He admitted that there has been a surge of anti-Semitic, Islamic “resistance”—a despicable euphemism for terrorism—but claimed that such “counter-violence . . . pales in scale” to Israel, “the most powerful state in the region.”
He then proceeded to address the scourge of Holocaust denial in the region with more apologetics:
Holocaust denial is a form of protest. [I’m ] not excusing it, but it is necessary to understand. Holocaust denial is the anti-Zionism of fools. It [the Holocaust] happened.
Achcar didn’t deny the Holocaust, but he repeatedly denied Israel’s right to defend itself, an act he termed “Israel’s aggressive behavior.” Furthermore, he claimed, “The Jews are not oppressed now as they were in western history.”
Later in the lecture, he minimized the genocidal threats issued daily by the Iranian regime as, “the government using anti-Semitism, not so much against Israel, as competition with the Saudis; [it is] trying to win over Islamic fundamentalists.” Moreover, he noted, “a nuclear holocaust would hit everybody in the region,” as if this would deter fanatics hoping for the apocalypse.
Achcar concluded by drawing an asinine correlation between the Holocaust or Shoah and the “Nakba” or “catastrophe,” the Arabic term to describe the creation of the state of Israel:
The Shoah ended in 1945, but the suffering of the Palestinians is never-ending. The Holocaust was a major tragedy in human history. But the Palestinians didn’t do it. This denial of the Nakba is a major obstacle for reaching peace.
During the question and answer period, Achcar was challenged by a woman in the audience who asked him, “Do you blame the Jew-hatred in the Hamas Charter and the Hezbollah Manifesto on Israel, or the West, or Christian history?” He reacted by accusing her of not listening and of having pre-conceived notions, but she pressed on until he answered angrily, “I am not going to repeat myself. I said that the Hamas Charter has anti-Semitic elements. I explained to which tradition this belongs,” when in fact, Achcar had not previously mentioned the Hamas Charter. She then asked him, “Can you blame that on Israel and the United States?” to which he responded predictably, “Yes, I blame the U.S., which funded fundamentalism in the 50s and 60s.”
Another audience member—perhaps herself an academic, given the level of her paranoia—complained about students taking notes that, as she put it:
[G]o on websites like Campus Watch. The students are paid, $100-$200 bucks. It’s ruined some careers. So some people do not speak about the issue, but some keep on speaking. I was wondering since you come from Europe, are you able as an academic to speak honestly? How are you treated?
It’s a different tradition; there is more room for this debate . . . with this book I was interviewed in major mainstream Israeli newspapers [even though] I have been accused of ‘normalizing the enemy.’ I’ve been invited to speak in Jewish studies and reviewed in the Jewish Review of Books. I am proud of that.
Perhaps he was proud, also, of his lecture at the University of California, Davis later that month, which was sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program despite significant outcry from the local Jewish community, pro-Israel groups, and concerned academics. The lecture included founding chair David Biale, current chair Diane Wolf, and professor Susan Miller, who lauded Achcar’s scholarship as “courageous” during her introduction. Achcar can count fawning anti-Israel Jewish studies professors among his fan base.
Achcar’s entire University of California speaking tour is indicative of the aforementioned “anti-Zionism of fools” so prevalent in academia today. The rot is so pervasive that it’s infected Middle East studies, Israel studies, Jewish studies, and Holocaust studies alike. At this rate, there will be no bastions of true scholarship left.
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