It is, perhaps, understandable that Israel invoked the spectre of a Holocaust in the Middle East in the aftermath of the liberation of the concentration camps; but Israeli historians have documented the ways in which, as the country became the dominant military power in the region, successive Israeli prime ministers deployed it as an ideological tool, even as the state demonstrated indifference to real Holocaust survivors in its midst.
No one collapsed the differences between the Nazi genocide and the Middle East conflict more unashamedly than Menachem Begin who, at the height of his country's bombardment of Beirut, sent a telegram to Ronald Reagan declaring that he felt as though he was facing Berlin where Hitler and his henchmen were hiding in a bunker. To which the novelist Amos Oz responded tartly: "Mr Begin, Hitler died 37 years ago ... Again and again ... you reveal to the public eye a strange urge to resuscitate Hitler in order to kill him every day anew in the guise of terrorists."
Of course, what Ms. Karpf is negligent about is what were the historical facts and what was the context.
For example, she seeks to whitewash the Mufti, Arafat's hero, by writing:
But the biggest weapon wielded by those intent on confusing Arabs or Muslims with Nazis is the person of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian leader known as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. In a new book, Icons of Evil, two American academics rehash the charges against the Mufti - that he received funding from the Nazis, met Hitler, sat out much of the war in Berlin, and helped establish a Muslim-Balkan unit in the Waffen-SS. In their inflation of the importance of the Mufti (an inflation deliberately encouraged in Israel by the 1961 Eichmann trial), what such accounts fail to provide is evidence that the Mufti gained any power over Nazi policy. Conversely, plenty of evidence shows he lost almost all his influence over Palestinian Arabs in the period.
There was no inflation here. The Mufti was directly responsible for the deaths of Jews; for broadcasting Nazi propaganda across the Middle East; for promoting violence against Jews while seeking Nazi aid as early as 1933; and by bequeathing Nazi antisemitic parameters to the national struggle of the Arabs of WEretz-Yisrael for decades.
The Mufti tried hard but his failure at causing more deaths and damage should not be used as a mitigating factor.
Menachem Begin viewed, correctly, that Arafat had inherited the Mufti's identification with racial antisemitic hatred of the Jew as a Jew and therefore, it is not the Holocaust that Begin was promoting as a symbol but the very real physical deaths that Arafat was promoting at the time. Oz's remarks about 37 years having passed in connection with Hitler are totally irrelevant.