Anti-Semitism and Holocaust

Dance of Death Overtakes the Arab World


JERUSALEM--One night in May 1967, a few weeks before the Six-Day War, I was watching the news with my father, a Holocaust survivor.

Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser had just shut the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping, expelled the U.N. peacekeeping force from the Sinai and massed troops on the border. A report from Cairo appeared on the screen, showing thousands of men leaping around banners imprinted with skulls and crossbones and chanting death slogans against Israel.

At that moment, my father and I both understood, without exchanging a word, what was about to happen next. History taught: When the death banners take over the streets, war becomes inevitable.

In recent weeks those faded television images from 1967 have assumed renewed clarity. Almost imperceptibly, the dance of death is again overtaking the Arab world.

A new hit song on Egyptian radio stations proclaims, "I hate Israel." State-controlled newspapers vie with each other to spread the most astonishing lies, including the medieval notion that Jews use the blood of murdered Gentile children for matzo--the theme of a popular book written by Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Talas that is about to be turned into an Egyptian film that is being touted as the Arab response to "Schindler's List."

The Arab world has become obsessed with the Holocaust, and two camps have emerged. One camp, which includes the government-controlled newspapers of Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, argues that the Holocaust never happened; the other camp, which includes at least one government newspaper in Egypt, acknowledges that the Holocaust did happen and is grateful to Hitler for implementing it.

Indeed, nowhere except in the Arab world is both Holocaust denial and admiration for the Final Solution as mainstream, including among intellectuals. Almost every morning, I find on my computer screen another message of hate, courtesy of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington-based group specializing in translations of the Arab press. MEMRI wisely refrains from attaching commentaries to its translations and allows the articles to speak for themselves.

Here is a small sample of what has recently come across my screen: Ahmad Ragab, in his daily column in the Egyptian government-sponsored newspaper Al Akhbar, April 20: "Thanks to Hitler, of blessed memory, who, on behalf of the Palestinians, revenged in advance against the most vile criminals on the face of the Earth. Although we do have a complaint against him for his revenge on them was not enough." And Hiri Manzour, columnist for the Palestinian Authority-controlled newspaper, Al Hayat al Jadida, April 13: "The figure of 6 million Jews cremated in the Nazi Auschwitz camps is a lie for propaganda."

Arab heads of state repeat calumnies which, in the West, only neo-Nazis dare to publicly voice. Libyan dictator Moammar Kadafi recently accused Israel and the CIA of infecting Libyan children with AIDS. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, speaking in the presence of the pope, revived the deadly accusation of deicide, claiming that the Jews "tried to kill the principles of all religions with the same mentality in which they betrayed Jesus Christ and ... tried to betray and kill the Prophet Muhammad."

Emboldened by the unrestrained Jew-hatred, Saddam Hussein ended his speech at the recent Arab summit in Amman with this prayer: "God damn the Jews."

This astonishing outbreak of hatred would, perhaps, be comprehensible had Israel annexed the West Bank and expelled its Palestinian inhabitants. In fact, the Nazi-like incitement follows Israel's unprecedented offer, under former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, to withdraw from practically the entire West Bank, uproot a majority of settlements and create a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

No doubt there are some Jews who find Arab hatred perversely comforting, proof that "the world" hates us and always will. I'm not one of them, and neither, I believe, are most Israelis. We've raised our children to see themselves as free human beings, without victim complexes. That, after all, is Zionism's gift to the Jews.

But a familiar madness is returning to the Middle East, and we can't pretend any longer that it will pass.

Armies may not yet be gathering against our borders, but the hatred can lead to only one conclusion. I recognize the signs, and I am afraid.

Yossi Klein Halevi Is the Author of "At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: a Jew's Search for God With Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land," to Be Published by William Morrow in September
Copyright © 2001 Los Angeles Times
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