Anti-Semitism & Holocaust

Lies My Think Tank Told Me

By Avi Davis - September 21, 2002

Last March many in the West began to believe that the Arab world was finally relenting in its five-decades-long rejection of Israel's right to exist. This belief was occasioned by a much ballyhooed peace proposal, hammered out at a Beirut meeting of the Arab League in which recognition was conditioned on Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza. Columnists such as Thomas Friedman, who had earlier broken the story, referred to it as a milestone and "one of the most important developments in Arab-Israeli relations in history."

I have to wonder if there are others like myself who now actually long for the old days of Arab enmity. Times when Zionists weren't Jews but merely "imperialists"; when Arab rejection of Israel had nothing to do with anti-Semitism but simply with "colonialism"; when the Holocaust was still regarded as historical fact, even if, in their overworked intransigence, a greatly exaggerated one.

Of course, these were not better days for either Israel or Jews in the Arab world. But they make the appalling rage of anti-Semitism and vilification that today pours out of both the Arab press and Arab intellectuals seem tame by comparison. The fundamental change was given stark emphasis last week at a conference sponsored by the Zayed Center for Co-operation and Follow Up in Abu Dhabi, a conference sponsored by the same Arab League who passed the March resolution.

The specific purpose of the conference was to "expose the fallacious claims and concocted legends of the Zionists and to counter the nefarious propaganda against Arabs and Muslims." In other words, it was to be another anti-Zionist conference. This was, of course, nothing to get terribly excited about. Anti-Zionist conferences have been a staple of Arab think-tanks and academic institutions for half a century. But the event indicated a decisive shift in opinion about the nature of Israel and the Jewish people revealing a deepening, regressive antipathy.

It began with Executive Director Mohammad Khlaifar Murar's comments that "Jews claim to be God's most preferred people, but the truth is that they are enemies of all nations. They are not Semites and therefore having nothing to do with Semitism or Palestine." The Arab League's representative to the group Ahmad Jaleem Jarad, fueled the fire by endorsing Murar's view.

"If the phrase anti-Semitism is taken literally, it means hostility toward Semites or members of the Semitic race whose majority is comprised of Arabs. Therefore, only a handful of Jews can claim to be Semites."

The upshot: A wholesale redefinition of Jewish identity and an eclipse of the former Arab distinction between Zionist and Jew. This can have only one meaning. Not only is the Zionist state illegitimate but so are the Jewish people. In addition, since the Jews are not Semites, any attacks against them cannot be regarded as anti-Semitism, which affords the center a convenient means of sidestepping intellectual responsibility for vicious attacks on Jews.

The lesson has not been lost on thoughtful commentators such as Harold Evans, a former editor of England's Sunday Times, who wrote (on June 28) that this campaign aims to create "the dehumanization of all Jews" and this "frenzied, vociferous, paranoid, vicious and prolific propaganda, which came after the Oslo Accords and Camp David – has generated a rising wave of anti-Semitism throughout the Muslim world."

Even members of the Israeli left are finally getting it. On Monday, Amnon Rubinstein wrote in Ha'aretz that "One day Israel is committing a massacre, the next day it is disseminating false accusations that the Palestinians spread rumors of a massacre. The new Arab and Palestinian propaganda shares common characteristics with the old (Nazi) hatred – obsessiveness and monstrousness."

The Zayed Center is an improbably respected Arab think tank. Jimmy Carter recently lectured there and former French President Michel Rocard is scheduled to attend one of its seminars. But one has to wonder how its primary objective of contributing "to the formulation of an Arab strategic vision to meet present and future challenges" can possibly be fulfilled by an agenda filled with hatred and palpable intellectual dishonesty. It questions the future of the Arab world and is certainly a warning to the West about the paranoia that has engulfed the region and is every bit as threatening to freedom as passenger-laden jets flown intentionally into tall New York buildings.

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