Iran and the big lie

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Suzanne Fields

WBERLIN.

atch­ing the cov­er­age of the Holo­caust-de­nial con­ven­tion of big liars in Tehran was an im­mer­sion in the theater of the sur­real. All it lacked was Bo­rat. Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad, the bizarro pres­i­dent of Iran, had to be sat­is­fied with David Duke.

On a short walk through Mitte, the neigh­bor­hood where I have been stay­ing, I had to step over shiny bronze street plaques imbed­ded in the side­walks of Rosen­thaler Strasse to doc­u­ment the lives of Jewish men, women and chil­dren who lived there be­fore the Nazis ripped them from their homes. Th­ese tiny plaques, placed through­out Ber­lin, mark the start­ing places for jour­neys that led to Auschwitz, Buchen­wald, Dachau. The very sound of the names of the death cham­bers echo a grisly ca­coph­ony of evil.

Few Ber­lin­ers, or any other Ger­mans, are at risk of be­liev­ing the grotesque lies that em­anated from the con­fer­ence in Iran. Most of the world is grimly aware of what hap­pened to 6 mil­lion Jews and 5 mil­lion oth­ers — po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers, pris­on­ers of war, ho­mo­sex­u­als, gyp­sies and the halt and the lame whose blood couldn’t con­form to the stan­dards of men- tal and phys­i­cal pu­rity de­manded by the Nazis. Lead­ers of West­ern coun­tries ex­pressed the ex­pected out­rage at what went on in Tehran.

But it’s not the West and the peo­ple of the 21st cen­tury that the con­fer­ence was meant to per­suade. The tar­get au­di­ence, of course, was those who in­sist on liv­ing in the 12th cen­tury, whose big­otries need the sus­te­nance of fresh lies about Is­rael and the Jews.

Ha­tred of Is­rael and the Jews is one of the most pow­er­ful tools the un­re­con­structed Arab and Mus­lim rad­i­cals use to main­tain a unity of evil. With­out Is­rael they would be forced to con­front the splin­ter­ing con­flicts of clashing sects, ex­ter­nal jeal­ousies and eco­nomic com­pet­i­tive­ness, and their lead­ers would be more vul­ner­a­ble to op­po­si­tion forces wait­ing to be un­leashed against tyran­ni­cal gov­ern­ments. We got a glimpse of the shouted out­rage of Ira­nian stu­dents on the day the con­fer­ence opened: “Death to the dic­ta­tor!” Only the word “chutz­pah” cap­tures the fla­vor of Pres­i­dent Ah­madine­jad’s an­swer to the stu­dents: “Ev­ery­one should know that Ah­madine­jad is pre­pared to be burned in the path of de­fend­ing free­dom and truth.”

Jews are oc­ca­sion­ally chided for per­pet­u­at­ing a “Holo­caust in­dus­try” with their many books, movies, mu­se­ums and memo­ri­als about the geno­cide, but con­fer­ences like the one in Tehran are a re­minder of how easy it might be to re­write his­tory for ne­far­i­ous pur­poses. Eli Weisel warns that with the death of the re­main­ing sur­vivors, those who ac­tu­ally were eye­wit­nesses to the Holo­caust, the anti-Semites al­ways with us could more eas­ily suc­ceed in rewrit­ing that his­tory. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Dan Diner, di­rec­tor of the Si­mon Dub­now In­sti­tute for Jewish His­tory and Cul­ture at the Univer­sity of Leipzig, ob­serves that dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions have al­ready changed the col­lec­tive Holo­caust me­mory. “In years past,” he writes in the Ber­lin daily Die Welt, “those Holo­caust books which have achieved great­est pop­u­lar­ity — and which have chalked up al­most sen­sa­tional sales fig­ures by the stan­dards of his­tor­i­cal works — have tended to dis­re­gard hos­til­ity to Jews as the cen­tral ground for the de­struc­tion of Euro­pean Jewry,” Th­ese con­tem­po­rary works, in their ex­plo­ration of hu­man mo­ti­va­tion for per­pet­u­at­ing such evil, fo­cus more on the is­sues of rob­bery and plun­der, greed and eco­nomic cal­cu­la­tion, and not anti-Semitism. It’s eas­ier to un­der­stand base emo­tions with a util­i­tar­ian pur­pose than to fathom the mur­der of peo­ple sim­ply be­cause of who they are.

Through­out his­tory anti-Semitism has thrived from many perspectives, cal­cu­lated to take ad­van­tage of po­lit­i­cal prob­lems, but the bot­tom line rea­son­ing al­ways starts with Jew-ha­tred. Be­fore the Third Re­ich the Jews who con­verted to other reli­gions could some­times es­cape prej­u­dice, but Hitler or­dered the deaths of sec­ond- and even third- gen­er­a­tion con­verts be­cause their “blood” was con­tam­i­nated.

Holo­caust de­nial in the Mid­dle East has other roots. The con­tem­po­rary ver­sion goes back to the 1950s, just af­ter the state of Is­rael was born. Ga­mal Ab­del Nasser, the Egyp­tian pres­i­dent who cel­e­brated pan-Arab na­tion­al­ism in the 1960s, said “no per­son, not even the most sim­ple one, takes se­ri­ously the lie of the 6 mil­lion Jews who were killed.” This big lie has been adopted by the Is­lamists who, in re­al­ity and not just in rhetoric, make no dis­tinc­tions be­tween Zion­ists and Jews. Their ul­ti­mate pur­pose is to act on Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad’s ex­hor­ta­tion “to wipe Is­rael off the map.”

In 1943 Heinrich Himm­ler warned that it was dan­ger­ous to speak pub­licly of the Nazi de­ter­mi­na­tion to ex­ter­mi­nate the Jews. In 2001 Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad is not so squea­mish. At­ten­tion must be paid.

Suzanne Fields, a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times, is na­tion­ally syn­di­cated.

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