Tom Segev, the post-Zionist Israeli author, has stringent standards for what makes a good Middle East book: Above all, it has to be helpful to the "peace process." Its truth, or falsehood, is not quite so important, Segev suggests in his review in yesterday's NYTBR of Hitler's Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam, by David G. Dalin and John F. Rothmann. The Mufti in question, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was a notorious anti-Semite and Nazi collaborator, and his legacy can be seen today in pockets of Palestinian thought. The Mufti, Segev acknowledges, was a committed Nazi sympathizer: "In addition to meeting with Hitler, he sat down with Adolf Eichmann and sabotaged a plan to transfer Jewish children from Eastern Europe to Palestine."
This, Segev notes, "was wrong and shameful." Yes, quite. No matter, though: Excessive emphasis on the Mufti today may subvert peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis. "The suggestion that Israel's enemies are Nazis, or the Nazis' heirs, is apt to discourage any fair compromise with the Palestinians, and that is bad for Israel," Segev argues. This might be true, but it is also no reason to avoid unpleasant subjects. Segev compares the Mufti's behavior to that of Yitzhak Shamir, the former prime minister of Israel who was once a terrorist with the Stern Gang, and he criticizes the authors for neglecting to mention Jewish extremism in the time of the Mufti. I'm not sure why a book about pro-Nazi sympathies among certain Arabs need include this (and there are plenty of books about Jewish terrorism already). Let's say that Segev is right, though, on the historical merits. Nevertheless, wouldn't a reminder of Israel's "extremist" past undermine peace talks today? Or is it only Arab extremism that should be ignored?
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