By Robert Satloff / The Washington Post / Sunday, October 8, 2006
By Robert Satloff. washington post
Virtually alone among peoples of the world, Arabs appear to have won a free pass when it comes to denying or minimizing the Holocaust. Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah has declared to his supporters that “Jews invented the legend of the Holocaust.” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recently told an interviewer that he doesn’t have “any clue how [Jews] were killed or how many were killed.” And Hamas’s official Web site labels the Nazi effort to exterminate Jews “an alleged and invented story with no basis.”
Such Arab viewpoints are not exceptional. A respected Holocaust research institution recently reported that Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia all promote Holocaust denial and protect Holocaust deniers. The records of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum show that only one Arab leader at or near the highest level of government — a young prince from a Persian Gulf state — has ever made an official visit to the museum in its 13-year history. Not a single official textbook or educational program on the Holocaust exists in an Arab country. In Arab media, literature and popular culture, Holocaust denial is pervasive and legitimized.
Yet when Arab leaders and their people deny the Holocaust, they deny their own history as well — the lost history of the Holocaust in Arab lands. It took me four years of research — scouring dozens of archives and conducting scores of interviews in 11 countries — to unearth this history, one that reveals complicity and indifference on the part of some Arabs during the Holocaust, but also heroism on the part of others who took great risks to save Jewish lives.
Neither Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to Holocaust victims, nor any other Holocaust memorial has ever recognized an Arab rescuer. It is time for that to change. It is also time for Arabs to recall and embrace these episodes in their history. That may not change the minds of the most radical Arab leaders or populations, but for some it could make the Holocaust a source of pride, worthy of remembrance — rather than avoidance or denial.
The Holocaust was an Arab story, too. From the beginning of World War II, Nazi plans to persecute and eventually exterminate Jews extended throughout the area that Germany and its allies hoped to conquer. That included a great Arab expanse, from Casablanca to Tripoli and on to Cairo, home to more than half a million Jews. MORE.