on 17 June 2016
A fascinating insight into Arab politics in the lead up to WW2. The book sheds light on and explodes the myth of, a monolithic aggressive Islamo-fascist world, revealing several trends in Islamic political thought that mirrors those in the west. From western style reformers through to fervent nationalists and finally an exploration of fascism and communism's relationship with Islam. Achcar also debunks much of the "scholarship" found in popular biographies of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Well worth a read.
on 4 November 2010
It has been a standard trope of Zionist propaganda that Arab opposition to Zionism is motivated by or influenced by antisemitism. The rise of Islamophobic racism over recent years has seen a growth in such ideas. Until recently, such ideas were confined to the lunatic fringe, internet based conspiracy theorists and Zionist propagandists and could safely be ignored. Recently, however, they have begun to enter the mainstream and so this effective counter by Gilbert Achcar is welcome. For example, Achcar effectively demolishes works with pretensions to scholarly rigour such as those by Mattias Kuntzel, Klaus-Michael Mallman and shows that these writers don't understand the Arabic language, have little grasp of the history or politics of the region and rely for much of their source material on other works of propaganda which have little or no scholarly value.
Not that antisemitism or Holocaust Denial don't exist in the Arab world, they do. Achcar is effective in explaining the roots of these in the conflict between Zionism and the Palestinian people and is a response, albeit unacceptable, to oppression rather than a tool of oppression as it is in Europe and N.America. Achcar is good at exposing the poison of Al Hajj Amin al Husseini but also good at exposing how his legacy has been grossly exaggerated.
Achcar takes on a historical tour of the development of politics in the Arab Middle East in the Twentieth century. His purpose is to excavate movements as diverse as Westernising liberal, communist parties, Syrian nationalists, Islamists and Ba'thists to determine the influence of fascism, Nazism and antisemitism in their founding or in their ideology. In all but a very small number of cases, Achcar's excavations draw a blank.
Interestingly, Achcar uncovers things like quotes from early Ba'thists that appear to show sympathy for fascism that actually show the opposite when the original text is examined and he finds that the English language version of Anwar Sadat's memoirs has pro-Nazi remarks in them that are absent in the Arabic original. There has been deliberate misrepresentation, in other words.
This book, together with Gershoni and Jankowski's `Confronting Fascism in Egypt', represent the defeat of the notion that modern Arab politics owes a significant debt to European fascism or antisemitism and so is exceedingly welcome.
on 24 April 2011
The description of the book above is lacking a candour. Ashcar isn't a dispassionate historian. He's an Arab, a socialist, an 'anti-war activist', a co-author with the extreme anti-Israel writer Noam Chomsky, a supporter of the hijab, and more. This means a reader should take care with this volume and the biases it contains. There is, apart from anything, a huge difference between the Holocaust and the Palestinian nakba: the nakba was self-created.