It’s not about competing narratives, Anshel!

Reading Anshel Pfeffer’s piece in Haaretz, in which he accuses Bibi Netanyahu of ‘overusing the Holocaust’ in his US speeches last week, I felt like the character in Moliere’s Le malade imaginaire, hurling back the epithet: ‘ignorant!’:

Pfeffer:”The problem with Holocaust overuse is that it moves the focus from the present to history and allows all sides to the argument to get in on the game. When Netanyahu cites the six million, he is giving credence to the Palestinian claim that they were those made to suffer for the genocide of the Jews in Europe. He is directly bolstering the Nakba claims.”


“Whatever the case, a battle of historical narratives, Holocaust versus Nakba (and it doesn’t matter that they are incomparable ), will only perpetuate these claims.”


“We don’t have to give up on the Holocaust – it is our history and holds central lessons for all human beings – but we have to stop using it as a justification for Israeli policies.”

Ignorantus. Ignoranta. Ignorantum.

In the week that we are commemorating the hundreds of Jewish victims of the Farhud, the pogrom perpetrated in Iraq by Arab Nazis in 1941, Anshel Pfeffer’s words ring especially hollow. The Farhud is incontrovertible evidence – seven years before Israel was created – that the Arab-Israeli conflict has never been about competing narratives or claims, but antisemitism.

That antisemitism was exported from Nazi Germany to the Arab world with the active encouragement of the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem. It is still with us today.

We know that the Mufti was responsible for tens of thousands of Jewish deaths – both by pressuring the British into closing Palestine’s borders to Jewish immigration, and by actively aiding the Nazi genocide.

Now new evidence (with thanks: Eze) of the Mufti’s complicity with the Nazis comes from Klaus Gensicke. Karl Pfeifer has reviewed Gensicke’s new book, The Mufti of Jerusalem and the Nazis: the Berlin Years (Vallentine Mitchell), in The Propagandist:

“Gensicke documents the efforts of the Mufti of Jerusalem to contribute to this mass murder. He demolishes the claim that Arabs had no share in that crime.

“Gensicke notes that Yasser Arafat and Amin al Husseini were not only related by blood. Arafat continued the legacy of the Mufti. Both Palestinian leaders were devoted to terrorism and fanaticism. As late as August 2, 2002 the Peace Nobel Prize winner Arafat referred to the Mufti as a “hero” and an inspiring symbol in “withstanding world pressure” and remaining “an Arab leader in spite of demands to have him replaced because of his Nazi ties.”

“The Mufti led the “disturbances” of 1936-39, when the number of Arabs murdered by Arabs exceeded the number of Jews murdered by Arabs. The late thirties was the period of England’s appeasement of the Axis. In Palestine this political strategy led to seeking out the bully in the situation, the one most likely to go over to the Axis if not adequately appeased. As such, England appeased the Palestinians with the White book (paper) issued in May 1939.

“The Mufti arrived 1941 in Germany and was received by Hitler on November 28, 1941 in the presence of Ribbentropp and Grobba. The Fuehrer assured the Mufti:

“Germany stood for uncompromising war against the Jews. That naturally included active opposition to the Jewish national home in Palestine, which was nothing other than a center, in the form of a state, for the exercise of destructive influence by Jewish interests. […] Germany was resolved, step by step, to ask one European nation after the other to solve its Jewish problem, and at the proper time direct a similar appeal to non-European nations as well.”

Read review in full

Ignorance may be bliss to some, but when its sufferers are ‘top’ mainstream journalists, the disease can be dangerous.


  • I'm sure that there is a lot of truth in what you say, Silke. Assume a historian finds something in the Arab archives that the government does not like – his career would be blighted, or worse, they might put a contract out for him!

    If any good should come from the Arab Spring it is precisely that there is no freedom without truth.

  • but they are allowed into Israeli and other western archives while Israeli and/or western historians don't get access.

    I would need a historian to word the argument correctly but it would worth pursuing. Maybe historians are so reluctant to go for it (at least that's how it seems to me) because they are afraid that they'll be accused of writing Orientalism and/or Empire history.

    To a mere reader like myself however it seems like a fact that should be really widely known.

  • I think Pfeffer like many journalists on the Left has simply absorbed the Palestinian narrative. Of course there is an in-built distortion when one side's archives are freely accessible and the other side's are not. Historians in the Arab world are paid by the state to tell the approved version – otherwise they would not survive for very long.

  • That's why the Arab side has to falsify it.

    and yes that's why MSM, the world, historians, everybody has to be told again and again that "they" have such a super-easy time at lying because their archives are inaccessible.

    It isn't an argument that will sweep the "masses" of their feet but it will sink in if made often enough with historians who to a man and a woman seem to hate closed archives.

  • Forgot to add to my previous comments how absurd and inexplicable Feffer's argument is, unless he is pimping for his bosses at HaArets. That's because just a few days before Netanyahu went to Washington, & before Obama's speech meant to ambush him, Abbas, head of the PLO/PA had published an op ed in the NY Times full of historical lies. Netanyahu thought it important enough to issue a short statement of rebuttal, and also mentioned "distortions of history" in one of his speeches in DC, apparently referring to Abbas' op ed.

    At the link, none other than Benny Morris takes apart Abbas' lies about history. All this goes to show just how important history is to both sides. That's why the Arab side has to falsify it.

  • just as an addition:

    an argument that I'd like to read in talks about history more often is that Arabs have no claim to mouth off on history as long as practically all their archives deny access to historians.

    I first heard that from Michael Oren when he was on book tour and I have found it confirmed in other half sentences here and there quite a number of times.

    i.e. the Arabs keep their records from the world's eyes but at the same time claim that their reading of history is the correct one.

    As best I know Israeli records open or remain closed by the same standard other civilized nations around the world apply.

  • There is so much wrong with, so much ignorance underlying Pfeffer's arguments. For instance, he claims:

    "Pfeffer:"The problem with Holocaust overuse is that it moves the focus from the present to history and allows all sides to the argument to get in on the game."
    In fact it is precisely the Arabs and their allies who have been harping on history, false history, for many years. The so-called "palestinian narrative" is based on whole series of Arab lies, one piled on top of the other or adjacent to the other. In recent years, not satisfied with falsifying the Arab Holocaust record, nor the truth of the Israeli War of Independence [1947-1949], nor with the myth of Arab-Muslim tolerance for Jews, they now go back to ancient times and deny that there ever were Jews in the Land of Israel, or ever were Jewish kingdoms there [here]. The Arabs [especially the so-called "palestinians"] chose History as their battlefield, aided by general Jewish ignorance of Jewish history. It is stupid –indeed dangerous– to give up on that battlefield which will then be swamped with Arab historical lies delegitimizing Israel and all Jews!!

    "When Netanyahu cites the six million, he is giving credence to the Palestinian claim that they were those made to suffer for the genocide of the Jews in Europe. He is directly bolstering the Nakba claims."
    The obvious answer here is that the Arab nationalists of the time were mainly pro-Nazi and the "palestinian" Mufti Husseini collaborated in the Holocaust in Europe, while advocating its extension to Arab lands.


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