Update – January 31, 2014: According to the results provided on Al Jazeera’s website, 95.4% of those participating in the poll agreed that Bashar Al-Assad crimes in Syria are worse than Hitler's crimes. 46,641 participants voted.
The pan-Arab satellite television network Al Jazeera is conducting a poll asking its viewers to vote on whether they believe Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad’s “crimes” are worse than Hitler’s “Nazi crimes.”
The poll, posted on Al Jazeera’s website on January 24, runs through January 30, when the results will be broadcast on one of Al Jazeera’s most popular live shows, El-Itidjah el-Mouakass [The Opposite Direction]. The show often features debates between guests about topics raised in its polls.
While the ongoing conflict in Syria has been one of the most heated issues discussed on the show in recent months, Al Jazeera’s poll question reflects the degree to which the Holocaust is misunderstood and misrepresented in the Arab world.
The premise of the poll is inappropriate because it compares the death of more than six million Jews who were not part of any armed conflict and were annihilated for no reason other than their faith and culture to the humanitarian crisis and violence in Syria.
The show’s host, Dr. Faisal Al-Qassem, posted a link to the poll on his personal Facebook page to encourage his more than three million followers to participate in the poll.
Ironically, most of the comments on Al-Qassem's Facebook page express outrage against the premise, but for all the wrong reasons. “Unlike Bashar, Hitler killed the Jews and not his own people,” one comment reads, suggesting that Hitler’s crimes are somehow more justified.
Similarly, other comments state that there is no way to compare the two at all because, unlike Bashar, “Hitler was defending his people.”
These comments and others demonstrate how the lessons of the Holocaust are woefully misunderstood, or worse, are grotesquely distorted in the Arab World. The poll question adds to this problem and to the trivialization of the Holocaust, which continues to go unexamined in mainstream Arab media.