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Deciphering Ahmadinejad's Holocaust Revisionism

zgrams at zgrams.zundelsite.org
Tue Jul 10 12:35:31 EDT 2007


-- 




[Please note:  Not everything is factual in this article - let 
somebody fix it who has more time than I do - but I am circulating 
and placing it because it shows how widespread Holocaust Revisionism 
has become and how it is increasingly viewed as an enormously potent 
tool of state craft.  INGRID RIMLAND]

http://www.meforum.org/article/1704#_ftnref48

Deciphering Ahmadinejad's Holocaust Revisionism

by George Michael
Middle East Quarterly
Summer 2007

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went beyond previous rhetorical 
attacks on the United States and Israel when, on December 14, 2005, 
he suggested that the Holocaust was a myth. Many European officials, 
among Iran's most lucrative trading partners, were outraged. The 
German government, for example, condemned his remarks and defended 
Israel's right to exist.[1]

Then, on December 11 and 12, 2006, the Iranian foreign ministry's 
Institute for Political and International Studies convened a 
conference promoting Holocaust denial, attended by sixty-seven 
participants from thirty countries.[2]  The fact that a head of state 
would endorse such a contrarian movement may seem remarkable but, for 
the Islamic Republic's leadership, it is a deliberate, strategic 
decision. Not only does the Iranian regime believe that Holocaust 
denial can propel it into a position of leadership among Islamic 
countries, but the Iranian regime and Holocaust revisionists have 
found their relationship to be symbiotic. Each believes a Jewish 
cabal controls Washington decision-making. [3] Holocaust denial 
further binds disparate groups who share a critique of Jews and 
Zionism.

The Roots of Holocaust Denial

Holocaust denial at its roots is a Western phenomenon. In much of the 
United States and Europe, the Holocaust is viewed as a singularity 
without comparison and a story whose lessons are of vital importance 
to both Jews and gentiles alike. While more people perished in 
Stalin's gulags or Mao's Great Cultural Revolution, the methodical 
way in which the Holocaust was prosecuted exemplified what Hanna 
Arendt referred to as the "banality of evil."[4]

The legacy of the Holocaust stigmatized both anti-Semitism and far 
right political figures and parties. However, in the 1960s, an 
intellectual atmosphere emerged in which nearly every truth could be 
challenged. Holocaust revisionism became the extreme right's answer 
to deconstructionism. [5] For this fringe, Holocaust denial is a 
necessary step to bring about the revival of the ideologies that led 
to the extreme nationalism and xenophobia that enabled the Nazi party 
to set the Holocaust in motion. These early revisionists sought to 
exculpate the Germans for World War II. They argued that "World 
Jewry" had declared war on Germany and that Western powers, fearful 
of Germany's growing military and industrial power, conspired to 
support Poland, triggering the war.[6]

Subsequent Holocaust revisionists suggested the number of Holocaust 
victims was exaggerated; several argued many Jews had survived and 
were living either in Europe, Israel, or the United States. [7]

Eventually three themes developed among many revisionists: First, 
they argued there were no gas chambers. Second, they denied six 
million deaths, and third, they said no Nazi master plan existed.[8]

Despite their best efforts, neo-Nazis and revisionists hit a brick 
wall in the West. Few people outside their own circles were willing 
to discount history, fact, evidence, and logic. While the impact of 
Holocaust revisionism in the West has been limited, in recent years, 
it has found fertile ground in the Middle East.

Historically, anti-Semitism was not as intense in the Middle East as 
it was in the West. As historian Bernard Lewis observed, Jews under 
Islam were never free from discrimination but rarely subject to 
persecution. Their situation was never as bad as in Christendom at 
its worst and never as good as in Christendom at its best. [9] 
However, Israel's establishment augmented the vehemence of 
contemporary Islamic anti-Semitism.

Holocaust denial in the Middle East emerged soon after World War II. 
In 1955, Lebanese foreign minister Charles Malik dismissed the Jewish 
Holocaust as Zionist propaganda. Egyptian president Gamal Abdel 
Nasser once said, "[N]o person, not even the most simple one takes 
seriously the lie of the six million Jews who were killed." [10]

In 1983, Mahmoud Abbas, who would later lead the Palestinian 
Authority, published a book titled The Other Side: The Secret 
Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement, which claimed 
that far fewer that six million Jews had died in the Holocaust. [11] 
More recently, Hamas has dabbled in Holocaust denial.[12] In Saudi 
Arabia, anti-Semitic themes-including the blood libel accusation, the 
putative Jewish control of the U.S. media and government, and 
Holocaust denial-are popular staples in the media and educational 
system.[13]

However, the Middle East produced no real scholarly exegeses. 
Revisionist historians associated with extreme right-wing groups in 
the West developed a far larger corpus of literature. More often than 
not, Arabic presses simply translated Western works. Of the various 
right-wing groups that have reached out to the Arabs, Turks, and 
Iranians, revisionist historians have been best received.

One of the first efforts was in 1980 when Ernst Zündel, a German 
expatriate in Canada, wrote a pamphlet titled, "The West, War, and 
Islam," in which he suggested the existence of a conspiracy between 
Zionists and international bankers to rule the world. He recommended 
Muslims could better undercut the Jewish state by funding Holocaust 
revisionism rather than purchasing weapons. [14] Zündel sent the 
pamphlet to the heads of state of several Middle Eastern states.[15]

Holocaust revisionism has also become increasingly popular in Arab 
print media. Writing in the Jordanian newspaper, Al-Arab al-Yawm, 
Mahmoud al-Khatib averred that the "entire Jewish state [was] built 
on the great Holocaust lie" and that Hitler had killed not six 
million but only 300,000 Jews because "they betrayed Germany." [16] 
An editorial in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Akhbar said that Jews 
fabricated the Holocaust in order to "blackmail the Germans for money 
as well as to achieve world support." [17] More recently, a narrator 
on Lebanon's popular New TV announced that "never has there been an 
issue subject to as many contradictions, lies, and exaggerations 
regarding the number of victims as the issue of the Jewish 
Holocaust." [18]

As European countries enacted hate laws limiting Holocaust denial, 
many Holocaust deniers sought safe haven in the Middle East. Few Arab 
states have hate speech or liable laws, except where they bear on 
interpretations of the Qur'an. In November 2000, Jürgen Graf, 
director of the Swiss revisionist organization Verité et Justice 
(Truth and justice), fled to Iran to escape a Swiss hate speech 
conviction.

The Middle East has become a venue of choice to present revisionist 
theories. In March 2001, the Newport Beach, California-based 
Institute for Historical Review and Verité et Justice planned a 
conference in Beirut featuring long-time revisionists Roger Garaudy 
and Robert Faurisson. Only intense pressure from the U.S. State 
Department caused the Lebanese government to reconsider its role as 
host. The organizers simply moved the conference to Amman, Jordan. 
The Jordanian Writers' Association was happy to sponsor it. [19] 
While Graf's motives may have been purely anti-Semitic, his Jordanian 
hosts may have appreciated the geopolitical implications. As Graf 
explained, "Those countries which are authentically anti-Zionist Š 
should make the breakthrough of Holocaust revisionism their foremost 
priority. A tank costs millions of dollars, yet one soldier can 
destroy it with a single missile. The revisionists can provide 
anti-Zionist freedom fighters with a weapon not even a thousand 
missiles can destroy." [20]

David Duke, the white supremacist from Louisiana, has been at the 
forefront of right-wing extremist outreach to the Islamic world. In 
the fall of 2002, he presented two lectures in Bahrain on "The Global 
Struggle against Zionism" and the "Israeli Involvement in September 
11." That same year, he appeared on an Al-Jazeera satellite network 
talk show and, in November 2005, he held a news conference in 
Damascus, Syria, pledging to do his best to convey to the world the 
"real peace-loving Syrian" positions. [21] According to Duke, during 
his visit to Syria, he met with a high-profile Syrian journalist, 
Nidal Kabalan, who gave a copy of Duke's book, Jewish Supremacism: My 
Awakening to the Jewish Question, to Ahmadinejad, suggesting this may 
have been the genesis for Ahmadinejad's subsequent Holocaust denial. 
[22]

Iran: New Center of Holocaust Denial

Anti-Semitism has long been a problem in Iran. European merchants 
brought blood libel to Iran in the sixteenth century. During the 
nineteenth century, the Iranian clergy instigated several pogroms. In 
the early twentieth century, Reza Shah (r. 1925-41) embraced racist 
theories. [23] After all, the name Iran literally means "land of the 
Aryans." His sympathy for Nazi Germany led British and Soviet 
officials to force his abdication during World War II. Ayatollah 
Ruhollah Khomeini who in 1979 would lead the Islamic Revolution, long 
tinged his writings with anti-Semitism. [24]

Holocaust denial was an outgrowth of Iranian anti-Semitism, propelled 
by the Islamic Republic's antipathy toward Israel. Long before 
Ahmadinejad shocked the West with his blunt rhetoric, Supreme Leader 
'Ali Khamenei suggested the Holocaust to be an exaggeration. [25] 
'Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an Iranian figure often labeled a 
pragmatist by Western journalists, voiced morale support for 
Holocaust revisionists in the West, suggesting the West persecuted 
one prominent denier for "the doubt he cast on Zionist propaganda." 
[26] However, it was during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, whose 
rhetorical calls for a dialogue of civilizations won European and 
U.N. plaudits, that the Islamic Republic became a sanctuary for 
revisionists. Tehran granted asylum not only to Graf but also to 
Wolfgang Fröhlick, [sic] an Austrian engineer who argued in court 
under oath that Zyklon-B could not be used to kill humans. [27] 
Indeed, it was under Khatami that Iranian policy shifted from 
anti-Zionism to unabashed anti-Semitism. [28]

In August 2003, the Iranian government invited Frederick Töben, a 
retired German school teacher living in Australia, to speak before 
the International Conference on the Palestinian Intifada held in 
Tehran in which he impugned the Holocaust by contending that 
Auschwitz concentration camp was physically too small for the mass 
killing of Jews. [29] Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust a myth in 
December 2005, [30] a move applauded by Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim 
Brotherhood. [31]

In March 2006, Töben returned to Iran to participate in the 
"Holocaust: Myth and Reality" conference at Isfahan University where 
he again argued that Auschwitz was too small to enable mass killings 
of Jews. [32] According to the official Islamic Republic of Iran 
Broadcasting radio, the supreme leader's representatives in Isfahan 
organized the conference. Alireza Soltanshahi, representing 
Ahmadinejad, addressed the assembled students and faculty. [33] 
Ahmadinejad, himself, sponsored and opened an August 2006 exhibition 
of cartoons denigrating the Holocaust. [34]

Ahmadinejad has become a hero to the extreme right. Kevin Alfred 
Strom, founder of the white supremacist National Vanguard, expressed 
solidarity with the Iranian president, especially in his fight 
against common Jewish and Zionist enemies. He urged Ahmadinejad to 
use alternative media and advocated for cooperation between the 
Iranian government and neo-Nazis to reach out to antiwar Americans 
and break the grip of the "mainstream media monopoly." [35]

Right-wing extremists often cast themselves as "alternative media 
voices." When addressing audiences in Muslim countries, they downplay 
racist themes and emphasize anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism. [36] 
This was apparent in interviews the official Mehr News Agency 
conducted with visiting Holocaust revisionists. [37]

Ahmadinejad appears to have listened. He has made Holocaust denial a 
central tenet of his administration. Following his September 19, 2006 
U.N. General Assembly speech, he granted press availability to 
representatives of the alternative media, including Michael Collins 
Piper, a journalist for the extreme right newspaper American Free 
Press and author of Final Judgment, a book postulating that the 
Mossad killed President John F. Kennedy. [38] After the conference, a 
personal friend of Piper, Iranian filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh, 
introduced him to Ahmadinejad, who actually invited Piper to be his 
personal guest in Iran. [39] Following his press conference, 
Ahmadinejad spent half of a 90-minute meeting at the Council on 
Foreign Relations trying to debunk the Holocaust. [40]

The Tehran Holocaust Conference

Foreign Ministry sponsorship of the "Review of the Holocaust: Global 
Vision" conference in Tehran was therefore a culmination of a longer 
process. Leading officials including Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister 
Manouchehr Mottaki attended. [41] The conference provided a venue for 
the who's who of Holocaust denial and revisionism. [42] Duke gave the 
keynote address. Other prominent participants included Jan Bernhoff, 
a computer science professor in Sweden; Mattias Chang, a lawyer and 
an author of conspiracy books from Malaysia; Robert Faurisson, a 
former literature professor in France and a long-time Holocaust 
denier; Wolfgang Fröhlich, a Holocaust denier from Austria; Jürgen 
Graf, a Holocaust denier from Switzerland; Mohammed Hegazi, a 
pro-Palestinian activist who resides in Australia; George Kadar, 
originally from Hungary, who now resides in the United States and 
writes for the far right newspaper, American Free Press; Richard 
Krege, a Holocaust denier from Australia; Patrick McNally, a 
Holocaust denier and conspiracy theorist who currently resides in 
Japan; Michael Collins Piper, a writer for American Free Press; 
Michele Renouf, an Australian socialite and supporter of Holocaust 
revisionism; Bradley Smith, an American Holocaust denier who 
currently resides in Mexico; Georges Thiel, a Holocaust denier from 
France; Serge Thion, a French sociologist and critic of the 
politicization of the Holocaust; and Frederick Töben.

At the conference, participants agreed to establish a world 
foundation for Holocaust studies and unanimously appointed Mohammad 
'Ali Ramin as its secretary general. [43] An advisor to President 
Ahmadinejad, Ramin once lived in Germany and is an ardent defender of 
Holocaust denial.

As with the Jordanian conference before, anti-Zionism combined with 
Holocaust revisionism. Former Iranian interior minister 'Ali Akbar 
Mohtashamipour conceded that the Nazis "committed horrendous crimes 
during World War II" but added that "the Zionists' narration of the 
massacre of the six million Jews at Nazi death camps is far from 
reality." [44]

Right-wing extremists who participated in the conference expressed 
satisfaction. [45] By working with Muslims, they hope to dilute the 
stigma of racism. Rather than characterize themselves as "white 
supremacist," they now speak of "white separatism," placing 
themselves within the third-world vocabulary of self-determination 
and liberation. While associating with a Middle Eastern despot, 
especially in the aftermath of 9-11, might not seem expedient, 
neo-Nazi groups may consider that they have little to lose since they 
are already marginal. That any head of state would embrace them 
enhances their stature. So, too, did media attention. CNN's Wolf 
Blitzer granted Duke a platform to discuss his participation in the 
conference. [46]

The Tehran conference may have provided a boost of adrenalin to 
neo-Nazis. Erich Gliebe, chairman of the National Alliance, the most 
prominent U.S. neo-Nazi organization, lauded Ahmadinejad and lamented 
that Western leaders did not have his "guts." Days after the Tehran 
conference concluded, he announced that his organization would hold a 
similar conference at its Hillsboro, West Virginia headquarters. [47] 
Several revisionists who attended the Tehran conference participated. 
[48]

In an effort to further isolate Iran, nearly forty European and North 
American research institutes announced that they had suspended 
contacts with the Iranian Institute for Political and International 
Studies-a leading Iranian think-tank that helped organize the 
conference. Francois Heisbourg, head of the Paris-based Foundation 
for Strategic Research, organized the boycott. [49]

Strategic Implications of Holocaust Denial

Although other Middle East figures have dismissed the Nazi Holocaust, 
Ahmadinejad has changed the discourse with his stridency. His gambit 
may serve him well amid the increasing polarization between Islamic 
countries and the United States. His confrontation has elevated him 
to a central player on the international scene. By championing 
Holocaust revisionism, Ahmadinejad has demonstrated his bona fides to 
the Islamic world and tapped into the reservoir of resentment against 
Israel that transcends sectarian differences. By radicalizing the 
Middle East, Ahmadinejad seeks to prevent a rapprochement between 
Israel and conservative Arab states that have a security interest in 
containing an ascendant Iran. In doing so, Ahmadinejad could 
conceivably draw support from Sunni radicals that have been 
traditionally hostile to the Shi'a. [50]

Domestically, some Iranians fear that Ahmadinejad's provocative 
rhetoric is isolating their country. However, Khamenei stands by the 
Iranian president. On March 22, 2007, for example, the supreme leader 
railed against the "global Zionist conspiracy," rhetoric borrowed 
directly from The National Vanguard. [51] Some moderates and 
reformers have urged the Islamic cleric-led regime to rein in the 
president for fear that his controversial comments may lead to a 
propaganda campaign against Iran. [52] However, whether for 
ideological or practical reasons, the Iranian leadership has decided 
that its natural allies are not liberal Western democracies but 
rather the right-wing fringe of Western extremism.

=====

George Michael is assistant professor of political science and 
administration of justice at the University of Virginia's College at 
Wise. He is the author of The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming 
Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right (University Press 
of Kansas, 2006) and Willis Carto and the American Far Right 
(University Press of Florida, forthcoming, 2008).

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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref2>[2] Islamic Republic
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5, 2006.
<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref3>[3] See, for example,
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref7>[7] Deborah Lipstadt,
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref10>[10] Quoted in
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref17>[17]
<http://www.adl.org/holocaust/denial_ME/Holocaust_Denial_Mid_East_prt.pdf>Ibid.,
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref18>[18]
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref23>[23] Ali Ansari,
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref24>[24] Patrick Clawson
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref26>[26]
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref27>[27] Foxman, Never
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref28>[28] Babak Ganji,
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref33>[33] Islamic
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref34>[34] Al-Jazeera,
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref35>[35] "American
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref36>[36] The Asia Times,
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref37>[37]
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref40>[40] "How
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref41>[41] CBS News,
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<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref42>[42]
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<http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8509200317>Dec. 11, 2006.
<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref43>[43] IRIB News,
<http://www.iribnews.ir/Full_en.asp?news_id=227418>Dec. 15, 2006.
<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref44>[44] IRNA,
<http://www.irna.ir/en/news/view/line-20/0612123934005253.htm>Dec.
12, 2006. Mohtashamipour now serves as the secretary-general of the 
International Congress to Support the Palestinian Intifada.
<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref45>[45] See for
example, Michael Collins Piper, "What Really Happened in Iran," 
American Free Press, Jan. 1, 8, 2007.
<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref46>[46]
<http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0612/13/sitroom.01.html>David
Duke interview with Wolf Blitzer, The Situation Room, CNN, Dec. 13, 
2006.
<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref47>[47] "American
Dissident Voices: Erich Gliebe, 
"<http://www.natvan.com/adv/2006/07-01-06.html>Leadership of
Tomorrow," The National Alliance, July 1, 2006.
<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref48>[48] Willis Carto,
"Holocaust Hoopla," American Free Press, Dec. 25, 2006.
<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref49>[49] Times Colonist
(Victoria, B.C.), 
<http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/story.html?id=537d3af5-003f-41e4-a2a4-c800130739dd&k=23580>Dec.
16, 2006; The New York Times, 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/16/world/middleeast/16institute.html>Dec.
15, 2006.
<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref50>[50] Ganji, Iran and
Israel, pp. 23-5.
<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref51>[51] Fars News
Agency, Mar. 22, 2007.
<http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1704#_ftnref52>[52] Associated
Press, <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10460807/>Dec. 14, 2005; Ganji,
Iran and Israel, p. 8.

+++++++

Gruß AvL






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