Quest for ‘Arab Schindler’ is doomed from the start

Writing in The Times, Howard Jacobson detects an ineffectual emptiness at the heart of Robert Satloff‘s gentlemanly quest for an ‘Arab Schindler’. (With thanks: Lily)

“This book has a twofold ambition: first, to remind us that the Nazis and their collaborators exported their persecution of Jews to Arab north Africa; second, to find an Arab Oscar Schindler or Raoul Wallenberg who stood out against that persecution, and to have him honoured as a “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s monument to the Holocaust, where no Arab has yet been recognised. Thus it is not simply as a historian that Robert Satloff sets about raking through the ashes, but as a man on a mission of peace — to discover evidence of as much or as little humanity as it will take for all parties to Arab/Jewish hostilities over the past 60 years to feel better about one another.

“Considering which, Among the Righteous is a surprisingly muted book — an act of gentlemanly civility amid the shouting that seems to concede its ineffectiveness almost before it starts. Indeed, so careful is Satloff not to raise our hopes that he dashes them before the opening sentence is cold on the page. “Did any Arabs,” he asks, in a diminuendo of expectation, “save any Jews during the Holocaust?” Do I hear a hundred, do I hear fifty, do I hear one?”

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