Fathi Shihab-Eddim, a senior aide to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi responsible for appointing the editors of all state-run newspapers, marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day in his own charming way. Fox News of course trumpeted his comments with undisguised glee: "The myth of the Holocaust is an industry that America invented. US intelligence agencies in cooperation with their counterparts in allied nations during World War II created [the Holocaust] to destroy the image of their opponents in Germany, and to justify war and massive destruction against military and civilian facilities of the Axis powers, and especially to hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the atomic bomb." The standard right-wing, Islamohpbic and Zionist websites waste no time in jumping all over it: Answering Muslims, Breitbart, Homeland Security Newswire, Human Events, Washington Times, Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Algemeiner (mysteriously misplacing the date of the comments by three years), etc. The usual leftist and anti-Zionist sites, meanwhile, are completely silent. What is wrong with this picture? Quite a lot.
Fox also takes the opportunity to note comments made by President Morsi in 2010 (possibly the source of Algemeiner's confusion) that Jews are "the descendants of apes and pigs." Morsi insists these words were taken out of context. Mohammed ElBaradei is quoted not buying this explanation: "We are all aware that those statements were not taken out of context and that this discourse is very common among a large number of clerics and members of Islamist groups. Apart from the remarks themselves, I am calling upon the person who made them to courageously admit either the real stance he and the Muslim Brotherhood and their followers adopt, or how mistaken they had been for all those years." Now, ElBaradei, who is assuredly not shilling for any right-wing agendas, has legitimacy to call out the Brotherhood on this unseemly propaganda. Others quoted by Fox do not—such as Daniel Greenfield, who, despite his supposed academic creds, sees fit to spew his screed on the Islamophic organ of the far right, Frontpagemag.com—from where Fox lifted his words.
We wish someone would turn to Joseph Massad of Columbia University for commentary on this. We have noted before that he (presumably in a mischievous overstatement) calls Holocaust deniers "Zionists." As he wrote for Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly in 2004 :
[A]ny Arab or Palestinian who denies the Jewish holocaust falls into the Zionist logic.
While holocaust denial in the West is indeed one of the strongest manifestations of anti-Semitism, most Arabs who deny the holocaust deny it for political not racist reasons… Their denial is based on the false Zionist claim that the holocaust justifies Zionist colonialism. The Zionist claim is as follows: Since Jews were the victims of the holocaust, then they have the right to colonise Palestine and establish a Jewish colonial-settler state there. Those Arabs who deny the holocaust accept the Zionist logic as correct. Since these deniers reject the right of Zionists to colonise Palestine, the only argument left to them is to deny that the holocaust ever took place, which, to their thinking, robs Zionism of its allegedly "moral" argument. But the fact that Jews were massacred does not give Zionists the right to steal someone else's homeland and to massacre the Palestinian people. The oppression of a people does not endow it with rights to oppress others. If those Arab deniers refuse to accept the criminal Zionist logic that justifies the murder and oppression of the Palestinians by appealing to the holocaust, then these deniers would no longer need to make such spurious arguments. All those in the Arab world who deny the Jewish holocaust are in my opinion Zionists.
OK, we do have a few small points of disagreement here. Most significantly, we question the arbitrary distinction between "political" and "racist" reasons. Detractors of the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Ikhwan as it known in Arabic, are quick to point to its wartime alliance with the Nazis, and there has clearly been a cross-fertilization between Nazi ideology and political Islam. Neither the convenience of this reality to Islamophobic pundits nor the fact that Arabs are also Semites (making Arab anti-Semitism an inherent irony) changes this. As we have pointed out:
Classical European anti-Semitism has spread to the Arab world—a paradoxical and painful reality, but an unavoidable one, after Egyptian TV has run a series based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and Arabic translations of The Eternal Jew can be found from Riyadh to Atlantic Avenue.
And as we have also pointed out:
What complicates the matter is that the charge of anti-Semitism, even when cynically employed to justify Israeli crimes, is often true. The Hamas charter, after all, openly cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
The contemporary Islamist embrace of classical European anti-Semitism (in which Jews are all-powerful, corrupting, uniquely sinister) is a direct result of Zionism, and there is no contradiction between recognizing the phenomenon and the phenomenon that fuels it. It is also true that there really were rich Jewish bankers and industrialists in Weimar Germany. This didn't make Nazism any less of a threat.
Such willful denial only weakens anti-Zionism. That charges of anti-Semitism are used, for instance, against calls for economic sanctions on Israel is predictable, and to be condemned. But equivocating on the reality of anti-Semitism undermines and even delegitimizes the condemnation.
We also aren't too crazy about Massad's habit of rendering "holocaust" in the lower case. Yes, we know there have been plenty of other holocausts in history, so spare us the lecturing. There have also been plenty of other "catastrophes" in history, yet we doubt Massad has a problem with capitalizing the word Nakba. And finally, again, we assume he is just baiting when he writes that the Arab Holocaust-deniers "are" Zionists. But are they abetting Zionists? Yes, absolutely. In at least two ways: providing them with conveninent propaganda ammunition, and legitimizing their political logic.
So apart from these quibbles, we take heart from Massad's analysis. And we especially take heart from the emergence of a militant secular revolutionary current in Egypt—inclduding, according to recent reports, anarchists—that opposes the reactionary Ikhwan. We do wish that the left here in the West would organize vigorous solidarity with these heroic activists, and get over its stupid and self-defeating flirtation with political Islam.