Activists slam Holocaust Museum for ignoring Arab role

A group of American Jewish activists has launched a campaign aimed at getting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to recognize the anti-Semitic actions by Arab and Muslim leaders during World War II and to take a leading role in fighting anti-Semitism in the Arab world.

The group, Holocaust Museum Watch, points to the fact that the museum, funded by the federal government, has never presented an exhibit or sponsored an event dealing with Muslim anti-Semitism or with the fate of the Jews in Arab countries during the Holocaust.

“The absence of these programs is a failure of the museum and an obscene dereliction of its ways,” said the group’s chairwoman, Carol Greenwald.

Some 100 Jews gathered recently at a Washington, D.C. synagogue to hear more about the campaign, which up until now was not seen as a major issue on the Jewish agenda. The organizers called on the Jewish community to play an active role in demanding that the Holocaust Museum recognize the issue of Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism.

The demand is focused on three issues: the cooperation of Jerusalem’s grand mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, with the Nazi regime; the anti-Jewish pogroms in Arab countries during World War II, mainly the Farhud in Baghdad; and the current rise of anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world.

Husseini’s ties with Nazi Germany are well known — he met with Adolf Eichmann and offered Hitler any help he could supply in murdering Europe’s Jews and Jews worldwide. His actions are not mentioned at all in the Holocaust Museum.

Shlomo Alfassa, of the international Sephardic Leadership Council, pointed out the second issue in dispute — the suffering of Jews in Arab countries during the Holocaust. Alfassa tried to get the museum to sponsor an event commemorating the Farhud, a bloody pogrom against Iraq’s Jews in 1941, but was rejected by the museum. So were other attempts to highlight the hardship of North African Jews who were under occupation.

“This is a continued marginalization of facts by a government-funded scholarly institute,” Alfassa said, adding that the reason for this is “extensive political correctness.”

Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of the Amcha coalition for Jewish concern, was more direct. In a passionate speech, he claimed that there is a political motivation behind the Holocaust Museum’s decision not to pay attention to events in the Arab world.

“The political demands made by the government on the museum are often in conflict with pure Shoah memory,” Weiss said.

The group is trying to get the Holocaust Museum, part of whose mission is to fight hate and genocide, to speak out against modern Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism, specifically the latest remarks of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for the destruction of the state of Israel and Iran’s plans to sponsor a Holocaust deniers’ conference.

The museum did issue a release denouncing Ahmadinejad, but the watchdog group thinks that is not enough. “The U.S. Holocaust Museum, the authority on genocide, is silent,” said Greenwald, “It is this silence that pretends there is no danger and encourages inaction.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Holocaust Museum did not respond to a request for a comment on the group’s allegations.