1970s-1990s: Beginnings of Denial in Middle East
One of the earliest attempts by a Western Holocaust denier to gain entree to the Middle East transpired in the late 1970s, when 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. Zundel was born and raised in Germany, but immigrated to Canada in 1957, where he published pro-Nazi propaganda for years under the name Christof Friedrich. "The West, War, and Islam" was a paranoid, fear-mongering essay that attempted to warn the Islamic world of its purported enemies -- the most important being the "international Zionists," who were attempting to "goad the West into a future criminal war" against it.3 Zundel ended the essay with a plea for funds to help him fight against "Zionist misinformation campaigns" and dispel the myth of the "so-called Holocaust" from which, he claimed, Zionists gain so much of their power. Zundel never indicated whether his essay elicited any responses from those to whom he sent it, but his use of Canadian mail services to disseminate the essay led to his prosecution by the Canadian government.4
Mahmoud Abbas (abu Mazen)
In 1983, in an early public example of denial from an indigenous Middle Eastern source, a Palestinian named Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen) wrote
The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement. In the book, Abbas suggested that the six million figure was "peddled" by the Jews but that in fact "the Jewish victims may number six million or be far fewer, even fewer than one million." In 1995, reports of the book's existence reached the Western press, largely because of the public prominence that Abbas had attained as the chief PLO architect of the Oslo peace accords and cosigner of the 1993 Declaration of Principles in Washington. The California-based Simon Wiesenthal Center publicly called for Abbas to clarify his position on the Holocaust, but no clear statement was forthcoming. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper
Ma'ariv, Abbas tried to frame the issue in terms of realpolitik. "When I wrote
The Other Side...we were at war with Israel," Abbas said. "Today I would not have made such remarks...Today there is peace and what I write from now on must help advance the peace process."
Less equivocally, in the late 1980s a former Moroccan army officer, Ahmed Rami, began publicly to deny the Holocaust and to disseminate anti-Israel propaganda in Sweden. Rami had fled north after being sentenced to death in Morocco for his role in a 1972 coup attempt against King Hassan II. There he eventually founded "Radio Islam," an anti-Semitic program that also featured attacks on accepted Holocaust history. In October 1990, Swedish courts ruled that Rami and "Radio Islam" were guilty of incitement against Jews; Rami received six months in prison and Radio Islam was shut down. Two years later, Rami was a featured speaker at the annual conference of the Institute for Historical Review, the leading Holocaust-denying organization in the United States. He eventually reestablished Radio Islam as an Internet site, but was again prosecuted in Swedish courts on charges of inciting racial hatred, and was convicted and fined in October 2000. Radio Islam continues to maintain its Web presence from servers in the United States; though it no longer makes audio broadcasts, its site features an extensive collection of Holocaust-denial and other anti-Semitic documents.
Other attempts to undercut or minimize the history of the Holocaust date back to the early 1990s. According to David
Bar-Illan ("The PLO Has Not Softened its Propaganda," The Jerusalem Report, May 31, 1996), for example, the PLO-affiliated Palestinian Red Crescent published an article in the July 1990 issue of its magazine,
Balsam, which advanced the now de rigueur claim that Jews concocted "the lie concerning the gas chambers" to gain support for the establishment of Israel. The article also suggested that the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals were set up by "Jews and their friends" for the purpose of establishing the Holocaust as historical fact.
Bar-Illan claims that similar articles appeared in the Cyprus-based PLO journal,
3 Zundel wrote that these enemies included the "international Zionists" (aided and abetted, however, by "millions of brainwashed Christians" who have fallen prey to "the Zionists' domination of the mass media"); the "international secret societies" (including "politicized Freemasonry" and its "cover organizations" such as the Kiwani Rotary and Lions Clubs, who together comprise the same "globalist satanic structure" and who are dedicated to the advance of "world crime, corruption, vice, poverty, war, revolution, collapse and chaos"); the "international bankers" (the "focal point for the dark forces arrayed against all mankind") and the forces of "international communism." Return to text
4 See ADL publication, Hitler's Apologists (1994). Return to text