A spirited defense and a plea to both Arabs and Jews, “motivated by the same humanism yet situated on opposite sides of the...




A scholarly reappraisal of the diverse Arab responses to the Holocaust and Zionism.

In the wake of recent scandalous proclamations by Holocaust deniers, Beirut-born historian Achcar (Development Studies and International Relations/School of Oriental and African Studies, London; The Clash of Barbarisms: The Making of the New World Disorder, 2006, etc.) is distressed by the evidence of Arab “intellectual regression.” Examining the archives—he takes English-language “experts” to task for not learning Arabic—from the rise of Nazism in the early 1930s through the eras of Nasser, the PLO and the present-day efflorescence of Islamic fundamentalism, the author emphasizes that the Arab response has involved an enormously convoluted “symbolic tit for tat” over the centuries, stating, in effect, that the Jewish people are not the only victims, and refusing to be saddled with the responsibility for what was in fact a Christian evil. Achcar repeatedly stresses that “the Arabs” do not act in unison, but are diverse peoples, and as such there is no single response. In terms of the reaction to the Zionist incursions in Palestine and increased immigration during the ’30s and ’40s, he carefully distinguishes among four groups of Arabs: the liberal Westerners, the Marxists, the nationalists and the reactionary/fundamentalist Pan-Islamists. Achcar acknowledges the bad apples over the decades—e.g., the pro-Nazi Baath Party and Amin al-Husseini, aka the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem—while much of this record continues to play into “the stock themes of Israeli propaganda” by the Zionist state. At times the author scrambles to portray the Arab reaction in a favorable light, but he does a fine service pointing out holes in previous research. Moreover, he never loses sight of the irony that Israel is widely regarded as a racist state.

A spirited defense and a plea to both Arabs and Jews, “motivated by the same humanism yet situated on opposite sides of the wall of hatred.”

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8954-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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