Robert Fisk: How the anti-Semites of Hizbollah have sent Anne Frank back into hiding

World Focus: The Jewish Holocaust is not a subject which Arabs have learned to live with

Share
Related Topics

"This young woman who upsets people..." was the headline in Lebanon's L'Orient Littáraire yesterday. The teenager was Anne Frank, who died of typhoid at Bergen-Belsen in 1945 after being betrayed to the Nazi authorities, along with her family, in her Amsterdam "safe house". The upset people were the Lebanese Hizbollah, who successfully persuaded teachers at a Beirut school to withdraw an English language primer from the library after it discovered extracts from Anne Frank's world-famous diary in the book. Yesterday, in a brave and literary defence of freedom of speech, Michel Hajji Georgiou told his readers why this act of censorship was against the Arabs.

Anne Frank, he said, was "a child in revolt against fear, against intolerance, against a mad world, who escapes her Lebanese critics... Anne, under injustice, in a suffering transcended by art and writing, is nothing less than the sister of the Palestinian or Lebanese children in the novels of Elias Khoury or Ghassan Kanafani... of the British children in J G Ballard's Empire of the Sun and John Boorman's Hope and Glory."

Jews and Israelis may object to the parallel – indeed, will object to the parallel – between Jewish suffering under the Nazis and Palestinian suffering under the Israelis, but they should at least admire Georgiou's front-page article. It is accompanied by a large and well-known photograph of Anne, smiling in all innocence into the camera, unaware how short her life will be. The Jewish Holocaust is not a subject which Arabs have learned to live with. While Arab censorship is not as outrageous as Turkish laws against all mention of the 1915 Christian Armenian Holocaust by the Muslim Ottoman Turks – which can send writers to prison – Hitler's Mein Kampf is freely on sale in Beirut and reference to the Jewish Holocaust has been censored on television.

When I made a two-and-a-half-hour documentary on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Lebanon's New TV channel initially cut out a 16-minute sequence on the murder of Polish Jews whose surviving families eventually arrived in Israel. Only after angry remonstrations did I persuade the station's owner to show the uncut film – which he did the following night. But being the first Westerner to put the Jewish Holocaust on a Lebanese television channel did not win any favours. Respectable, well educated families in Beirut argued with me for years afterwards that the Nazi massacres were either exaggerated or non-existent.

There is no doubt that Israel's use of the Holocaust to suppress any legitimate criticism of Israel's current brutality towards the Palestinians has much to do with this. Holocaust denial is anti-Semitic, but the facile slander of anti-Semitism against anyone who condemns Israel's outrageous behaviour towards its neighbours long ago provoked a deep sense of cynicism among Arabs towards the facts of 20th century Jewish history in Europe. The insistence of Palestinian academics such as Edward Said that the Jewish Holocaust should not be denied – on the basis that a denial of one people's suffering automatically negated another people's suffering (the Palestinians, albeit on a far smaller scale) – has received little understanding in the Muslim world. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's ravings about the Holocaust have only encouraged the habit of "denialism".

A pity. For while serious study of the subject might have been denied to pupils at a school at Mseitbeh – a Shia suburb of Beirut – who were using The Interactive Reader Plus for English Learners, Lebanese students are also deprived of Victor Klemperer's diaries. Klemperer, a German Jewish academic, condemned the Jewish colonisation of pre-Second World War Palestine even as he and his wife were threatened by the Nazis in his native Dresden. Ironically, I bought my copy of Klemperer's books in highly Islamic Pakistan.

In other words, not all Jewish Holocaust survivors – or victims – would automatically have supported the creation of the State of Israel. Israel's constant demonisation of Palestinians as Nazis – the late prime minister Menachem Begin specifically compared Yasser Arafat to Hitler – finds its apotheosis in the Holocaust museum at Yad Vashem outside Jerusalem where the equally late Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini is pictured with Hitler. Al-Husseini's picture is real; Israel's racist foreign minister used it a few weeks ago to further demean the Palestinians, although it is immensely to Israel's credit that the fairest biography of this anti-Jewish figure was written by a former Israeli military governor of Gaza.

Hizbollah, of course, has well and truly managed to put its foot in it in Beirut. Its Al Manar television station criticised Anne Frank's diaries because they are "devoted to the persecution of the Jews... Even more dangerous still is the dramatic and theatrical way in which the diary is written – it is full of emotion." Poor 15-year old Anne Frank's record of her suffering was not unemotional enough for the warriors of the Hizbollah, her book mere proof of "the Zionist invasion of [Lebanese] education." In fairness, Beirut's bookshops show no fear of selling books on the Jewish Holocaust and the evils of the Second World War. The Jews of Lebanon were once counted in their thousands; many came from Nazi Germany en route to Palestine but stayed because they loved the country and the Arab people. The government is repairing the old Jewish synagogue whose roof was shot off in 1982 – by an Israeli gunboat.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'