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1998) and Ronald L. Nettler, “Past Trials and Present Tribulations: A Muslim Fundamentalist Speaks on the Jews,” in Antisemitism in the Contemporary World, edited by Michael Curtis (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1986), 97–106.

[52]     Ziad Abu Ghanima, cited in Haddad, “Islamists,” 268.

[53]     Refering to the well-known Egyptian intellectual, Hasan Hanafi, Rivka Yadlin analyzes the Islamic Left’s perception of conflict; Yadlin, Arrogant Oppressive Spirit, 43.

[54]     See especially the analysis of Hamas and Hizballah by Webman, “Hizballah.”

[55]     See Emmanual Sivan, “Islamic Fundamentalism, Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism,” in Antisemitism, 74.

[56]     Yadlin, Arrogant Oppressive Spirit, 75.

[57]     Helen Fein, “Dimensions of Antisemitism: Attitudes, Collective Accusations, and Actions,” in Persisting Question, 69.

[58]     In spring 2000, Garaudy was again invited to participate at the International Cairo Book Fair; and he was also scheduled to address the annual conference of the California-based extreme Right Institute for Historical Review in Beirut. This was the first time the extreme Right openly undertook to address the Arab-Islamic world, using figures such as Garaudy, Robert Faurisson, and Horst Mahler.

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