A longtime phenomenon in the West, Holocaust denial now regularly occurs
throughout the Middle East—in speeches and pronouncements by public figures,
in articles and columns by journalists, and in the resolutions of professional
organizations. While some voices oppose this deliberate distortion of the
historical record, the main tenet of Holocaust denial—that Jews invented the
Holocaust story in an attempt to advance their own interests—appears to be an
increasingly accepted belief for large numbers of people in Arab and Muslim
states. The growing affinity for the Middle East demonstrated by Western
Holocaust deniers—hard-pressed by anti-hate legislation in their native
countries—underscores the fact that the Middle East is one of the few regions
in the world today where governments do not condemn, and sometimes even sponsor,
such anti-Semitic propaganda.
The effort to deny the basic facts of the Holocaust has its roots not in the
Middle East but in Europe and the United States, and it stretches back, if not
to the Nazis themselves, then to the years immediately following World War II.
To make their claims credible, Holocaust deniers are forced to reject enormous
volumes of historical evidence. Holocaust Denial: From East to West >>
The Arab perception of the Holocaust has never been monolithic, and has often
been influenced by the vicissitudes of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Hatred of Israel has led some Arabs to embrace Nazism itself, and to applaud its attempted genocide of the Jews.
But now another approach to the Holocaust has arisen in the Middle East: to deny it ever occurred. In some cases, Holocaust denial is actively sponsored by national governments, such as Iran and Syria. In other Middle Eastern countries, however, denying or minimizing the extent of the killing of Jews during World War II has been adopted by opposition parties and dissident factions that oppose attempts at normalizing relations -- legal, diplomatic, economic -- with Israel or the United States.
Differing Arab views on the Holocaust >>
The first flickerings of Holocaust denial in the Middle East began in the
1970s, when the German born Holocaust Denier, Ernst Zundel, published a four-page pamphlet entitled, "The West, War, and Islam," and sent it to the heads of state of several Middle Eastern countries.
In the 1980's, indigenous Middle Eastern sources began to develop. The Palestinian, Mahmoud
Abbas suggested that the number of Jewish victims of the Holocaust was far fewer
than six million. In July 1990 the PLO-affiliated Palestinian Red Crescent published an article
claiming that Jews concocted "the lie concerning the gas chambers."
1970s-1990s: Beginning of Denial in Middle East >>
In the 1990s, Holocaust denial became de rigeur in popular media
throughout the Middle East and the Palestinian Authority.
This is true even in Egypt and Jordan, the two Arab countries which have taken
steps to normalize relations with Israel.
In recent years Western Holocaust deniers have turned to the Arab world for
help when facing prosecution in various countries for illegal activities.
Wolfgang Fröhlich and Jürgen Graf have sought refuge in Iran, and Roger
Garaudy was hailed as a hero throughout the Middle East when he faced
persecution by the French government for inciting racial hatred. Other Western
Holocaust deniers have also sought entrée to the Middle East, including Mark
Weber and Bradley Smith.
Western Deniers in the Middle East >>
One of the most important signs of the growing ties between Western Holocaust
deniers and the Arab world came to light in December 2000, when the Institute
for Historical Review announced that its fourteenth revisionist conference would
take place in Beirut, Lebanon, in early April 2001. Encouragingly, an
international controversy ensued and the conference was eventually banned by the
Banned in Beirut: The 2001 IHR Conference >>
Although Holocaust denial has traditionally been limited to the fringe
movements of Western neo-Nazis and white supremacists, it has in recent years
found a new home in the Middle East. There the potent anti-Semitic assumptions
that Holocaust denial is founded upon—most importantly the myth of the world
Jewish conspiracy—make it a political weapon of choice for those who would
increase their own influence at the expense of Israel and regional stability.
Whether wielded by governments, opposition parties, professional organizations
or journalists, Holocaust denial in the Middle East is a troubling and
still-evolving phenomenon that bears continued watching in the future.
Middle - Eastern Deniers in Their Own Words: Examples of expressions of Holocaust denial in major Arab media >>