Robert Satloff
Insights on the Middle East and U.S. policy

A Yom Hashoah message, from disgust to hope

Jews marching to forced labor, Tunis, December 1942 (Bundesarchiv, Wikipedia Commons)

On Yom Hashoah 2024, I have two messages:

First, at this time of terrible, tragic conflict, let’s remember how Middle East actors warp Holocaust memory for political purposes. Take, for example, this al-Jazeera clip featuring a wacky Israeli expressing fringe views equating Israel with the Nazis and urging ICC criminal warrants for Israeli leaders.

He is shown demonstrating — something that would never be allowed in Qatar, of course — with images of a large crowd of anti-government protestors, maliciously suggesting that others share his looney-toon view. Beneath is al-Jazeera’s 1984-style claim to “truth and transparency.” It’s not easy to hit the trifecta of Holocaust denialism, Hamas political advocacy and gross political misrepresentation but al-Jazeera has perfected the formula.

One even finds this warped, inverted view of “Jews-as-Nazis” among Israel’s peace partners. An excellent example is this breathtakingly shocking April 22 televised interview with the urbane, sophisticated secretary-general of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, captured by @MEMRIReports.

In it, this former foreign minister of Egypt says not only that Israel, like Nazi Germany, lost any right to self-defense, but that the soul and conscience of the Jewish people went up in the ashen smoke of the Holocaust. It is difficult to imagine something more vile said more matter-of-factly by an Arab official regularly welcomed into the foreign ministries of world capitals.

But my second message is one of hope and promise. This is my annual reminder that, at the darkest moment of Jewish – perhaps human – history, Arabs made a choice.

Some made a choice to join the perpetrators, for example, helping the Nazi SS in Tunisia go door-to-door looking for Jews.

Some made a choice to be bystanders, watching (often cheering) as Jews were rounded-up for forced labor.

And some, like the courageous but long-overlooked Tunisians Khaled Abdulwahhab and Si Ali Sakkat, made a choice to protect, defend or rescue Jews facing persecution and possible death. They are – and certainly ought to be – among the Righteous. (Attention, Yad Vashem.)

Similarly, today, there are brave Palestinian women and men who, in the depths of war and conflict, refuse to join the zero-sum crowd and instead courageously call out for peace and understanding.

Imagine if al-Jazeera and other major media would amplify their voice — the voice of Mohammed Dajani, Bassem Eid, or others of their ilk — instead of the despicable “Jews-are-Nazis” fringe. That would not quite be a lion-lies-down-with-lamb level miracle but pretty close – it would certainly spark hope about a truly new Middle East. And Yom Hashoah is a perfect day for a little hope.

About the Author
Robert Satloff is the Segal executive director of The Washington Institute and its Howard P. Berkowitz Chair in U.S. Middle East Policy.
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