Respectful Insolence

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Regular readers of this blog know that I couldn’t leave this one alone.

Yesterday, the Holocaust-denying President of Iran Mahmoud realized his promised dream of holding an “academic” conference to “debate” the Holocaust. Not surprisingly, it’s a lovefest for Holocaust deniers. Indeed, many of the most “prominent” Holocaust deniers in the world are now gathered in Iran to spew their lies:

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran opened a conference on Monday to examine the Holocaust and question whether Nazi Germany used gas chambers to kill Jews, drawing condemnation in the West and criticism from Iran’s Jewish community.

Jewish rabbis were present at the government-sponsored event “Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision” alongside academics from Europe, where some countries have made it a crime to deny the Nazi killing of 6 million Jews from 1933 to 1945.

“The aim of this conference is not to deny or confirm the Holocaust,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in a welcome address. “Its main aim is to create an opportunity for thinkers who cannot express their views freely in Europe about the Holocaust.”

The event, which Iran has said will question whether gas chambers were actually used against the Jews, has drawn widespread criticism from Holocaust survivors, Jewish organizations, human rights groups and Western governments.

Sessions at the two-day conference, held at the Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Political and International Studies, were to include “Holocaust: Aftermath and Exploitation” and “Demography: Denial or Confirmation?”

The conference was inspired by President Mahmoud AhmadinMah, who since coming to power in August 2005 has sparked international condemnation with comments referring to the Holocaust as a “myth” and calling Israel a “tumor”.


The supposed question behind this “conference”:

“The simple question of the president of Iran: ‘If the Holocaust is a historical event why can it not be researched?’ set off a a wave of accusations against Iran without trying to find a logical answer,” said Mottaki.

“The basic aim of this conference is not to deny or to prove the Holocaust but is to provide an opportunity for researchers from Europe to give their views about this historical phenomenon,” he added.

Of course, that’s a load of, if you’ll excuse the term, bullshit. Historians have been debating and arguing over the facts and significance of the Holocaust for six decades, sometimes virulently. This is not uncommon, given the enormity and scope of this historical event. Of course, I’m talking about historians. Apparently Iran has a different definition of the words “historian” and “scholar” than I do. For example, among the “scholars” attending this: David Duke, former U.S. Congressman and Ku Klux Klan leader.

Way to go, Mahmoud! Way to keep the conference free of anti-Semitism. In fact, David Duke even gave a speech there. Let’s take a look at some of his remarks, shall we? First, of course, like all Holocaust deniers, Duke tries to wrap himself in the mantle of free speech, which is why I mention his remarks first:

This conference embraces the idea of free speech, thought, and conscience. The U.S. State Department, under thorough control of International Zionism, in a formal statement called this conference a quote, “disgrace.” The real disgrace is that free men are imprisoned and silenced in Europe and in other European-descended nations around the world. The disgrace is that no leaders of our own nations seem have the courage to defend free speech.

Anyone who’s read my blog regularly knows my position on free speech with regard to Holocaust denial. Although I can understand the historical context that led to them, I consider laws like the one under which David Irving was imprisoned to be an affront to free speech. Of course, the Iranian conference is about anything but free speech. Indeed, the hypocrisy in whining about freedom of speech and trying to claim the mantle of persecuted martyrs for freedom of thought is laughable:

An outspoken Palestinian lawyer was hoping to challenge Holocaust deniers during a provocative conference that opens in Iran today. The international gathering will question whether six million Jews were actually slaughtered by the Nazis in the Second World War.
But yesterday Khaled Kasab Mahameed learnt from the Iranian Foreign Ministry — which had invited him to speak — that he would not receive a visa. No reason was given.

Mr Mahameed suspects that it was because he has an Israeli passport. It may also have been because he has made clear what he intended to say.

“I’m bitterly disappointed,” Mr Mahameed, who studied at a British university, told The Times. He was seeking a personal audience with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President, to tell him that denials or questioning of “such huge, monstrous horror” harmed the Palestinian cause.

Mr Mahameed lives in Israel, where he has established the Arab Institute for Holocaust Research and Education, the Arab world’s first Holocaust museum, in Nazareth. He believes that the “study, analysis and acknowledgement” of the Holocaust by Arabs is important for a durable peace between the Palestinians and Israel. “It’s not enough to curse these Holocaust deniers as foolish. We have to convince them the Holocaust did happen,” Mr Mahameed said.

I’m guessing the reason he was denied entry is because of what he was planning on saying, not because he had an Israeli passport. After all, given the Iranian President’s professed sympathies for the Palestinian cause, one would think that he would have loved to have a Palestinian from Israel attend–if that Palestinian stuck with the script of Israel bashing and anti-Semitism. Too bad. Mr. Mahameed sounds exactly like the sort of Palestinian who could help to do something constructive and actually bridge the gap between Israeli and Palestinian. Unfortunately, he is far too based in reality to be allowed to attend. Only anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers are permitted. On the other hand, Mr. Mahameed could be said to be a bit out of touch with reality if he honestly thinks that people like David Duke can be convinced that the Holocaust did happen as historians understand it, but it’s being out of touch with reality in a good way. Even if Mahmeed had attended, it would have been like Richard Dawkins attending a conference organized by the Discovery Institute; he would have been outnumbered and shouted down. Still, I wish him the best of luck in his mission. He’ll need it. In any case, none of this should come as any surprise to anyone familiar with Holocaust deniers, who routinely censor and delete posts debunking their pseudohistory on discussion boards that they control. I just savor the irony of watching them blather about “free speech.”

Duke is nothing but a hypocrite; the real reason he is there is to keep those eevvill Jews from getting the U.S. into a war with Iran:

He will be condemned for having me here, and I as a former American elected official will be condemned by the Zionist influenced press in America for coming here in peace and friendship to a nation that they hate: the nation of Iran.

But, we at this conference have decided that no longer will we let the Zionists dictate to us. They shall not dictate to us who will be our friends, who will be our enemies, nor will we permit them to dictate to us only their version of the past, and we will certainly not let them dictate our future!

Let me say from the outset that I am no disloyal American, I love my country and my people, but I know that the Zionist extremists lead my country to catastrophe in the Mideast and elsewhere around the world. I know that the Palestinian people, the Lebanese people, even the American people have been sacrificed on the altar of the Holocaust. It is the chronic media and government playing of the Holocaust that has blinded our eyes to new holocausts and new outrages.

As a truly patriotic American I oppose Americans being killed or maimed by the thousands in Iraq in a war not for America, but for Israel. I am here because I love my country and oppose those who lead America and the world to ruin on behalf of Zionism. In Iraq too, Americans and countless Iraqis have been sacrificed on the ideological altar of the Holocaust, for the Holocaust and its chronic recital is used as the justification of any Israeli treachery or crime against humanity.

Of course, unlike Mr. Mahmeed, arch Holocaust deniers like Frederick Töben of the Australian Holocaust denial group the Adelaide Institute had no problem at all getting visas to go to the conference. Indeed, he was even kind enough to provide the text of his remarks, as well as his PowerPoint slides. As expected, they’re nothing more than the usual denier distortions and lies about Auschwitz, particularly the Leuchter Report, whose conclusions that the ruins of the gas chambers at Auschwitz could not have been exposed to sufficient cyanide to have functioned as homicidal gas chambers, have been thoroughly debunked, and Treblinka. He also repeats the usual denier lies and distortions about eyewitness testimony,” and engages in a large number of the usual denier canards, concluding:

As stated in the introduction, it is not possible in the available time to present a detailed report on an issue such as the alleged ‘Holocaust’ murder weapon. Yet even a limited discussion of the gassing claims indicates the gassing stories to be mere puffery – the product of a feverish pathological mind filled with pure hatred, mostly directed against Germans and anything German, and greed, and if not that, then certainly the product of an appalling state of ignorance of natural and chemical processes.

No, the only ignorance of natural and chemical processes on display are from the Holocaust deniers, who, it turns out, are being put up in fine style at the guest house of the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Indeed, many of the “arguments” behind Holocaust denial depend on bad science, bad history, and the intentional cherry picking of data. There’s nothing here so far that hasn’t been thoroughly debunked by historians like Deborah Lipstadt and Richard Evans, in articles at the Holocaust History Project, and at Nizkor, not to mention at blogs like Holocaust Controversies, Flavor Country, and now with Holocaust Denial Absurdities joining the fray.

But, wait, you say. There are orthodox Jews and Rabbis attending the conference! Surely that means there must be at least a little balance.

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Not exactly. These are ultra-orthodox Jews known as Neturei Karta, who reject all forms of Zionism , actively oppose the existence of the State of Israel, and used to cozy up with Yassir Arafat when he was alive. Convenient, eh? True, they do not deny the Holocaust. Far from it. Basically, they appear to have been brought in to bolster one of the key claims of the conference that Israel uses the Holocaust to justify oppression of the Palestinians:

We are here under the banner of the group known as Neturei Karta which is not a separate movement or organisation but propagators of the philosophy expressing the opposition by Orthodox Jewry to the idea known as Zionism – the secular nationalistic movement to form a sectarian State in Palestine. As is well known, Zionism and the Holocaust have become very much intertwined over the years and the Zionists make a great issue of the Holocaust in order to further their illegitimate philosophy and aims.

And:

The Zionists, with their secular pompous approach behave in complete opposition to this philosophy and dare to say ‘Never Again’. They have the audacity to think that they can prevent the Almighty from repeating a ‘Holocaust’. This is heresy.

And:

To sum up, the Orthodox Jewish view is that yes there was a Holocaust to a terribly significant degree whatever that was. But in no way can it be used to justify the illegitimate and criminal cause and actions of Zionism.

In other words, yes there was a Holocaust, but those evil Zionists are using it and the memory of the dead for nefarious purpose, and, by the way, we are the only True Jews. In this viewpoint, these Neturei Karta Jews are similar to the Holocaust deniers in that, even though they do not deny the Holocaust in any way, they do seem to believe it was some sort of divine retribution on the Jews from God and that Zionists are using the Holocaust to justify thwarting God’s will.That, I guess, is enough to make them OK in President Ahmadinejad’s book. In any case, if it isn’t already (and wasn’t from the beginning), it should be painfully clear that this “Holocaust conference” is nothing more than a sham, a chance for Holocaust deniers to tell each other their lies, pat each other on the back for their “bravery” and “standing up for free speech,” and try to hide their blatant anti-Semitism behind the cover of a few ultra-orthodox Jews who accept the historicity of the Holocaust but echo the deniers’ belief that the state of Israel is using it to persecute the Palestinians.

On the other hand, it is rather amusing to consider the picture of anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers like David Duke, Mark Weber, Frederick Töben, Robert Faurisson, Bradley Smith and the rest having to shake hands with actual rabbis and pretend that they don’t hate them.

ADDENDUM: How could I forget this? This old Onion spoof was very prescient:

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ADDENDUM #2: At least the mainstream press is highlighting some of the howlers Holocaust deniers are laying down at this conference:

“The number of victims at the Auschwitz concentration camp could be about 2,007,” Australian Frederick Töben told the conference, according to a Farsi translation of his remarks. “The railroad to the camp did not have enough capacity to transfer large numbers of Jews,” said Töben, who was jailed in 1999 in Germany for casting doubt on the Holocaust.

2,007 victims? At Auschwitz-Birkenau? I’d laugh if Töben weren’t so utterly despicable.

Comments

  1. #1 tim gueguen
    December 12, 2006

    Its ironic seeing the Iranian government making nice with people who, if given the reigns of power in the US, would likely nuke Iran with the slightest provocation. They certainly would treat Iranians and other Muslims in America, Austria etc. etc. as scum of the Earth to be deprived of rights and deported at the first opportunity, if not subject to all out violence.

    While I’m here I’ll post an off topic link that you might want to do a Friday Dose of Woo entry on if you run short of ideas(yeah, fat chance): Chi machines! http://tinyurl.com/ylfft7

  2. #2 sneedlemd
    December 12, 2006

    So David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Klan, is attending this conference in Iran. Land of the non-Christian heathens. Holocaust denial makes strange bedfellows.
    While we’re at it, in the name of fairness and academic debate, perhaps we should hold a follow-up conference:
    Iranian president Mahmoud: does he like sex with goats, or just little boys?

  3. #3 beajerry
    December 12, 2006

    My jaw hit the floor when I saw this conference was going on.
    Just when you thought absurdity couldn’t hit any higher…

  4. #4 KeithB
    December 12, 2006

    In honor of this conference I have a new signature for my email:

    “We are told that the average soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now, at least, he will know what he is fighting against.” – George S Patton after viewing the recently liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp.

  5. #5 Cain
    December 12, 2006

    I liked Spencer Ackerman’s take on this:

    “It’s like the Iranian regime is daring me to want them overthrown.”

  6. #6 John Casey
    December 12, 2006

    There’s a lesson here: just because our government is currently run by assholes and idiots doesn’t mean that a foreign government cannot also be run by assholes and idiots.

  7. #7 Ranson
    December 12, 2006

    Y’know, if we had just one good tactical nuke missile, and they were all in the same auditorium at the same time . . .

    Nah. Better to just let them look stupid.

  8. #8 Chris
    December 12, 2006

    Why do I get the impression that they intend to “question” the Holocaust the same way the Discovery Institute “questions” evolution: by deciding in advance that it’s wrong and ignoring or twisting as much evidence as they have to to fit that preordained conclusion?

    It’s ironic because the European laws may really be restricting some honest inquiry into exactly what happened, but that tends to get buried in the flood of *dishonest* inquiry (or mock-inquiry).

  9. #9 anonimouse
    December 12, 2006

    The real conference reads like an Onion spoof.

  10. #10 Ahistoricality
    December 12, 2006

    Y’know, if we had just one good tactical nuke missile, and they were all in the same auditorium at the same time . . .

    Nah. Better to just let them look stupid.

    If they were right about the International Zionist Conspiracy, they’d be dead now. But no, they blather on….

  11. #11 Robster
    December 12, 2006

    Thwarting the almighty? So we should do nothing to prevent genocide because it is God’s will? Disgusting.

  12. #12 Tyler DiPietro
    December 12, 2006

    Why do I get the impression that they intend to “question” the Holocaust the same way the Discovery Institute “questions” evolution: by deciding in advance that it’s wrong and ignoring or twisting as much evidence as they have to to fit that preordained conclusion?

    Because that is exactly what is going to happen? I know, this is a rhetorical question. But it does display a rather unnerving phenomenon, which is what can happen when a government officially sanctions untrue claims for ideological purposes. Look at Lysenkoism under the Soviet regime of Stalin as another example. This is one of the biggest reasons to oppose the teaching of creationism or IDC in public schools.

    It’s ironic because the European laws may really be restricting some honest inquiry into exactly what happened, but that tends to get buried in the flood of *dishonest* inquiry (or mock-inquiry).

    I don’t know if I’d go there, but what I do think happens is that such laws can lead to a point legitimizing the dishonest claims of the deniers. There will always be people out there who love the story of Galilean martyr opposing the “recieved truths” of the “establishment”. Cranks, quacks and crackpots of all types feed on this endlessly.

  13. #13 Justin Moretti
    December 12, 2006

    If this guy thinks Israel is a tumour, maybe it’s time that tumour metastasized (with the appropriate implications), before it gets treated with “chemotherapy” or “radiotherapy”.

  14. #14 Infophile
    December 12, 2006

    Thwarting the almighty? So we should do nothing to prevent genocide because it is God’s will? Disgusting.

    Ever read the Bible (Specifically the Old Testament)? The thing’s full of genocide both in God’s name and by God himself.

  15. #15 Lucas McCarty
    December 12, 2006

    Yes but God had very good reasons.

    ….

    I have no idea what they were, but God does and usually his reasons are infallable, what with him being infallable.

    He definately has a big white beard though.

  16. #16 Lucas McCarty
    December 12, 2006

    Correction to earlier comment: God may in fact BE a big white beard and ONLY a big white beard. God is definately an anthropomorphic big white beard.

    If I’d known the Ku Klux Klan had real wizards, I would have joined up! Wizards!! Not just any wizards but GRAND WIZARDS! Like Gandalf or Dumbledoore. I wonder if Harry Potter’s plonked any giant burning lower-casen T’s on anyone’s lawn? JK Rowling still has another book to go so we might just be getting a suprise.

    But the Klan are Christian aren’t they? Isn’t magic considered evil? How can you have non-magic wizards? By definition they have to do magic!

  17. #17 James
    December 12, 2006

    Lucas: Logic + KKK (or current Iran leadership)= undefined, always remeber that

    anonimouse: Unintentional self-parody is a key feature of totalitarian propoganda, it comes from having one’s sense of irony surgically removed.

  18. #18 Graculus
    December 13, 2006

    So David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Klan, is attending this conference in Iran.

    Ernst Zundel is currently “indisposed”.

  19. #19 Justin Moretti
    December 13, 2006

    Actually, if the KKK resemble anyone from Harry Potter it’s the evil Lord Voldemort’s followers, the Death Eaters – sociopathic racial purists running around in hats and masks and picking on people incapable of defending themselves.

    God’s stated reasons for mass extermination have included wiping out child sacrificers and cities full of perverted individuals with a tendency to pack-rape visiting foreigners. Whether or not you agree with His methods, you can at least appreciate the motivation.

  20. #20 Porlock Junior
    December 13, 2006

    Justin Moretti makes a good point about motivation, though a little searching would no doubt find some more unsavory examples. But to his list one could add Ezekiel’s graphic description of the sin of Sodom:

    Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.
    –Ezekiel 16:49 (NIV)

    So which is the Lord gonna blast first — Castro Street or Pat Robertson’s castle?

  21. #21 M
    December 13, 2006

    It’s the mental image of the KKK, anti-semitic Iranians and ultra-orthodox Jews trying to make small talk over lunch. Sure, it would start ok with some holocaust denial, how keeping women down and abusing them is such a darned good idea, but it’s going to get hairy pretty quickly.

  22. #22 Jess
    December 13, 2006

    I keep reading the deniers material, but I just can’t wrap my head around it all. I keep gasping out “but..I…how…but…wha?” in different variations with furrowed brow.

    “The railroad to the camp did not have enough capacity to transfer large numbers of Jews,”

    Putting aside that the fellow making the claim is odious, are his numbers based on the Jews bring transported as passengers? Because all the film and accounts I’ve seen says they were most definitely not passengers.

    The whole thing makes me want to build my own planet to live on.

  23. #23 coturnix
    December 14, 2006

    Today’s “Fresh Air” on NPR was on this topic – actually the more general topic of Holocaust and the Arab world, contrasting the way many Arabs (and European Muslims) hid and sheltered Jews during WWII, but their children do not even want to talk about it. Check out when the podcast gets posted.

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