On my blog last week, I linked to an excellent review of a recent book about the Arab world’s involvement in the Holocaust, written by a Muslim Lebanese scholar. Titled "The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arabi-Israeli War of Narratives," by Gilbert Achcar, a professor in London, it not only limns many Arab leaders’ dubious embrace of Hitler, it also takes contemporary Jewish leaders to task for putting a holy mote around the event–as if any comparisons to the Holocaust are impossible. In the end, Achcar argues that both the Jewish and Muslim communities are responsible for the shoddy knowledge of the Holocuast in the Arab world today.
But Achcar isn’t the only writer making bold arguments. On The New York Times web site this week, there’s an intriguing op-ed written by a Muslim Palestinian and Jewish American. They jointly calling for better Holocaust education in Arab schools. The authors, Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, who teaches at Al-Quds University in east Jerusalem, and Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy–and, critcally, author of a book about Arabs who saved Jews during the Holocaust–write the article after a recent furor over a grade-school curriculm proposed by the U.N. The curriculum features a prominent section on the Holocaust and is to be taught in U.N. funded schools in the Palestinian territories, much to many Arabs’ chagrin.
Daoudi and Satloff argue that taking the Holocaust off the curriculum, however, would be a big mistake. There’s nothing that can help mutual understanding than a Arab-taught Holocaust history. It’s not that the Holocaust isn’t known in the Arab world, it’s that the tragedy has become arrogated by the politics of Israel and the Arab world that many Arabs simply resort to the facile, divisive comparison: "the Jews have the Holocaust and the Palestinians have the Nakba," as the authors write, then call it a draw.
But the authors instead "urge Palestinians to learn about the Holocaust so they can be armed with knowledge to reject the comparison." Because, they add, "if it were broadly avoided, peace would be even more attainable than it is today."