"In his recent book, Among The Righteous (Public Affairs Press), Robert Satloff, who has served since 1993 as executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, unearths the lost stories of Arabs who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
When the Nazis occupied the countries of North Africa and sought to round up Jews and expropriate Jewish property, Satloff notes: 'In every place that it occurred, Arabs helped Jews. Some Arabs spoke out against the persecution of Jews and took public stands of unity with them. Some Arabs denied the support and assistance that would have made the wheels of the anti- Jewish campaign spin more efficiently. ... And there were occasions when certain Arabs chose to do more than just offer moral support to Jews. They bravely saved Jewish lives, at times risking their own in the process. Those Arabs were true heroes.'
Nor was it only in North Africa that Muslims saved Jews. During the Nazi occupation, the Grand Mosque of Paris provided sanctuary for Jews hiding from German and Vichy troops, and provided certificates of Muslim identity to untold numbers of Jews.
Satloff quotes reports describing the mosque 'as a virtual Grand Central Station for the Underground Railroad of Jews in France.' This story is told in a 1991 film Une Resistance Oubliee: La Mosquee de Paris (A Forgotten Resistance: The Mosque of Paris) by Derri Berkani, a French documentary filmmaker of Algerian Berber origin.
Albania, a European country with a Muslim majority, succeeded where other European nations failed in dealing with Nazi Germany. Almost all Jews living within Albanian borders during the German occupation -- those of Albanian origin and refugees alike -- were saved. It is the only European country occupied by the Nazis to come out of the Second World War with more Jews then before the conflict.
Norman Gershman has profiled many Albanian Muslims in a photography exhibition and book titled Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II. Besa is a code of honour inspired by the Holy Qur'an and deeply rooted in Albanian tradition demanding one take responsibility for the lives of others in their time of need."
Throughout the Middle Ages, Muslims and Jews supported each other in the face of Christian hostility. When they were expelled from Spain and Portugal they fled together to Ottoman lands, where they could live in peace. In the twentieth century, the Zionist leaders decided to get Christian backing for their plan to expel Palestinians from their country. Given that most Christian Zionists in America see the return of all Jews to Israel as the prelude to their conversion to Christianity, Armageddon and the Last Judgement, I doubt whether it is wise for Israelis to put their trust in that kind of Christian "friends".
It is time for Muslims and Jews to realize that they are each other's real friends. The loudest and boldest voices calling for an end to Israeli racism and oppression are Jewish. Both inside and outside Israel there are dozens of Jewish organizations calling for justice and democracy for Palestinians. It is easy to see why: Zionism is a secular movement, bringing the Jewish religion into disrepute and seeking to involve all Jews in responsibility for past and present injustices. The future lies in Muslim-Jewish collaboration as equal partners within a multi-cultural democratic state.