No to Censorship! No to Bigotry!
An Open Letter to Fourteen Arab Intellectuals
April 10, 2001
Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said)
Jamel Eddine Ben Sheikh
Edward W. Said
Recently you issued a public statement calling on authorities in Lebanon to ban the "Revisionism and Zionism" conference in Beirut, scheduled for March 31 through April 3, which our Institute had been helping to organize. (This was reported, for example, in Le Monde, March 16.)
Your call came shortly after three major Jewish-Zionist organizations -- the World Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center -- denounced the meeting and demanded that Lebanon forbid it. Not surprisingly, Israel's ambassador in France publicly praised your statement.
Together with the United States and other foreign governments, these three Jewish groups put pressure on Lebanon to ban the four-day meeting. In response, Lebanon's prime minister announced on March 22 that the "Revisionism and Zionism" conference would not be permitted.
Your call to Lebanese authorities to forbid a peaceful, privately-organized meeting of scholars, writers and researchers that would be perfectly legal in most countries, including the United States, is a blow against the cause of freedom, peace and justice.
You condemned the conference before knowing anything about the content of the lectures or, apparently, even the identities of the speakers.
Your statement insultingly implies that Lebanese lack the discernment to make an intelligent, informed decision on their own about 20th century history. Everyone should have the right to make an informed decision about revisionist arguments. There should not be one standard of free speech in most of the world's nations, and another, inferior one for Arabs.
You justified your call for censorship by claiming that our conference would be "anti-Semitic." This is pathetic, considering how readily defenders of the Zionist state have hurled this cheap epithet at those who oppose Israel's criminal policies.
For more than 20 years our Institute has consistently opposed bigotry, censorship and repression in striving to promote greater historical awareness.
Speakers at our meetings and contributors to our Journal of Historical Review have included respected scholars from around the world, including Palestinian historian Issa Nahkleh, author of the two-volume Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem, and Sami Hadawi, author of Bitter Harvest: Palestine 1914-1979.
Other IHR conference speakers have included Pulitzer-prize-winning American historian John Toland, author of several best-selling works of history; John Bennett, noted Australian civil liberties attorney and president of the Australian Civil Liberties Union; and former U.S. Congressman Paul "Pete" McCloskey.
The IHR publishes an authoritative English-language edition of The Founding Myths of Modern Israel, the powerful expose by French scholar Roger Garaudy that has earned praise from across the Arab world.
Is it your view that such individuals should not be permitted to speak anywhere, or just not in Lebanon, or just not at a meeting organized by the IHR? Is your call for censorship limited to Lebanon, or may we expect calls from you to ban similar meetings in France, Canada, the United States, and other countries? Consistent with your call to ban the "Revisionism and Zionism" meeting, may we now expect your support for censorship of revisionist books, magazines and broadcasts?
We are proud of the backing we have received from people of the most diverse political views and ethnic and religious backgrounds. At the 13th IHR Conference held last May in southern California, a featured speaker was John Sack, who is Jewish. A report by this veteran American journalist and author based on his participation in our three-day meeting appeared in the February 2001 issue of Esquire magazine. Rejecting the often-repeated lie that the IHR and the revisionists are "haters" or bigots, Sack described those who spoke at and attended the IHR conference as "affable, open-minded, intelligent [and] intellectual." He also affirmed that numerous revisionist arguments and findings are, indeed, true.
Around the world awareness is growing that the Holocaust campaign is a major weapon in the Jewish-Zionist arsenal, that it is used to justify otherwise unjustifiable Israeli policies, and as a powerful tool for blackmailing enormous sums of money from Americans and Europeans. Even a few courageous Jewish writers have spoken out against what they call the "Holocaust cult," the "Holocaust racket," "Holocaustomania," and the "Holocaust industry."
In working to promote greater public awareness of history, the IHR has pointed out that Jewish-Zionist distortions of the past are not confined to the history of Palestine and the Middle East, but include historical lies about 20th century European history. Palestinians may be the most obvious victims today of Jewish-Zionist lies about history, but they are by no means alone. Millions of Europeans have also been victims of similar distortions of the past, most notably through the Holocaust campaign. But we must reject all such historical lies, rooted as they are in contempt for non-Jewish humanity, whether about the Middle East or Europe or the United States.
If the revisionist view of the Holocaust were really as simplistic and mistaken as our critics suggest, it would not have gained the support of university professors such as Arthur Butz and Robert Faurisson, historians such as Roger Garaudy and Harry Elmer Barnes, and former concentration camp inmates such as Paul Rassinier. These individuals did not decide publicly to reject the orthodox Holocaust story -- thereby risking public censure, and worse -- because they are fools, or because their motives are evil, but rather on the basis of a sincere and thoughtful evaluation of the evidence.
Instead of endorsing a statement that only serves Israel and Zionist interests, you should be speaking out on behalf of the victims of bigotry and oppression.
In a number of countries, those who dispute Holocaust claims are treated as criminals -- fined and imprisoned for their non-violent views, even for statements that are demonstrably true. Moreover, numerous revisionists have been physically attacked for their views. One was murdered. Even here in the United States, revisionists have been beaten, assaulted and blacklisted. Our Institute has repeatedly been a target of hate and violence. In July 1984 our offices were burned down in a devastating arson attack, a crime for which no one was ever arrested.
In 1980, Jewish-American scholar Noam Chomsky showed great courage in publicly defending free speech for Holocaust skeptics. In spite of intense criticism, he never repudiated that stand -- which is, of course, the only ethically defensible one that an honest intellectual can take. Now, some 21 years later, you have shamefully lent your names to a call for state repression of dissident historians.
Coming to grips with history, even with the emotion-laden Holocaust issue, demands open, reasoned debate, not name-calling and censorship. Your contemptible support for censorship of revisionist scholars will be remembered as a blot on your reputations.
We ask you to reconsider it.
Director, Institute for Historical Review
From The Journal of Historical Review, May/June 2001 (Vol. 20, No. 3), page 6.