On the December 14 broadcast of National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" devoted to discussing the recent Holocaust denial conference in Tehran, ABC News Consultant and Sarah Lawrence College professor Fawaz Gerges argued that the Holocaust and what he called the "tragedies of the Palestinians" were "similar historical injustices." Gerges was interviewed from Egypt, where he is a visiting professor at the American University in Cairo. Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, was also interviewed and strongly disagreed with Gerges's statements.
Gerges's last words on the show, hosted by Lynn Neary, were: "I really believe that both the Jews and the Palestinians, basically, are, have suffered from similar historical injustices."
Gerges is a consultant and analyst for ABC News and holds the Christian A. Johnson Chair in International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies at Sarah Lawrence. He made the comments near the end of the 35 minute program, during which time he consistently attempted to blame the Israelis for what he admitted were growing "anti-Jewish feelings" in the Middle East.
Gerges's tactic throughout the interview was to manipulate the discussion of why Iranian president Ahmadinejad held the conference, and why the Middle East is home to a rising tide of anti-Semitism, to blame the Israelis and to draw a moral equivalency between the Holocaust and the treatment of the Palestinians.
Here are a few choice pull quotes from my own transcription of the show. I have removed only "ums" and "ahs":
I think it would be very misleading to see that, to say, as some people in the United States and the West argue, that anti-Semitism has migrated from its home base in Europe, particularly Germany and other counties, to the Muslim world.
When I talk to Muslims and Arabs, the first question, you say, 'well look, this, say we are Semites ourselves; how can we be anti-Semites'?
And when we say anti-Jewish feelings, there's also a great deal of anti-Arab and Muslim feelings in Israel, as you know. There are tens of thousands of settlers who would basically ship the Palestinians, or would like to ship the Palestinians, overnight to their neighboring countries and basically enjoin the slogan, ‘kill the Arabs and the Muslims.'
There's a great tragedy in place, Lynn, I mean, you have military occupation, you have Palestinians are being killed on daily basis. The Palestinians live in the largest prison in Gaza. I mean, there's war.
Lynn, there have been a great many Arab and Muslim scholars who have made it very clear that denying the Holocaust does great moral damage to the cause of the Palestinians.
Look, you have tens of thousands of Palestinians who have been killed. You have hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have been killed. Look at the history of colonialism. ‘How can the oppressed people,' they say, ‘Jews, turn around and do injustice to the Palestinians?' Why the Palestinians have to pay for the crimes committed by Europeans, after all?
While on the one hand, we can say that any kind of denial, any kind of second-guessing, is basically a moral crime, we also must acknowledge at the same time, that there is a crime being committed against the Palestinians. There is a military occupation taking place, that there are crimes committed in Iraq and in Palestine.
Further Analysis: Given the number of scholars and experts in the U.S. who could comment on the Middle East, it's remarkable that an organization like ABC News would turn to a man so willing to engage in moral and intellectual relativism. Whatever one thinks of the Palestinian question, or of Israel's policy toward them, to speak as Gerges speaks is to cheapen the horror of the Holocaust in an effort to deny Israelis any moral foundation for their state. It's also extremely sloppy history, especially for a scholar, and a clear attempt to use the past for contemporary political ends.
My friend Bruce Kesler suggests this quotation as a means of shedding futher light on the abuse of history, from George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949):
"The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth."