By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The politics of Holocaust-denial

The Boston Globe’s op-ed page today runs a piece by Karim Sadjadpour and Ray Takeyh that argues, among other things, that the vicious anti-Semitism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an anomaly. They write:

Iran’s belligerent foreign policy toward Israel is among the more puzzling issues in international relations. At a time when most Arab governments, including the elected Palestinian leadership, have come to accept Israel’s existence as an unalterable fact, non-Arab Iran continues to call for eradication of the Jewish state. Over the course of the last several weeks President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran attacked Israel as a “tumor” that should be “wiped off the map of the world” and asserted that the holocaust was a “myth.”

So I guess Israel no longer has to worry about Arab countries — just non-Arab Iran. That’s a relief. But wait. Elsewhere today, the Globe publishes an Associated Press article that begins thusly:

CAIRO — The leader of Egypt’s main Islamic opposition group said yesterday the Holocaust was a “myth,” and he slammed Western governments for criticizing disclaimers of the Jewish genocide.

The comments by Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohammed Mahdi Akef — made on the heels of his group’s strong showing in Egyptian parliamentary elections — echoed remarks made recently by Iran’s hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which sparked international outrage.

“Western democracies have slammed all those who don’t see eye to eye with the Zionists regarding the myth of the Holocaust,” Akef wrote in a weekly article meant as a directive to the group’s followers on its official website.

Isn’t Egypt, you know, Arab? Isn’t the Muslim Brotherhood the single biggest threat to the Mubarak regime? Isn’t Osama bin Laden’s number-two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, connected with the Muslim Brotherhood? (The answer to that would be yes.)

So much for Holocaust-denial having fallen out of fashion in the Arab world.

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  1. Bill Baar

    Middle East Media Research Institute translates Arabic and Farsi newspaper, and TV. They have an anti-semitism area people should review.Talk of wiping Israel off the map has been ongoing and is pervasive in Iran and much of the Arab middle east. Memri’s lastest video is Iranian TV’s holiday special …on Jewish rabbis in Europe used to kill children and take their blood for use during the Passover holiday.Natan Schransky said this really the sad unintended result of the Oslo Peace accords. The United States and the West placed our hopes in Arafat as a strong man who could hold the Palestians in check and be someone we could deal with. We got just the opposite. A strong man needs a demon and what we got was a resurgence in medevil style anti semitism feuled by TV in the Territories, Egypt, Syria and Iran.That’s bad, but the horrible thing is Iran acquisition of nuclear weapons and the Mullah’s ignorance of the world’s response, and their ability to survive a nuclear strike.The great danger in the world is not the US misunderstanding other nations, but other nations dominated by tyrants who miscalculate the United States.We’re a complex country to understand and often appear pacifist and isolationist. When misunderstood that way, the consequences horrific.The Mayor of Hiroshima wrote Saddam before the first Gulf War and advised him of the horrible fate awaiting those who misunderstood the US. In a since, Saddam calucated right because we stopped short of getting rid of him. We waivered and hundreds of thousands of Shia died because we listened to Brent Scrowcroft and again practiced power politics.The Mayor needs to write to the Mullahs in Iran now. Bush wants a Democratic revoution in Iran. The alternative to Democracy for Iranians could be awful otherwise. Especailly should the United States elect an isolationist President who would sit back and wait until we are compelled to strike out in a Kerry style War of Last Resort agains a Nuclear Iran. We most certainly would. A President Dean, a President Kerry, a President Clinton, any American President, will unhesitatingly strike first with Nuclear weapons any country poised to attack us first. They will not wait and be the first President to have an American city wipped out.That would be a horror for Iran. A horror they don’t how close they approaching. They should pray for George Bush’s revolution instead. We should pray for it too.

  2. Anonymous

    You are once again, a disgusting fact-changing, smear merchant propagandist liar.You regurgitate the same old PR lies and you argue for a failed large admin foregin policy.Yes, your association with Sharansky (get the spelling of his name right,please) is a window on your intellectual and moral defficiency and pretentious pompous fake moral superiority that wants desperately to associate with AMerica’s body of great achievements through its History and Law .And no, we are not following along with your veiled assuault on a GREAT american, aka George H W Bush as a way to explain blunders. He has been insulted unfairly and often enough, including from his son and his admin, we don’t need to hear from a fraud like you on how misguided he might have been. He wasn’t. You are.When you understand what’s at stake. When you understand the three religions. When you understand the parties at play, come back for a mature discussion.Until then, read more.

  3. Bill Baar

    …and I’m not anon either.

  4. Anonymous

    Yes, but what does the Turkish government say about all this? =)

  5. Neil

    Dan this is a terrific piece and I think you give it short shrift by quoting only that small part of it. The article only claims after all, as you quote, that most Arab governments have come to accept the existence of Israel as an unalterable fact. This is not to say that Israel faces no threat from other quarters, or that anti-semitism is not widespread in the region, but simply that no other government, however nominally in control they may be, takes such a stand.I think the gist of this article is fascinating, which is the difference between Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory rhetoric, and the lack of any “natural” reason why ordinary Iranians should concern themselves with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:Iran has no territorial disputes with Israel, no Palestinian refugee problem, a long history of contentious relations with the Arab world, and an even longer history of tolerance vis-a-vis the Jewish people.What then, might be the reason for A’s vehement talk? The authors speculate that A is trying to scuttle Iran’s decision to resume its nuclear negotiations with the Europeans, as a way to “reassert his control over the state machinery, and regain the political influence he has steadily lost over the past few months.”His motivation, they claim, is to regain political control. This may be subject to debate, but I think it’s eye-opening and even encouraging to casual readers, who may assume he speaks for more Iranians than in fact he does.The article quotes a slogan from the student protests of 2003, that sums up the issue nicely: “Forget about Palestine, think about us!”

  6. Rick in Duxbury

    Hey 10:37, you can spell “Sharansky” but not “deficiency”? Learn some manners, you creep.

  7. Bill Baar

    Check out Teresa Heinz Kerry in The Forward on The Outrageous Silence of George W. Bush She concludes with, Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi of Great Britain, has compared antisemitism to a virus, surviving through millennia by mutating: religious anti-Judaism into racial antisemitism, and now antisemitism morphing into anti-Zionism. Whatever the rationalization its adherents hide behind, though, antisemitism has always had at its heart the same things: bigotry and hate and fear.The only way to prevent the virus from surviving and spreading is to attack, killing it with the strongest possible condemnations before it has a chance to mutate and spread. In October, Bush missed a chance to do that. Now he has a second chance to speak out. I hope he will take it.It is time for Iran to be confronted by a unified, outraged and outspoken Bush administration, an administration that feels and dispenses the cleansing heat that such virulent words deserve.

  8. Bill Baar

    I don’t think Iran’s a monolithically anti-semitic. I’m counting on the opposite. Here’s a post of mine from July on Iranian Dissident Akbar Ganji noting Farsi is the fourth most popular language for blogging, and earlier on Ayatollahُ Montazeri on Iranian bloggers. I think it’s reflective of the majority of Iranians. I, along with Bush, believe all people desire liberty.Iran’s a huge country with a population in excess of 66 million. Their population is far larger than any other country in the middle east, it’s growing fast, they’re in economic crisis, and they’ve had a study diet of this kind of TV. They’re firmly in the grips of lunatics on the path towards building WMDs. And I mean lunatics literally here; in the clinical sense.Rumsfeld said a few months ago who should be taking the lead with Iran. I heard Hadely during lunch today talk about the example of Iraq inspiring opposition in Iran and I hope we can subert the mullahs over there.But it’s a lot to ask of people like Maryam Namazie and Akbar Ganji to lead this struggle alone.So I hope Bolton can convince the UN to fufill its charter because otherwise Heinz-Kerry is right here. Iran will have to be confronted and I’d like to think it will be a Democratic Revolution as in Iraq with America’s help. It may, if the isolationist here hold sway, be instead her husband’s War of Last resort. That will be a catastrope for us but mostly Iranians. I hope for Bush; but fear the worst from Americans when I look at Bush’s approval ratings. We’re isolationists at heart and that’s why we alone can be the world’s cop, if we’re up to that misson only we can fufill.I put all these links to my blog with posts on Iran because I’ve been watching it best I can, and I’m so disappointed blogs like the UUA’s Human Rights blog can be so indifferent to what’s happening in Iran.Iran’s a perfect example of a tyranny where our American ideals, and American (and the world’s)self interest so clearly converge.We ignore this at a huge costs an instead dither over a fake visits by the FBI over the little red book. We’ll look back at this in amazement. Hopefully not over a field strewn with Iranian corpses because America couldn’t deal with another gathering threat.

  9. Bill Baar

    Harry’s Place picked up Akef’s comments too a few days ago, and noted, The Muslim Brotherhood’s United Kingdom representatives are the Muslim Association of Britain, an organisation which is part of the RESPECT coalition led by the Socialist Workers’ Party, and is a founder member of the Stop the War coalition. Harry cites it as another example perverse and growing alliance in the UK between the anti-war left, and the Islamic right in the name of Peace.

  10. Neil

    There’s no need to demonstrate by means of links to web pages that Iran is run by tyrants, and that injustice and anti-semitism are common. We already know these things. “Liberty” only has meaning in the context of other, competing needs. First we need to eat. (“First grub, then ethics.”) Then we need security. The problem in Iraq now is not a lack of liberty, but a lack of security. Otherwise you are merely free to be shot. Even now we are discussing giving up certain of our civil liberties, in favor of more security. For much of the world, that has neither enough to eat nor security from thieves and murderers, “liberty” is meaningless. Even granted that the Iranian regime is loathesome, and that much of their population chafes under its repressive rule, it is a great leap indeed to assume that Iranians will welcome (with open arms, again?) the assistance of the likes of us to liberate them from their tyrants. They may be despots and religious nuts, but they are their despots and religious nuts. When faced with an external threat such as George Bush rattling his sword and haranguing them about “American ideals”, Iranians, including most of those critical of the current regime, will unite against the common foreign enemy. Some Americans continue to insist that everybody really wishes they were like us. This ignores the power of nationalism, which expresses itself in 1. the urge to get the foreign bastards out then 2. the wish to solve their own problems, come what may. I hope we never make the same mistake in Iran that we made in Iraq. That we think of ouselves as liberators demonstrates a lack of awareness of what the rest of the world thinks of us.Any assistance we give dissidents in Iran in changing their regime will only brand them as collaborators with a foreign power, discredit them and further empower the regime. The change must come from within. Unfortunately our administration lacks the patience to understand the complex motivations and conflicting agendas under the surface that we see. The situation in Iran is not amenable to a heavy-handed righteous everybody-wants-what-we-want approach. A delicate touch is needed. Americans of Bush’s persuasion who wish to encourage regime change in Iran should limit themselve to a tool that they of all people should have confidence in: prayer!

  11. Jason H. Bowden

    Neil–Even if the United States didn’t have the resources for regime change in Iran, we should employ some combination of airstrikes, cruise missiles, and special ops forces against their nuclear program. The possibility of Iranian nukes should concern any rational person. As *you* put it, liberty is pointless without security.

  12. Bill Baar

    Ganji will probably be dead before your prays take effect. Sign the petition for him to the UN at least if you haven’t already. (Why isn’t this on the UUSC web page!) I’m not one for prayer in politics too much although I do it and will say it and probably did above somewhere. But prayer’s my version of what to do as last resort, compared with Kerry’s War as Last ResortI find Kennedy’s closing words at his first inaugural more apt,Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.We have work to do in Iran and while it’s in America’s interest, it’s also the World’s and God’s. We can’t dodge awfull work that must truly be our own by praying because history will judge and God certainly not indifferent. And a good conscience is truely the only sure reward.

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