April 2001 / Vol. 26, No. 4
Lebanon and Off: The Deniers DeniedBy Jeremy Jones
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)
P.O. Box 6216, St. Kilda Road Central, Melbourne, Vic.
8008 Australia / www.aijac.org.au
When Jürgen Graf, convicted hatemonger and self-described "researcher", fled Switzerland last year, it was not terribly surprising that he made Iran his safe haven. Claiming that he arrived "at the invitation of a group of Iranian scholars and university professors who are sympathetic to Holocaust revisionism" [read: "who are supportive of antisemitism in theory and practice"], Graf waxed lyrical on the glorious reception given his views in Iran and in the Arab world.
Iran, it should be remembered, is the country which feted Fredrick Töben on his release from a German prison (where he had been serving time for his contribution to efforts to rehabilitate Nazism) and which carries interviews with apologists for Hitler in its English, Arabic and German radio broadcasts. It is also a country which currently has in its prisons nine Jewish men on ludicrous charges of spying, demonstrably breaching its own laws to achieve the convictions.
Within that society, individuals who have been found guilty in open and democratic societies of deliberately spreading malice against others are presented as comrades-in-arms against "Zionism", which in itself says a great deal about the racist nature of Iran's rulers' anti-Zionism. From his new digs in Teheran, Graf trumpeted his intention to stage an international gathering of his friends from around the globe, with additional invitees from the anti-Jewish professional coterie found across much of the Arab and Islamic world.
At first, rumours were sweeping the Internet that the conference, should it take place, would be convened in antisemite-friendly Iran. Despite the delicious irony of Teheran hosting a United Nations World Conference Against Racism regional meeting at roughly the same time as staging a gathering that would have included some of the most notorious racists operating today, on December 26 the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) advertised Beirut as the venue.
The announcement by the IHR, an organisation that bears about the same relationship to "Historical" as the old German Democratic Republic had to democracy, identified the "growing cooperation between revisionists in the West and Muslim countries".
As I have commented on this page before, the most obscene antisemitic canards are included in the regular diet of consumers of strictly controlled and heavily restricted media in Egypt, Iran, Syria, the Palestinian Authority, some Gulf States and Lebanon. Due to an obtuse reading of history and a cynical abuse of governmental responsibility, members of the ruling Iranian and Arab elites seem to believe that Israel's legitimacy rests on the events of the Nazi Genocide and therefore there is gain to be had in promoting lies in the cause of rehabilitating Hitler.
Iran has taken the lead in this campaign and it initially appeared that Lebanon was being reminded of its third-tier status in Middle East affairs by being given the proxy right to host the nastiest of the nasty. Whatever the reason for the geographical location of the planned conference, as soon as it became known an international effort began to inform the Lebanese government of the harm it would do to its own reputation if it allowed the event to proceed.
The ADL in the United States were quick off the mark in publicising the IHR announcement of the event and many of the constituents of the World Jewish Congress, including here in Australia, wrote to our own and the Lebanese government regarding Holocaust Denial and the Conference.
When I included reference to it during my speech to the inter-governmental anti-racist meeting in Stockholm in January, with Canadian parliamentarian and international lawyer Irwin Cotler and Professor Deborah Lipstadt expanding on the theme, it was clear from the reaction that even Lebanon's friends regarded the planned hosting of the conference to be something between an outrage and a serious error of judgment.
On March 7, a week after the Stockholm meeting, the IHR were proclaiming that the Beirut meeting preparations were on schedule despite the demands of "three major Jewish organisations" (and naming their star drawcards, including individuals who had indulged in behaviour deemed to be unlawful in Germany, France, Switzerland and Australia). A few days later the internet edition of the Lebanese newspaper as-Safir promoted the views contained in this release, with the observation that the statement "does not include names of any Arab or Muslim participants".
Late in March, the Deniers' house of cards began to look as if it had shaky foundations, when 14 Arabic academics and intellectuals called for Lebanon to "ban this inadmissible conference", prompting the country's Information Minister, Ghazi Aridi, to tell the media that his government was "unaware" of any planned event.
Several hours later Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri reported that his Cabinet had discussed the issue and "this conference will not be held in Beirut", adding "Lebanon has more important things to do than holding conferences that hurt its international standing and smear its name." Aridi described the affair as "fabricated and suspect uproar", part of a "disinformation campaign" against Lebanon. If so, it was a campaign instigated and sustained by the Holocaust deniers, who are quite well-known in the West for just such campaigns.
Regardless, the decision to ban the conference deserves praise and will hopefully signal the start of a divorce between the Arab world and those racists whose enmity to Jews had gained them an undeserved following.