Agence France Presse
March 15, 2001

Arab intellectuals call on Lebanon to cancel revisionist gathering

PARIS -- Fourteen well-known Arab intellectuals on Thursday appealed to authorities in Lebanon to ban a forthcoming revisionist conference in Beirut.

"Arab intellectuals are outraged by this anti-Semitic undertaking," the group said in an open letter, a copy of which was given to AFP. "We wish to warn Lebanese and Arab public opinion about this and call on Lebanese authorities to ban this inadmissible conference."

Among the signatories to this appeal are the Lebanese poet Adonis, the Palestinian poet Mahmood Darwish, authors Jamel Eddine Ben Sheikh of Algeria and Mohamed Berada of Morocco, and the Palestinian political scientist Edward Saïd.

The four-day gathering scheduled to take place from March 31 to April 3 in Beirut under the heading "Revisionism and Zionism" has been organized by two neo-Nazi revisionist organizations, the Swiss-based Vérité et Justice (Truth and Justice) and the U.S.-based Institute for Historical Review (IHR).

The head of Vérité et Justice is Jürgen Graf, who was sentenced by a Swiss court in 1998 to 15 months imprisonment for denying the Holocaust took place. Graf fled Swizerland after the sentence and lives in Iran.

Greg Raven, a spokesman for the Institute for Historical Review based in southern California, said Thursday that planning for the conference was going ahead and expressed surprise at the outrage the meeting has triggered.

"This is not an anti-Semitic conference," he said. "These are issues that can and must be discussed in any civilized society.

"I would like to know what is so inadmissible about this conference. We have similar conferences here in the US all the time."

Apart from the letter signed by the intellectuals, the conference has met with widespread condemnation from major Jewish organizations, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which have been pressuring Lebanon to ban the event.

The U.S. Department of State has also tried to stop the conference, according to news reports.