Hong Kong News
March 23, 2001

Lebanon says it is not aware of conference of Holocaust revisionists

BEIRUT, March 22 (AFP)

The Lebanese government is not aware of plans by Holocaust revisionists to hold a widely condemned conference in Beirut next week, Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said Thursday.

"No party has asked for authorization to hold a revisionist conference on the Holocaust and consequently neither a date nor place is scheduled," Aridi told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

"Lebanon can put more than one question mark on the goal of the campaign run on the Internet on this matter, which has no solid foundation," he added.

But the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), a US-based neo-Nazi group that is an organizer of the event, said Thursday on its Internet site that "preparations are continuing according to plan."

The IHR said the conference will take place at an undisclosed site in Beirut from March 31 to April 3.

Fourteen leading Arab intellectuals appealed last week to Lebanese authorities to block the conference, which they called an "anti-Semitic undertaking."

"We wish to warn Lebanese and Arab public opinion about this and call on Lebanese authorities to ban this inadmissible conference," they wrote in a letter published in the French newspaper Le Monde.

Among the signatories to the appeal were the Lebanese poet Adonis, the Palestinian poet Mahmood Darwish, authors Jamel Eddine Ben Sheikh of Algeria and Mohamed Berada of Morocco, and the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said.

The conference has also been widely condemned by 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.

Greg Raven, a spokesman for the IHR, said last week that "this is not an anti-Semitic conference."

"These are issues that can and must be discussed in any civilized society," he said. "I would like to know what is so inadmissible about this conference. We have similar conferences here in the US all the time."

The IHR is organizing the conference with the Swiss-based Vérité et Justice, or Truth and Justice, whose leader Jürgen Graf was sentenced by a Swiss court in 1998 to 15 months imprisonment for denying the Holocaust. He now lives in Iran.

In a December announcement published on its Internet site, the IHR said the Beirut conference, entitled "Revisionism and Zionism," would "further strengthen growing cooperation between revisionists in the West and in Muslim countries."