Gilbert Achcar came to University of Chicago’s International House on Nov 15th to read from his new book The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives.
Raised in Beruit and educated primarily in France, Achcar is currently professor of international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Even though I became uncomfortable with some of the answers Achcar gave during the Q&A, his presentation style was so genuine that I bought his book without hesitation. And when he signed it, he wrote: “To Jan with hope!”
Alas, having read the book, I’m now convinced that Achcar is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing. There is no accommodation in this book. All supportive references (supposedly there to show the diversity of Arab opinion) only reinforce my belief that Arabs in general do NOT understand the enormity of the Holocaust & really do consider the Nakhba a totally equivalent “crime against humanity.”
This program was sponsored by UC’s Center for International Studies as part of their “World Behind the Headlines” series & co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, as well as the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies. I recognized several faculty members from the Center for Jewish Studies in the audience as well as several Jewish Hyde Parkers, and the person who did the eloquent introduction was Israeli professor Orit Baskin (who has written extensively on the pluralism of intellectual life in Hashemite Iraq). So the mispokhe was well represented & I’m sure most of us (if not all of us) were there hoping for good news… but alas, we didn’t get any that night.
Click here to read an article in which Professor Achcar describes a protest lead by “Palestinian demonstrators in striped pyjamas” (something Achcar believes shows “they were identifying with the Jewish victims of Nazism and regarding the Holocaust as the highest standard of horror, rather than denying it”) as if this was an obviously good thing that Jews should applaud –> 10May12AchcarGuardian