Some UC Jewish Studies programs seem to be part of the growing problem of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist bias on UC campuses. Consider the lecture sponsored by the UC Davis [UCD] Jewish Studies Program on October 21st.She has more about the more general issue of problems at UC Davis' Jewish Studies that is worth reading, but I would like to concentrate on Achcar.
The lecturer was University of London professor Gilbert Achcar, author of the controversial book, “The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives.” He was introduced by Diane Wolf, current chair of the UCD program, Professor Susan Miller, and founding chair, David Biale. Professor Miller praised Achcar and called his scholarship “courageous.”
Achcar may have been courageous in acknowledging the Holocaust was a uniquely horrifying event directed at Jews and that Palestinian leader Haj Amin al-Husseini’s anti-Semitism and collaboration with Hitler were deplorable. But after these observations, he careened into anti-Zionist, anti-Israel charges and distortions. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, he argued that the Mufti’s Jew-hatred had little influence on Palestinian and Arab hostility to Israel. He dismissed evidence about the cross-fertilization of Muslim anti-Semitism and Nazi-inspired anti-Semitism as hyperbole and charged that Israel exploits the Holocaust and exaggerates the Mufti’s influence only for propaganda purposes.
More disturbingly, he has argued that the rise of Zionism in 1920, not prejudice, spawned Arab Jew-hatred, essentially accusing Jews of causing anti-Semitism. Indeed, in his book, he excuses the current popularity of the Czarist anti-Semitic forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” in the Arab world, arguing it must be read from an anti-Zionist, not an anti-Semitic, perspective.
Achcar minimized pogroms against and expulsions of Jews in the Arab world after World War II and after Israel’s reestablishment, equating their expulsion with the American internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. He repeated anti-Israel clichés, denying Israel’s right to exist and referring to it as a “settler colonial project” built on “Arab land,” accusing Zionists of "ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians", and downplaying any suggestion of Pan-Arab racism toward the Jewish people.
Despite these tendentious charges, challenging questions were not welcomed during the Q & A. I was abruptly censored while attempting to establish facts to challenge Mr. Achcar’s skewed conclusion that the Grand Mufti’s anti-Semitism had only a minimal impact on both Jews and Arabs. Professors Miller and Biale angrily told me the questions were insulting and to either stop or leave the room. So much for free speech and scholarly discourse in academia.
In July 2010, I looked a little at Achcar's book. Immediately I saw that his claim that Arab anti-semitism was a reaction to alleged Zionist expulsion of Palestinian Arab farmers, or as Rubin describes him at UCD saying that it only started after 1920, is laughable.
The first Arab attack on Jews in Palestine was in 1886 in Petah Tikva, a community built on swampland that did not displace any Arab.
A quote from an 1874 travelogue says ""Men in Palestine call their fellows 'Jew,' as the very lowest of all possible words of abuse."
From the Saturday Magazine, 1840:
The most distressed position in which the Algerine Jews have been placed, was when the country was under the military despotism of the Janissaries. Often when the Janissaries met them in the streets, they would beat and otherwise ill-treat them, without their daring to offer the least resistance; and their only resource was, to run away if they could. If any one among them dared to complain, the Cadi would ask the offending Turk why he had struck the Jew. "Because he spoke ill of our holy religion," would be the reply. This sealed the poor Jew's doom; he was immediately put to death, and his property confiscated to the State. When a Jew went to a fountain, he was obliged to wait until every Mahometan had left it, before he presumed to take a drop of water. A Jew passing before a mosque was often butchered by the populace, if he chanced to turn his head towards the sacred building. The Jews were excluded from all public places frequented by the Mahometans, with the occasional exception of the bazaars. When a Jew met a Turk in the street, he was obliged to salute him by bowing his head almost to the ground. The Turk would enter a Jew's house, eat, drink, insult the family, and take away anything he had a fancy to, without the master of the house daring to offer any remonstrance.
This dreadful state of persecution was somewhat mitigated under subsequent governments; but still Jews have always been treated at Algiers with the contempt which they so generally meet with in Mahometan nations.
Another book from 1857, talking about Jews in Sanaa:
These poor people are awfully oppressed. The Jew is the object of continued insult and oppression. If he passes through the streets, the very beggars may knock him down, and he dare not venture to resent the insult. He is even not allowed to call a Mohammedan by his true name, but in addressing him must give him the title, "My Lord."
While Arab anti-semitism was and still is far different from Christian anti-semitism, it was real and obvious to many observers who came through Arab areas in the 19th century. It is also worth noting, however, that Palestinian Christians imbibed in traditional Christian anti-semitism and in no small part influenced their Muslim neighbors in the decades that followed.
But Achcar is far worse than just being selective in his history. As I proved in my earlier post, he actually frequents anti-semitic websites and used at least one quote in this book that was directly lifted from neo-Nazi literature - the proof being that he misspelled the name of the source in the same way that countless neo-Nazi sites do.
And his interest in insulting anyone who asks hard questions did not start at UC Davis; he acted in a similar way at a talk he gave with another fraud of a historian, Shlomo Sand, at SOAS.
Why would UC Davis Jewish Studies Department give any respect for a quasi-historian who gives no respect to his adversaries or even to the truth itself?
UPDATE: A long critique of Achcar's book and his response can be seen here. (h/t Alice)