Herf goes on to note that the Mufti’s views prevailed in Arab lands after the war, and what he calls an “ideologically driven distortion” was carried over at the war’s end. The Arabs, he argues, saw the creation of Israel as confirmation of the Jews’ power, and that “the predictions of Nazi propaganda had been accurate.” With an eye to his Egyptian audience, Herf says that those who saw the Nazis as ideological allies “fashioned a blend of Nazism and Islamism,” and were the ones who “always rejected compromise with the state of Israel.” He even tells the readers something they may not have ever acknowledged- that 700,000 Jews had to flee the Arab lands after 1948!
So the question arises. Why did an Egyptian paper, obviously with the government’s approval, allow such an interview to be published, and such an anti-Islamist viewpoint to be expressed? The answer, I suspect, is that the Egyptian government, now in the throes of a massive campaign against the growth of radical Islamist extremism — particularly that of the Muslim Brotherhood — needs to allow this candid expression of the truth to now be heard in Egypt.
In the guise of an interview with an author of a book that obviously would be of interest to many in Egypt, they have succeeded in giving their readers perhaps a unique and previously forbidden point of view and history of Egypt’s own pro-Nazi past to be heard. Whatever the reason, the paper’s editors have shown great courage in putting this into print.
Now if only Mahmoud Abbas would reprint it in the West Bank newspapers.
UPDATE: Wed, February 3rd, 10:30 am
I have received the following communication from Lee Smith, author of the important new book, The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations. Smith is one of the most informed reporters writing about the Arab world, and he points out the following:
“I’ll be interested to follow the debate, but wanted to note that, first, Al-Masry Al-Youm is not a government paper but is somewhat independent, edited by Hisham Kassem, who is known to be basically a liberal, is close to liberal and leftist figures like Saad ed-din Ibrahim, and is, as you suggest anti-Islamist. Also, although I hope this interview does stir up some argument, my sense is that it won’t go far in combating Arab anti-Semitism. Newspapers are not a major medium in Egypt and for an independent paper like this the circulation is relatively miniscule and restricted entirely to the intelligentsia – as opposed to the enormous bureaucracy which reads the official govt press; alas, the official discourse of the Egyptian intelligentsia, is well represented by Culture Minister Farouk Hosny’s anti-Zionist rants before he was up for for the UNESCO post and his anti-Semitic rants after he was passed over. Also emblematic is the ostracism of the researcher and editor Hala Mustafa who got in a lot of trouble with the government for having a meeting with the Israeli ambassador – that is, the envoy of a country with whom Egypt has had full diplomatic relations for three decades. I applaud the paper’s decision to run the interview, and hope it has a positive effect but I am not counting on it.”