Tag Archives: Gilbert Achcar

Bibi declared “most dangerous political world leader today” at Centre for Palestine Studies, SOAS.

khalidi2

An MA in Palestine Studies is being introduced by SOAS. Judging by the last two nights at the Centre For Palestine Studies, which is based at SOAS, one can just imagine some of the questions on the end of year exam paper!

On Wednesday CPS hosted Ilan Pappe and last night it hosted Walid Khalidi who spoke on the subject of 100 years since WW1 and the Balfour Declaration.

Admittedly, unlike Pappe, Khalidi supports a two state solution due to its “global support” but also because “in a one state framework Israel would have the ideal alibi to remove whatever constraints remain on settlements. Within a twinkling the Palestinians would be lucky if they had enough land to plant onions in their back gardens and to bury their dead alongside”.

Khalidi is the Godfather of “Palestine Studies”. Gilbert Achcar introduced him as “the founder of the scientific study on the question of Palestine”. But at the Centre for Palestine Studies on Wednesday night Ilan Pappe had referred to the “so-called scientific research” of Zionism as nothing more than “marketing” by Israel.

Hypocrisy doesn’t come bigger than that. While the study of “Palestine” is “scientific”, the study of Israel is mere “marketing”!

The glitterati of the Palestine Lobby, including “Ambassador” Manuel Hassassian, were present to hear Khalidi describe the Balfour Declaration as “the single most destructive political document on the Middle East in the twentieth century”. But the 16 million dead of WW1 were not even mentioned by Khalidi.

Interestingly, Khalidi wasn’t too keen on UNSCR 242 either. While anti-Israel propagandists use 242 as proof that Israel is in the West Bank illegally, Khalidi said it doesn’t specify a time when the withdrawal of Israel’s armed forces should begin, a line for them to be withdrawn to or the name of the territories they are to be withdrawn from.

Neither does 242 mention the word “Palestinian” or describe who the “refugees” are. Khalidi said while the Balfour Declaration was the fountainhead of all developments from 1917 to 1967 UNSCR 242 was the fountainhead of the conflict since 1967 to this day.

Khalidi said the 1967 War’s “most profound and potentially catastrophic impact lies in the inspiration it gave to neo-Zionist religious fundamentalist Messianism and to its creation of conditions conducive to a clash over Jerusalem’s holy places between Jewish and Christian evangelical jihadists on the one hand and Muslim jihadists on the other.”

Khalidi doesn’t like Israel’s leaders much either. The last part of his talk was all about the influences on Benjamin Netanyahu, which included his grandfather (Nathan), father (Benzion) and brother, Yonatan, killed in Israel’s raid on Entebbe in 1976 to save Jewish and Israeli hostages from Palestinian terrorists.

Another influence was Jabotinksy who, Khalidi said, was referred to by Ben Gurion as “Vladimir Hitler”. Another was Menachem Begin who, according to Khalidi, introduced into the Middle East the letter bomb, the parcel bomb, the barrel bomb and the car bomb.

Khalidi thinks Arabs are powerless and he said “just how sorry the state of the Arab nation is can be gauged from the fact that the future of Palestine hinges more on the desires and prejudices of Benjamin Benzion Natan Netanyahu than those of any incumbent in the proud Arab capitals”.

Khalidi said Abbas is “committed to non-violence”, that there’s “evidence of pragmatism” in the Hamas leadership and that “civil disobedience” could well be common ground for Abbas and Hamas.

But Khalidi’s final dramatic rhetorical flourish, for which he received a standing ovation at which he waved his walking stick high in the air, was aimed solely at Israel’s Prime Minister:

“All the other protagonists are committed to a peaceful resolution…Obama’s understanding of the Palestine problem far surpasses that of all his predecessors. Abbas’ commitment to peace is genuine. At his age peace would be the crowning achievement of a lifetime.

We want to focus on the real enemy…Bibi will never share Jerusalem. Continued occupation and settlement while tightening the noose around East Jerusalem is  a sure recipe for an apocalyptic catastrophe sooner or later over the Muslim holy places in the Old City.

With the continued surge in religious fundamentalist zealotry on both sides the road to Armageddon will lead from Jerusalem.

That is why, ladies and gentleman, Benjamin Benzion Ben Natan Netanyahu is the most dangerous political leader in the world today.”

Jewish holy places, anyone? Roll on those MA in Palestine Studies exam questions!

Jews under attack at Centre for Palestine Studies as Ilan Pappe comes to SOAS.

Jews came under fire last night at the Centre for Palestine Studies, based at SOAS and under the chairmanship of Gilbert Achcar. It was irrelevant if you are a Jew in Israel, Scotland, Wales or England. Ilan Pappe, the CPS guest speaker, doesn’t discriminate.

Pappe, a lecturer at Exeter University, started by saying he wished “to answer the riddle of the growing gap between the image Israeli Jews have of themselves and the external image the world has of them”. In North Korea the gap between the view North Koreans have of themselves and that of them by outside world would not be much different, but in Israel there is “genuine difference”.

He said the Zionist movement in Israel should be credited for its marketing skills, particularly the way it marketed both Palestine as a land without a people for a people without a land and also Israel as a European country. This helped “absolve them from what they did to the native population”.

Israel, he said, therefore appeared to be a democracy while actually being an “ethnic racist state”. Israel had succeeded in “marketing an oppressive reality as a democratic one”.

Israel had marketed Zionism, he said, to include such enlightenment concepts as liberalism, capitalism and social democracy. And Zionism was far more successful than other ideas because it was “born after the failures of Nazism and fascism”.

Such branding and marketing, according to Pappe, had been done via academia and fiction.

Israeli academics, he said, undertook a “willing role to commodify the Zionist project on the basis of so-called scientific research”. And books and films like EXODUS showed Zionist figures looking like “Aryan Israelis”, while the Palestinians looked “like either Osama Bin Laden or ET”.

But, Pappe said, at one stage certain Israelis had an “epiphany”. Using the same methodology of books, articles and films they challenged these “truisms of Zionism by re-examining the Zionist project from the beginning”.

They showed Israel was a “settler colonial society, an aggressive society and a discriminatory society”. However, they got “cold feet” when challenged and apologised before disappearing without trace, some being forced to leave Israel.

However, this same methodology has now been adopted by people outside Israel which, according to Pappe, worries Israel. Israel can “stifle criticism and crush those who don’t toe the line from within” but cannot do the same to those outside Israel.

In response to this, Pappe said, the Israeli elite has re-adopted the Zionist dogma in a “neo-Zionist” form, which is far harsher and less flexible than the original. Such “neo-Zionism” being symbolised by the likes of Netanyahu, Bennett and Lieberman.

Pappe said he was worried how Israel would react to a new, even non-violent, Palestinian Intifada as “the Israel of 2014 is worse than the Israel of 1987 and 2ooo. It is a more ruthless Israel”.

“Neo-Zionism”, Pappe explained, attempts to combine liberal and theocratic ideas of how to live as Jews in the twentieth century and is a “lethal combination if you are the enemy”. Pappe said this is “not easy to sell as a liberal democracy”.

“Israeli society is neo-Zionist. Most (Jewish Israelis) want an ethnic racist state. There are no liberal Zionists anymore,” he said. He cited Peter Beinart, J Street and Ari Shavit as the last possible bastions of liberal Zionism.

Pappe said that in 2005 the Israeli government created Brand Israel Group (BIG), to target the Jewish community in America, despite already having America “in its pocket”. Israel, he said, is doubtful of their support in the future.

Pappe said his publisher, Verso, would neither allow him to show the fairly explicit posters in his new book that were used by Israel to “appeal to the Jewish homosexual community in New York City” nor those aimed at Jewish heterosexuals. The idea being, Pappe said, if you like this sexy woman you might like Israel’s occupation.

By 2010, however, this campaign was seen by Israel to have failed and so, Pappe said, Israel’s new policy was to distract the opposition. Instead of trying to win an argument about “apartheid and ethnic cleansing” activists were urged to say, for example, “But Israel invented chewing gum!”.

Pappe said Israel had also been successful in convincing Jews in other countries that Israel is their story as well. He said he was once confronted by Jews in Edinburgh and that he had told them in no uncertain terms that Israel was not their story.

Then at the end of last night’s event when I criticised his lecture he asked me in Hebrew if I speak Hebrew, presumably to imply that Israel is not my story either. Ironically, your typical SOAS audience member has absolutely no connection with the Palestinians and cannot speak Arabic.

The final irony is that the marketing and branding Pappe accuses Israel of doing is just what he does! For example, during his talk he urged his audience to use “settler colonialism”, “Israeli apartheid”, “regime change” and “ethnic cleansing” when discussing Israel.

(I have been banned by SOAS, under threat of legal action, from filming or taking photos at these events without permission. All my requests for permission have since been declined. Others are permitted to film and take photos.)

American Professor tells British audience “Israel is heading into an abyss.”

I only made it to the last 25 minutes of Joel Beinin’s talk at SOAS last night but, sadly, I still have enough material to write a blog about it.

Beinin’s talk, The New Internationalism, High-Risk Activism, and Popular Struggle against the Israeli Occupation in the West Bank, was chaired by Gilbert Achcar, who once publicly accused me of leaving insulting messages on his answering machine.

Meanwhile, Beinin is Professor of Middle East History at Stanford University. Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of him but Wikipedia has a surprisingly large page about him. According to the description he was “raised as a Zionist” and at one stage intended to make aliyah but having encountered some racist attitudes on a Kibbutz he returned to America instead.

Beinin has published a lot also. I only read one article of his when I got back last night but if I say that the article trashes Peter Beinart’s call for Israeli Jews living on the West Bank to be boycotted because this doesn’t go far enough you get the gist of Beinin’s politics.

In this article Beinin also denounces those who condone “indecent trivialisation of the Holocaust” when they compare levels of anti-Semitism today to those of the late 1930s. (That said, if anyone can explain the difference between boycotting Jewish-owned shops in the late 1930s and boycotting Jewish-owned shops, like Covent Garden’s Ahava and Brighton’s Ecostream, today then please let me know.)

But, hey, guess who is the real master of “indecent trivialisation of the Holocaust”? None other than Joel Beinin himself!

You see, last night, Beinin started discussing Israel’s Prawer Commission Plan to move the Negev’s Bedouin population into far better equipped towns in return for compensation. Beinin described this as “putting them into what would effectively be concentration camps.” (see here from 2 mins. 25 secs.)

Oh, really? So would that be concentration camps like Auschwitz or Treblinka, possibly?

But, of course, Beinin doesn’t indecently trivialise the Holocaust, remember.

Towards the end of the event Beinin said there was a “rightward drift of Israeli society”, “a degradation of whatever there ever was of the democratic process” and “Israel itself, besides the occupation, is heading into an abyss and it’s not clear at all what might stop that.” (see here from 30 secs.)

Abyss means an “An immeasurably deep chasm, depth, or void”. Alternatively, it means “The abode of evil spirits; hell.”

And all this because Beinin once encountered some racists on a Kibbutz?

SOAS Update.

Thank you very much for all the support I received in light of last Monday’s Palestine Society event at SOAS when I was manhandled and told I was a “typical Israeli”, eventhough I am a proud Brit.

I received incredible emails from all over the world with people appreciating my attempts to cover anti-Israel meetings in London and appalled by my treatment.

I received emails from those who completely disagree with my views on Israel, but were still appalled by the way I was dealt with.

And thank you for the Arabic translations too.

I never got to the bottom of why I was called a “typical Israeli”. Only that student knows what was in his mind.

I had a very constructive chat with SOAS who said they had been inundated with emails from both sides but who wanted to continue to welcome me to SOAS and they said they will be reviewing their filming policy.

Much has been made of my not applying for consent to film, but when I was thudded in the shoulder from behind and shouted at to stop filming I wasn’t asked whether I had been granted such permission by SOAS. As it happens I didn’t know there was a filming policy as it has never been mentioned at any SOAS event I have attended (and I have attended a fair few).

There was also at least one other person filming who, it seems, didn’t have the required permission either. Meanwhile, I always see students filming on their IPhones.

And, unless I nodded off temporarily, none of the required announcements in accordance with the filming policy were made at the start of last Monday’s meeting by the organisers themselves!

I believe that in a public space such as a university freedom of speech is commensurate with a right to cover that freedom of speech without fear or hindrance. No one should be disallowed from filming solely because of their political views.

I was targeted last Monday night because of my political views. No one else filming would have been roughed up like that. And I have never disrupted an event, despite what is being put about by my detractors.

Sadly, SOAS students, it seems, have received a highly defamatory and incendiary statement from the SOAS Student Union on behalf of the Palestine Society, which has potential repercussions for my personal safety at SOAS and which was sent to me by a concerned SOAS student. One of the paragraphs states of me:

“By now, we are well aware of his intentions. He first provokes, intimidates and insults (including racially) speakers, organisers or members of the audience and violates generally accepted conventions of public meetings.”

This is reminiscent of another SOAS talk I attended on 16th April about Israel’s Arab minority where I wasn’t even filming. At the talk I was verbally insulted by Gilbert Achcar, a SOAS lecturer, who, after I had asked a perfectly reasonable question during the Q&A, told the room that I was a “professional disruptor”, that had he known I was coming he would have barred me from attending and that I had left insulting remarks on his answering machine. He then told me to get out.

Of course I didn’t leave messages on his machine. I wouldn’t even dream of it.

Aggressive targeting of those supportive of Israel is not confined to university campuses. At the beginning of the year I was put through a torrid few months when Peter Scott and Salim Alam of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign tried to have me prosecuted for harassment because of some videos and photos I posted of them demonstrating against Veolia outside the Natural History Museum in December.

I was at a reasonable distance while filming their political activism but I ended up being called into Notting Hill Police Station to be questioned about my filming and what I had written on my blog. Scott and Alam seemed to have failed to tell the police that I and others are constantly filmed and photographed for their anti-Israel blog.

To my relief the police eventually decided against any further action, but had it come to court the following footage might have made interesting viewing. It shows Salim Alam outside the now defunct Ahava shop in Covent Garden getting up close and personal to the camera of Roy from Campaign4Truth who was filming legally but still, as you can see, gets his camera whacked by one of Alam’s colleagues:

Smearing of pro-Israel questioners gathers pace at SOAS’ Centre for Palestine Studies.

Professor Gilbert Achcar (R) and Shlomo Sand (L) at SOAS in Feb. 2011.

Professor Gilbert Achcar (R) and Shlomo Sand (L) at SOAS in Feb. 2011.

Dr. Amal Jamal is following the path of Omar Bhargouti. Both are academics who have hugely benefited from living in Israel but who then came to London at the first opportunity to question Israel’s existence.

Tel Aviv University must have a death wish because Bhargouti, who would like to boycott Israel out of existence, did his Masters and is now pursuing a PhD there, and Dr. Jamal, who thinks Israel is heading towards a “one state solution”, is senior lecturer in the Political Science Department there.

Dr. Jamal spoke last night at SOAS on The Jewish State and the Hollowing Out of Palestinian Citizenship. The talk was sponsored by the recently created Centre for Palestine Studies, which is based at SOAS and includes Ilan Pappe as one of its academics.

Another of the Centre’s academics is Professor Gilbert Achcar. Professor Achcar lectures in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS.

Last night’s chairperson, and another of the Centre’s academics, was Dr. Laleh Khalili. Dr. Khalili lectures in the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS.

More on both Professor Achcar and Dr Khalili later on.

Dr Jamal introduced his talk by describing the “Zionist narrative” as Jews returning home to a land that was promised by God according to the Bible. But, he said, the Palestinians pose a heavy threat to that narrative.

This, he argued, has led to an Israeli policy of manufacturing “quiet Arabs” and “floating Arabs” who have no ability in Israel to influence what they want to be.

Israel, he said, is doing this by redefining the Jewish state and hollowing out Palestinian citizenship.

Part of this is a mechanism of “Control and Neglect”. “Neglect” means de-developing the Israeli Arabs so they become unequal to other citizens. And “citizenship” as a control mechanism is used to inhibit Israeli Arabs from integrating fully into Israeli life.

He said that in Israel “Jews live. Palestinians exist”.

He criticised the Knesset with its automatic majority that can enact any law. Other tools used included separation and “the racist Wall” and other walls being built in Lod and Caesarea. The citizenship law, the boycott law and the Nakba law were other examples as well as the limiting of resources for Israeli Arabs and the removal of citizenship in cases of treason.

Dr. Jamal concluded his talk by saying that the Jewish state is a hegemonic project that cannot tolerate contention and that this will eventually lead to its breakdown and that Israeli policies will close off any hope of a two state solution, eventually leading to a “one state solution”.

During the Q&A events took a turn for the worse.

I asked Dr Jamal why, if as he stated, Israeli Arabs could not influence their future in Israel then how had he become so successful there. I then went on to suggest that at least in Israel the Arabs had a chance to argue their case while in the surrounding Arab countries Arab citizens were either being slaughtered or undergoing the imposition of strict Islamic laws.

Dr Khalili thought this second point off-topic and tried to shout me down. Next someone shouted “This is Hasbarah. It is crap”. When I tried to defend my right to ask a question Professor Achcar, who was sat in the front row, referred to me as a “professional disruptor” to which Dr Khalili replied “I know, I remember”.

Then, quite incredibly, Professor Achcar announced to the room that I had left insults on his phone and that had he known I was coming he would not have allowed me in. He told me to get out.

I realised afterwards that this is the second time he has asked me to leave a talk. In February 2011 exactly the same happened when he didn’t like my questioning of Shlomo Sand (also of Tel Aviv University, incidentally) at SOAS.

Afterwards Professor Achcar told me that he still has the recordings of the insulting phone messages.

If he can prove that they are from me I will donate £1000 to a charity of his choice. Alternatively, he might have the decency to apologise.

I never got a proper answer from Dr Jamal as to why he had succeeded while other Israeli Arabs hadn’t. He just said that Israeli Jews must be saved from enacting policies of apartheid, expulsion and genocide. He said Jews can change but that the Jewish community in Britain has an important role to play as Israeli Jews  can’t save themselves on their own.

He also said that he wanted the right of return but for it to be controlled at first both for Jews and Arabs. Eventually, he said, up to 20 million people must be somehow accommodated.

For the Palestinian “right of return” read Israel’s destruction. And this from someone being paid by Israel to teach Israeli students!

Meanwhile, I was proud to study at SOAS and I contributed financially when I was recently telephoned to help current students. It’s now very sad that some anti-Israel SOAS lecturers are using smear tactics when they don’t like what they hear.

Shlomo Sand: Israelis could massacre the non-Jews in Israel.

Sand and Achcar: Let's talk anti-Zionism.

Sand and Achcar: Let's talk anti-Zionism.

Gilbert Achcar asked me to leave last night’s talk at SOAS given by Shlomo Sand. If I didn’t he said he would call security.

The talk was called On the Nation and the ‘Jewish People’, although it was all taken from Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People.

For an hour I bit my lip while Sand tore into the idea that the Jews had any connection with Israel. He said there had never been an exile of the Jews under the Romans and so, as there was no exile, there could never be a return.

But all Israeli school textbooks spoke of this mythical “exile” he said.

He claimed the Jews were merely a religious phenomenon and as they came from all over the world, and so had no connection with each other, they could not be described as “a people”. Sand is an Israeli Jewish atheist.

Today’s Jews, he said, are just descendants of converts from African tribes i.e. the Khazars and the Berbers. These tribes had simply converted en masse to Judaism.

Zionists had only recently taken Jewish myths and cultured them into a nationalist ideology.

But Jews had never wanted to originally go to Palestine. Only after 1924, when America closed the gates, and eventually the British too, did they finally set sail for Palestine.

Most Jews don’t live in Israel, but outside it.

And Golda Meir had, apparently, said that when a Jew marries a non-Jew he or she “adds to the six million”.

Then, after defining Nazi Germany as an ethnocentric state, he said he was against Israel being defined as a Jewish state because “I am sure it will finish with the massacre in the Galilee, because 20% are non-Jews in this state.” (Listen to audio at end)

What is the point of an unopposed two hour verbal attack on Israel and the Jewish people at a British university? No one learns a thing apart from more anti-Israel propaganda.

During the Q&A I asked Sand what is the problem with the Jews calling themselves “a people” if they wanted to. He might not like it but most Jews think of themselves as being part of “a people”. That is how nationalism works.

I challenged him on whether Jewish history really spoke of the Jews being “exiled” by the Romans. Instead, the Jews had lost sovereignty to the Romans and many Jews left the area to become the Jewish diaspora. Therefore, Jews have a historical right to return.

What about “Next Year in Jerusalem” and the ancient religious festivals when Jews look to return to Israel and Jerusalem one day? Was that all made up by Zionists?

Anita Shapira’s destruction of Sand’s book is good on this.

Sand answered that 93% of the Jews living under the Romans were peasants and so they couldn’t leave. And diaspora Jews had only ever thought of Israel as a “Holy Land”, not as a “Home land”. “Israel” is a theological notion, not a political one.

Jews felt that the land did not belong to them, but to G-d and Jews went to Palestine only to die, not to live, so they could be the first to be resurrected when the Messiah came.

I understood the religiousness of the “Holy Land” point he was making but Sand wasn’t answering my main question: What is wrong with Jewish nationalism?

I called him a coward for not answering that question, which eventually spurred him into action.

“The Jews only came to Palestine because the doors to America and Britain were closed,” he screamed at the audience.

Even if that were true it still doesn’t preclude Jews from recognising themselves as “a people” and calling for a Jewish state.

It is not too disimilar from what the Palestinians have done. Many of them are not indigenous to what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories either, but came to the area when Jews started arriving from Europe. But they are also demanding a state.

I continued to try to question Sand but he just mocked me for being a Zionist who can’t speak Hebrew and who doesn’t even live in Israel like he does.

By then Achcar was out of his chair and bearing down on me insisting that I leave or he would call security.

I refused to leave but sat there, silent, like a good boy for the rest of the Q&A.

On the way out I was surrounded by people wanting to lecture me, including one woman who insisted that I apologise to Sand for calling him Shlomo, instead of Mr Sand, and a coward.

Shlomo Sand SOAS talk.

Shlomo Sand on a massacre in the Galilee (after 31 minutes) (This is in the Q&A).

Arabs and Israelis facing the Holocaust and the Nakba (A book and a talk at SOAS)

On tuesday two hundred students attended SOAS to hear Gilbert Achcar, a Professor of International Relations at SOAS, talk about his new book The Arabs and the Holocaust: the Arab-Israeli War of Narratives.

Achcar claimed:

1. The Arabs bear no responsibility at all for the Holocaust.
2. The Israelis have Nazified the Palestinian people.
3. This Nazification has come about by Israel’s broadcasting of the Mufti’s connections with Hitler during WW2.
4. The Israelis must apologise for the Nakba (the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948) for there to be peace.
5. The Israelis are today still frozen with fear by Holocaust.
6. Any anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in the Arab world is purely a result of Israel’s aggression or Israel’s societal shift to the right.

He presented the Arab and Israeli narratives, as he saw them, on the conflict as follows:

Arab – Israel is a Zionist colonial enterprise where the “ethnic cleansing” of 1948 was a defining moment. The expansion of this colonial state continued after the 1967 war and continues to this day with the oppression of the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza.

Israeli – Zionism was a response to anti-Semitism and Israel was created as redemption for the Holocaust. The Arabs are like the Nazis. There was no ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the 1948 War was purely a defensive one.

Achcar didn’t refute the Arab narrative but did refute the Israeli one.

He said that there had been a total lack of sympathy with Nazism throughout the Arab world and no military actions were undertaken by the Arabs with the Axis powers but Israel needs to acknowledge its role in the Nakba and its oppression of the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Arabs must acknowledge the role of the Holocaust on the Israeli psyche.

Mohammad Amin al-Husayni (The Mufti) cleared by Achcar of all charges of conspiring with the Nazis

Mohammad Amin al-Husayni (The Mufti) cleared by Gilbert Achcar of any responsibility at all for the Holocaust

Next to speak was Palestinian author and journalist Nur Masalha.

Masalha said “we are not responsible for the Holocaust. We are its indirect victims. We paid for the Holocaust and we are still paying for it. The Jews were its victims but we are also its victims. We are the Jews of the Jews. We have become the Jews of history” and he spoke of “concentration camps in Gaza”.

He claimed the Mufti was not an anti-Semite and that as Jews and Muslims had fought in several wars together this was proof that there was no history of anti-Semitism in the Middle East.

He thought that a Holocaust denier in France would go to prison and in the UK would lose his job but if you deny the Nakba in the UK, like the current Chief Rabbi did, you go to the House of Lords.

Last to speak was Idith Zertal of the Institute for Jewish Studies, University of Basel. Again we heard that the Arabs had nothing to do with the Holocaust. She said that too much had been said about the Mufti and that the Palestinians are the scapegoats of the Israelis.

She also felt that Israelis are so helpless in the face of such an event like the Holocaust, and how it was allowed to happen, that Israelis are transferring their rage onto the Palestinians.

She said that even the Poles share in this Israeli “rage” because as so many Israeli youngsters visit Auschwitz they think the Poles exterminated the Jews.

How I wished for a Melanie Phillips or a Geoffrey Alderman to be on the panel.

The audience asked the usual banal questions including on the prospect of a one-state solution, while a few felt the urge to label themselves “Jewish” before comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.

I also contributed:

1. How can Achcar claim that the Palestinians had no responsibility for the Holocaust? The Arabs had persuaded the British to shut the door of British Mandate Palestine to Jewish immigration leaving the Jews to their fate at the hands of the Nazis. (There was also the 1937 Peel Commission which offered the Jews just 20% of British Mandate Palestine. Had the Arabs accepted even more Jews would have escaped the Nazis).

Achcar told me that all nations had shut their doors to the Jews including “racist Britain”.

Evenso, that doesn’t absolve the Arabs from all responsibility for the Holocaust!

2. Israel does bear little, if any, responsibility for the 1948 Nakba as UN Resolution 181 created two states; one for the Jews and one for the Palestinians. The Arabs rejected it and chose war instead.

Achcar countered that the Palestinians had a right to resist the takeover of “their country”.

3. Jews were not treated well in Arab countries. They were dhimmi (tolerated and protected but subordinate) and one million were expelled after Israel’s creation compared to the 750,000 Arabs that left British Mandate Palestine/Israel. There was also the Farhud of 1941 during which 175 Iraqi Jews were massacred.

Achcar answered that it was debatable as to why the Jews had “migrated” but it was nothing compared to the fate of the Palestinians. He also said that despite being dhimmi Jews had always fared better in Arab and Muslim countries than in Western countries.

4. As for Nazification if anything it was the Arabs who were doing this of Israel with slogans like “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza” and talk of Palestinians in concentration camps. Even Nur Masalha had just mentioned concentration camps.

Masalha replied that it was the British who invented concentration camps so he, of course, was not referencing the Holocaust.

Achcar did however dispute Masalha’s astonishing claim that the Mufti was not an anti-Semite. He said the Mufti was anti-Semitic as evidenced by his radio broadcasts from Berlin inciting Muslims to kill the Jews wherever you find them. But, Achcar said, this had all come to nothing anyway.

Hizbollah fighters: According to Gilbert Achcar the Nazi salutes are purely down to Israel's behaviour.

Hizbollah fighters: According to Gilbert Achcar the Nazi salutes are purely down to Israel's behaviour.

However, I would suggest, it isn’t the Holocaust that keeps Israelis locked in a state of fear but these murderous pronouncements of intent by the Mufti which have been taken up by Hamas and Hizbollah.

The Hamas Charter explicitly calls on Muslims to kill Jews and Sheikh Nasrallah, the head of Hizbollah, said that “if all the Jews gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide”.

But not once were Hamas or Hizbollah even mentioned. There was no acknowledgment of any Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. There was no acknowledgment of the ethnic cleansing of one million Jews from Arab countries who had to leave everything behind them.

Quite incredibly, all three speakers painted the Arab nations, and the Palestinians in particular, as innocence personified.

The only thoughtful comment came from Idith Zertal.

She agreed that some Arabs do Nazify Israel but felt that Israelis invented this type of the Nazification.

However, she felt it was now important for both sides to find other words to describe the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Holocaust was a unique tragedy and there is no place for such comparisons today.

Finally, after two long hours, some sense was spoken.