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Iran's Holocaust Conference and Ahmadinejad
By Richard L. Cravatts
In the same week that the Iraq Study Group released its own report to determine how history had unraveled internecine horror in Iraq, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kicked off his own "fact finding" mission, a two-day conference called "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision," with the stated intent of determining, once and for all, the nature and extent, if any at all, of one of the most monstrous crimes of the twentieth century. Over sixty "researchers and intellectuals" from some thirty countries were expected to attend the hate fest.
Of course, Holocaust denial, wherever it rears its perverse head, is a puzzling oddity in historical research. Western deniers are more easily revealed for what they are and what their denial hopes to achieve: crypto or blatant anti-Semites revising history to exculpate Nazism and German socialism from its most damming aspectgenocide. They attempt this by minimizing and trivializing the numbers of Jews they believe were murdered at the hands of the Nazis, repeating the accusation that Zionism manipulated and revised history by 'inventing' the Shoah, suggesting that Jewish control of the media has and continues to promulgate the myth of the Holocaust to the ill-informed world; and accusing that this oft-repeated story of perpetual victimization was the false moral premise upon which the State of Israel was justified and created.
Arab Holocaust denial has been growing in incidence, too, as it has proven to be an effective tool for satisfying some of the same motives of deniers in America and Europenamely, further insulting the memory of human tragedy, and torturing both the living and the perished by second-guessing the extent, nature, or even certitude of the Final Solution. But where traditional deniers have stopped thereeven as they condemn the Jews in general for perpetrating a great lie for the purpose of evoking the world's continued sympathy and moral and financial supportthe Arab world has taken this revisionist effort to another level: accusing Zionism of creating and perpetuating the Holocaust lie for the express purpose of justifying Israel's creation and the subsequent subjugation, persecution, and "ethnic cleansing" of the Palestinians.
Thus, the Holocaust "myth" for Arabs serves a politically-healing purpose that no Western denier has needed to seek. Arabs, who do not care to mend the reputation of the Third Reich or defend its other nationalistic achievements by denying its role in the extermination of European Jewry, do want the reality, the actual happening of the Holocaust, to be proven false, if for no other reason than it at once diminishes most of Israel's moral capital by eliminating once and for all the cataclysmic social and political event that led the world to accept and endorse the creation of the Jewish State. It is also a politically-expedient accomplishment to position the Palestinians as the ultimate victims among victimized peoples, and this is much easier without the inexpressible evil of the Holocaust as core element of Israel's tragic heritage. "After all, wrote Jonathan Eric Lewis, "if Zionism manufactured the lie of the Holocaust, then the Arab world, in exposing the lie, can view itself as the double victim of European imperialism and Zionist propaganda about European history."
If the victim status of Israeland by extension, all Jewscan be diminished by exposing the lie of the Holocaust, the Palestinian becomes the more aggrieved victim, a people victimized by former victims, the Jews, who spread the lie of their own suffering for material ends. Thus, for Ahmadinejad and other deniers, "denying the atrocity," wrote Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman, "denies any moral authority to victims of the atrocity." It is not without irony, of course, that while the Arab world, not to mention Israel-haters in the West, want to rob Jews of the piece of dismal history that brought about the extermination of six million of their brethren, they are eager to repeat regularly the vile comparison they draw between the perceived behavior and shared values of the Zionist state and the Nazi regime.
Ahmadinejad, and his like-minded brethren in the Arab world, has a secondary motive for resenting an event like the Holocaust, which has conferred on Israel victim status and, initially at least, gained the world's sympathy. If he can point to a great lie that led to Israel's creation, if he can ascribe to Israel a conspiratorial and exploitive deception that garnered the world's financial and moral support for the "Zionist regime," he can also dismiss the successes of the democratic Israeli state with and help explain why Iran's own society and culture have languished in comparisondue to Jewish wile and duplicity. According to Mr. Lewis, Ahmadinejad's familiar bluster, his effort in hosting a conference, and his repeated public exhortations to "wipe Israel off the map," help to create a smokescreen that shields the political and social weaknesses of his own regime from careful evaluation. "This is where Holocaust denial fits in," Lewis wrote, "for it both explains Zionism's success and provides the Arab world with a means to deny any responsibility for the myriad failures that engulf its societies."
Another reason why Holocaust denial serves well the purposes of Jew hatred is probably the same source of inspiration that inspired August's Iranian cartoon contest in which over 200 international cartoonists mocked the Holocaust, and which underlies criticism of Israel frequently heard from Israel bashers when they excoriate Zionism by saying it is equivalent to Nazism.
Whether the critic believes that the Holocaust actually took place or not, in this instance, is immaterial; more important for these Jew-loathers is slandering and causing hurt to people, in the most cruel and hateful way, by comparing them to, and accusing them of having turned in to, a regime which practices genocide and engages in inhuman barbarismjust like the Nazis did. How better to cause the greatest hurt and to speak the gravest criticism than to deny or minimize on one hand that the Nazi atrocities and slaughter ever took place, and then to suggest, that if they did, the people reborn of that fire have descended morally to the same moral level as their former tormenters? This behavior, wrote P. David Hornick, is perhaps "motivated by aggression toward the victims of Hitler's Holocaust, seeking both to 'murder' them a second time by denying their deaths while also mocking those deaths in cartoons and the like."
"Anti-Semitism," wrote Stephen Eric Bronner, author of the engaging book A Rumor About The Jews, "is the stupid answer to a serious question: How does history operate behind our backs?" For some in the Arab world, anti-Semitismand, by extension, Israel hatredis still the stupid answer for why what goes wrong with the world does go wrong. It is a world view that creates conspiracies as a way of explaining the unfolding of historical events; it is a pessimistic and frantic outlook, characterized in 1964 by historian Richard Hofstadter as "the paranoid style" of politics, which shifts responsibility from the self to sinister, omnipotent otherstypically and historically the Jews.
The overarching objective of Ahmadinejad's Holocaust conference, and of deniers in general, is at base to expose this vast conspiracy, that only they see, once and for all, to show how, in a world-wide fraud perpetrated over the course of some 60 years, the Zionists have duped the world with a historical hoax of such perfidy that it has helped create an immoral state of Israel at the expense of Arab states and the Palestinian people. They yearn to peel away Jewish deceit and rewrite their own historythis time with themselves, not Jews, as the victims, and no longer made to pay the price of Nazism's treachery by having to define themselves in the mirror of another people's own tragic history.
Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a lecturer at Boston University, Babson College, and Emmanuel College, writes frequently on law, religion, social policy, business, and housing development.
from the January 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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