Ed Husain

The Arab Street

Husain examines politics, society, and radicalism in the greater Middle East.

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Jews, Muslims, the Holocaust, and Israel

by Ed Husain
July 24, 2012

A visitor to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum walks past a mural of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters). A visitor to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum walks past a mural of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters).

Today, Secretary Clinton speaks at an event at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, held in collaboration with CFR and CNN, on the subject of genocide prevention. I wish that a major Arab country was the host for this event.

Last week I visited the West Bank and Israel, where I met people from varied walks of life. In conversations with young Arabs, I was saddened to hear that Holocaust denial continues to be part of the normative mindset among so many in such an important part of the world. Their grievances with the modern State of Israel are real, but this does not give them the mandate to rewrite history.

What’s worse is the schizophrenia of denying that the Holocaust occurred, while claiming that “Hitler did not eliminate all of the Jews because he wanted to spare some so the world can see how they behave in Israel with Arabs.” Implicit in this argument, of course, are the ideas that the Holocaust was part of a plot to create Israel, and that Hitler’s actions are justified.

These are not fringe conspiracy theories. I’ve heard similar rejections of the Holocaust from political leaders in the Middle East, academics, youth leaders, and imams. The virus is so widespread that it impacts Muslims living in Europe. For several years, the Muslim Council of Britain refused to attend Holocaust Memorial Day. In response to this widespread problem, the West’s most prominent Muslim scholar, Shaikh Hamza Yusuf, wrote that Holocaust denial was tantamount to denying Muslim scripture. Just as Muslims believe in hadith literature because of the solid reports (mutawatir) confirming events in seventh century Arabia, we are obliged to believe in the Holocaust by virtue of eyewitness accounts, extant documents, and the presence of Auschwitz and other sites.

Such arguments, theological or otherwise, are yet to be made among Muslims in the East.

But there is good news. Not all Arabs followed the disastrous and disgraceful lead of the mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who traveled to Berlin to support the Nazis. Other Arabs helped Jews escape the Holocaust. My friend Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, documents this history in his book Among the Righteous.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum is needed in the Arab world today. The stories that Rob Satloff tells us need amplifying among young Arabs. They too should be proud of helping a persecuted people avoid the Nazis. The history of the Holocaust is forever instructive in preventing genocides. Where the rhetoric of hatred becomes acceptable, politicians soon emerge to ride that storm.

Which Arab countries will open branches of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in their capitals?

8 Comments

  • Posted by P. Ami

    Would a Holocaust memorial in an Arab country be significant? Sure, it would mean a lot. Better yet would be museums documenting the brutal manner in which Jews were made to suffer under Arab domination. The Spanish Inquisition was not the only hurt visited on Jews on that peninsula. There were massacres of Jews in Spain under the Muslims. The same goes for massacres of Jews in north Africa over the various centuries. The treatment of the Jews in Iraq after the establishment of Israel is another gross chapter in the lives of Jews living in the Diaspora.

    What is more, there is rampant denial of Jews being Jews. Rather, it is a common belief that the Jews who returned to Israel from Europe are actually Khazzars. There are projects undertaken by the guardians of the Temple Mound where archeological material showing the Jewish presence on the that holy hill is being dug up with no care for preservation and tossed into massive pits.

    Finally, when pro-Palestinian activists discuss the condition of Arabs living in Gaza and the West Bank, it is almost ubiquitous to hear comparisons with the actions, motives and results of the Nazis on the Jews during the Holocaust. Be it comparing Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto, making false claims of the denial of food and medicine to Gaza, and ignoring the documented Body Mass Index of the Palestinian population, the population growth numbers, and the lack of death camps. They ignore the fact that Jews never made any denial of the German right to their country nor did Jews attempt to take over Germany. Rather, Jews fought for Germany during WWI and many distinguished themselves as soldiers. MAny also distinguished themselves as artists, businessmen and scientists. It is forgotten that Arabs have treated the Jewish State as an enemy state since it’s inception and are surprised that Israel then takes measures to defend itself.

    The misinformation and poor logic rampant in the Arab world, as regards Israel, will take a long time to overcome, if it ever will. It is nice to see some Arabs doing their part in reversing this disease of untruth.

  • Posted by A.

    It seems like this post was just meant to hype up Arabs and those that sympathize with Palestinians. True, a number of Arabs and other Middle Easterners deny the Holocaust or twist the story we Westerners regard as the real account but, planting a Holocaust Memorial on turf that Jewish people already tread carefully on would raise anger and hostility. Possibly the same way planting an Armenian genocide memorial in Turkey would be disputed. Maybe one day, if we all work for it, peace will be widespread along with greater understanding and respect for one another (which I thought was the purpose of memorials).
    Also, in order to fully understand how the Israeli Palestinian conflict really is, we have to stop finger pointing and labeling the other as the sole perpetrator. Both sides have done unjustifiable acts but if they cant end this bloodshed, there wont be much of a future for either of them.

  • Posted by shirley lowenthal

    a moment of silence is a commemoration of an unholy act during a plea for peace in an international tribunal,,the world would acknowlege its signifigance..

  • Posted by a Muslim

    “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies, [whenever] they are allies of one another (i.e Zionists). And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them (a Zionist). Indeed, ALLAH guides not such evil people!” (5:51)

    You see, Ed, one cannot be a Muslim and yet, at the same time, a Zionist . As the above Ayat points out, the two are mutually exclusive.

    You are making a grave mistake, my friend; for you have deliberately blinded yourself from seeing the Truth. I pray that you’ll find your way back to the Straight Path, before it’s too late.

  • Posted by Jeff B.

    A moment of silence for the besieged city of Sarajevo was had at the start of the 1984 Winter Games.
    And the moment of silence at the close of the 1996 Games for victims of the Centennial Park bombing.
    Rogge (IOC) would do well to speak out gainst cowardice, instead of facilitating it.

  • Posted by Mike

    We think we know, and then… We need to teach our children how to understand that we are all one tribe on earth.

  • Posted by Ralph Dunn

    Ed Husain’s article is very good. Regarding Amin al-Husseini,
    whom he mentions, there is a very good article published by the National Archives, http://www.archives.gov/iwg/reports/hitlers-shadow.pdf, entitled, “Hitler’s Shadow, Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence, and the Cold War.” See chapter 2, “Nazis and the Middle East” for the low-down on low-down Amin al-Husseini.

    Amin al-Husseini had meetings with Hitler in Berlin starting in November of 1941. Prior to this Hitler had generally been content with letting Jews escape if they could, as long as they got out of Europe, and left their property behind. But some of them escaped to Palestine, which al-Husseini did not want, and he let Hitler know. Hitler wanted Husseini’s help with sabatoging the British, etc in trhe Middle East. (as Britain had done so with the arabs during WW1 in the fight against Turkey)

    In January of 1942, Reinhardt Heidrich (sp), after meeting with Hitler, led the Wansee conference, at which he made clear the Fuehrer’s plan for the “final solution”, the murder of all the Jews.

    Al-Husseini, incidently, was very popular with the arabs and other Muslims of the Middle East. He was a big organizer and recruiter for the Muslim Brotherhood, before, during and after WWII. He and his followers were great fans of killing Jews.
    He organized the Muslim Hanschar SS divisions during WWII
    (supported be the Nazis), who, along with another Hitler ally, Croatia, murdered 20,000 Serbs, Jews and Gypsys in Serbia.

    Yet some people ask “Why should the arabs suffer for what the Nazis did?”

  • Posted by Sadat Anwar

    I think Native Indian Holocaust museums in every city of the U.S. would be a great idea too. If Americans are wary of the idea, I think Iran should volunteer to build the first one in Tehran, to show America the way. Living in a state of denial is never good.