The South African Jewish Report
March 9, 2001

Strong Objections to Beirut Holocaust Denial Conference

David Saks

A major international conference aimed at promoting the theories of the Holocaust denial lobby will be taking place in Beirut from March 31 to April 3.

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies recently wrote to the Lebanese ambassador requesting a meeting. It is intended at the meeting to convey the strong objections the Jewish community has to the planned conference and to ask that the Government of Lebanon be lobbied to ban it.

Other Jewish communities around the world are expected to make similar overture to their respective Lebanese ambassadors.

The Board also wrote to Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad asking the South African Government to consider and react to the event.

Commenting on the scheduled conference, Russell Gaddin, national chairman of the SAJBD, pointed out that the known participants in the seminar were not credible academics but in fact rabid anti-Semites who had conclusively been identified as such by Jewish organisations world-wide.

Participants include well-known deniers like Robert Faurisson, who has thrice been convicted of violating French hate-crime laws, Jürgen Graf, who fled his native Switzerland after being sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment on similar grounds and Mark Weber, director of the anti-Semitic Institute for Historical Review (IHR) and an American neo-Nazi activist.

Notwithstanding his humiliating courtroom defeat last year following his attempt to sue Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt for libel, the English-based denier David Irving is also expected to take part. The IHR, which has been described as "the world's single most important outlet for Holocaust denial propaganda" by the Anti-Defamation League, is one of the co-sponsors of the conference, the other being the Swiss revisionist organisation Vérité et Justice.

The type of rhetoric encouraged at conferences of this nature have underlined the extent to which Holocaust denial is not a legitimate field of study but a means of both promoting neo-Nazi ideals and attacking Jews.

A typical example was the statement by Keith Thompson, one of the early stalwarts of the IHR, at its 1983 conference in which he urged supporters to "stand by the Third Reich" because, "if, in the end, the Holocaust did take place, then so much the better!"

Thompson's remark, which was greeted by tremendous applause by those present, was subsequently deleted from recordings of his speech sold through the IHR catalogue.

The choice of venue, added to the fact that many of the addresses will be delivered in Arabic, has been seen as providing disturbing evidence of the extent to which denial of the Holocaust had taken root in the Arab-Muslim world.

In its announcement of the conference posted on its website on December 26 last year, the IHR commented that the meeting "reflects and will further strengthen growing co-operation between revisionists in the West and in Muslim countries".

"We view with concern this latest attempt to gain credibility for the Holocaust denial cult, something which is deeply offensive not only to the many survivors, both Jewish and non-Jewish, of Nazi tyranny, but indeed to all reasonable and fair-minded people," Gaddin said.

He added that while it might not be an issue that the South African Government could influence, he believed it would nevertheless regard the holding of a conference of this nature with repugnance.

For this reason, the Board had requested that it communicate its strong disapproval of the matter to the Lebanese Government.

The South African Jewish Report, Volume 3, Number 39: Friday, March 9, 2001, p. 3