An Israeli research institute draws attention to the controversial Holocaust narrative in the Arab world

The Institute for National Security Studies draws attention to the outrageous framing of the war in Gaza by calling it the “Gaza Holocaust” in the Arab media.

Since the October 7 terror attack on Israel by Hamas, numerous media outlets across the Arab world, including countries like Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Bahrain, have compared the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza to the Holocaust, sparking a renewed focus on the nature of Holocaust narratives in Arab discourse, explains the Institute for National Security Studies One (INSS), an Israeli research centre.

The institute draws a prominent example from Egypt, where on October 19, the daily newspaper al-Youm a-Sabi – a publication affiliated with the regime – described the war in Gaza as “the Gaza Holocaust,” encapsulating a comparison pervasive in media circles.

Although the trend is not new, it underscores the inherent contradictions within Holocaust narratives prevalent in Arab and Muslim countries. Holocaust denial began in the Arab world as early as 1945, escalating in the subsequent decades of the Israeli-Arab conflict. At the same time, the Israeli actions against Palestinians are compared to the Holocaust. The discourse is fraught with dissonances, simultaneously denying, justifying, and employing the Holocaust.

These narratives are reflected in contemporary attitudes toward the Holocaust in the MENA region. Data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for 2014-2015 paint a grim picture of Holocaust perceptions in the MENA region: 59% of respondents reported being unaware of the Holocaust; 52% believed that the atrocities and the death toll of Jews cited have been greatly exaggerated; 11% regarded the Holocaust as a myth; and only 22% felt the historical accounts are accurate. Significantly, these perceptions are not limited to the MENA region but are also prevalent in Arab and Muslim diasporas in the West.

An op-ed in Akhbar al-Khaleej, a Bahraini newspaper known for maintaining a relatively independent stance from the regime, exemplifies these discrepancies, stating: “What the Palestinian people have endured for the past 75 years is a Holocaust of their own…surpassing the Zionist narratives and legends about the Jewish Holocaust. The Zionist entity has perpetrated severe crimes beyond anything seen worldwide, which makes the Palestinian Holocaust an atrocity a thousand times greater.”

This emphasises the urgency of confronting antisemitism and Holocaust denial within Arab and Muslim communities, both in the MENA region and in diasporas in the West. To be sure, certain shifts in these attitudes are already underway, particularly in the Abraham Accords states. Countries like Morocco and the UAE, which champion religious tolerance and the fight against extremism, have taken substantial measures to grapple with antisemitism. This includes the integration of Holocaust education into school curricula, demonstrating a commitment to counter historical distortions.

Original article: The Institute for National Security Studies

Photo credit: AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman