Holocaust denial in its various forms is common in the Arab media. The recent lawsuit for slander brought by Holocaust denier David Irving against Holocaust Scholar Debra Lipstadt has been a frequent issue in the Arab media, where statements condemning Holocaust denial are very rare. Jihad Al-Khazen, Columnist and former Editor-in-Chief for the Arabic daily Al-Hayat, is a notable exception. While uncategorically condemning Holocaust denial, Al-Khazen argues that rather than denying the Holocaust, Arabs should focus on Israel's persecution of Arabs "in the same manner".
Following are excerpts from two of Al-Khazen's columns in Al-Hayat on this subject:
Against Holocaust Denial
On April 15, 2000, Al-Khazen wrote: "...Personally, I think the Holocaust occured and I have no reason to doubt the number of victims. Therefore, the Jews have no problem with me and I have no problem with them. However, although I dispute Irving's opinion on this subject, I see no reason to prevent him from expressing his position ...especially in a country that protects freedom of opinion and speech. Isn't [this freedom] the First Amendment to the American Constitution? Isn't [this] its spirit?"
"If Irving claims that the Holocaust did not occur, he exposes his stupidity and the shallowness of his thought. But anyone who prevents him, or any other human-being who doubts the occurrence of the Holocaust or the number of its victims, [from expressing this opinion], is hostile to the [principle of] freedom of speech..."
Responding to Critics
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A week later, on April 22, 2000, Al-Khazen responded to criticism of his first article: "The strangest thing about the Holocaust of the Jews committed by the Nazis, is that some Arabs insist on denying it with an enthusiasm that equals that of the neo-Nazis."
"The Arabs did not murder the Jews in Europe or in any other place. The reciprocal massacres between Arabs and Jews throughout history, including the last fifty years, were very limited and cannot be compared with the murder of the Jews by the Nazis. Therefore, there is no need for us to deny a crime committed by others, and for which we have paid the price."
"Last week, I referred to the failure of the historian, David Irving, in his trial... It was not even noon that day before I began receiving faxes and telephone calls by people opposing what I wrote..."
"The Arab attitude toward the Holocaust should not be reduced to its denial. Rather, the Arabs should question how a people that suffered such massacres can take the role of the executioner and persecute other people..."
"There is a debate in the West regarding the number of victims. However, respected historians who are knowledgable on this subject never go beneath the number of five million victims, and most of them agree with the number of six million. I carefully read the minimal estimate according to which more than 850 thousand Jews died of hunger or disease in the ghettos, more than 1.3 million were shot and buried in ditches, 2.7 million died in death camps like Treblinka, and 150 thousand in other camps like Dachau. All in all we are discussing at least five million. This is the same figure we reach if we profile the number by countries: beginning with three million in Poland, and ending with about 150 thousand in Luxembourg…"
"Irving, of course, is neither the first nor the last historian to claim that the number of victims is much lower... However, the West, which was the scene of the crime, insists that the number of victims is about six million. Historians at big universities, from Cambridge in England to Harvard in the US, more or less agree on these figures. Therefore, it is unacceptable for an Arab to come afterwards and deny that the Holocaust occured, out of anger for what the Jews have committed against the Arabs."
"I say once again, we did not commit the Holocaust and therefore we should not deny it. The only rational possible Arab approach toward the Holocaust is to point out to the Jews and to others that a people saved from the Holocaust persecutes other nations now and treats them in the same manner from which it has suffered itself."
"There are attempts to use the Holocaust for the interests of Israel and the Jews but this does not mean that it did not occur. Dr. Lipstadt herself wrote that many of the Auschwitz survivors claimed they were personally examined by Dr. Mengele, "The Death Surgeon." But when she compared the dates when they were in the camp with what she knew of Mengele's whereabouts, she discovered he was not there at the time the survivors claimed he examined them. Some of the readers may remember the name Benjamin Wilkomirsky. I wrote about him in my column. He claimed he had been a child at the Nazi detention camps and his book won Jewish awards, until it was discovered that he was Swiss and never left Switzerland during the war."
"There is nothing in all of this that denies the existence of the Holocaust. The only scientific dispute between credible Western historians is whether "The Final Solution" was a decision made by the Nazis right from the beginning or if [the order] issued when they started losing the war. Some historians believe in the former option and others point out that most German Jews were saved from the Holocaust because Hitler had deported them and had not tried to annihilate them right from the beginning. However, historians from both schools agree that the estimated number of victims is six million..."
"I say for the last time, it is impossible for an Arab to come and claim that his knowledge about the Holocaust exceeds that of American or European historians. It is inappropriate for an Arab to defend the opinions of a historian [Irving] who was described by a Judge as racist, anti-Semitic, suspicious, and a supporter of neo-Nazis who treats the Jewish people in an insulting manner...
"What is proper to say is that it is inconceivable that a people that was saved from the Holocaust persecutes another people, deports it, destroys its property, and steals its land."