Western Deniers in the Middle East
Europeans: Frohlich, Graf and Garaudy
Several Holocaust deniers have turned to the Arab world for help when facing prosecution in various countries for illegal activities. Wolfgang Fröhlich, an Austrian engineer who testified on behalf of Swiss denier Jurgen Graf in 1998 about the impossibility of
Zyklon-B gas being used for executing humans, sought refuge in Iran in May 2000, claiming that his arrest by Austrian police was imminent. He reportedly still resides in that country. Graf himself, who was convicted of inciting racial hatred by promulgating Holocaust denial in Switzerland in 1998, also resides in Iran, to which he fled rather than face a 15-month jail term. According to the Institute for Historical Review, Graf is presently living in Tehran "as a guest of Iranian scholars." Since his arrival in Iran, Graf has authored an online book entitled
Holocaust Revisionism and its Political Consequences. The relationship between either Fröhlich or Graf and the Iranian government is not clear.
The best known flare-up of Holocaust denial in the Middle East occurred in response to the trial of Roger Garaudy in France in 1998. Garaudy was charged with violating a 1990 French law that makes it illegal to deny historical events that have been designated as "crimes against humanity," and with inciting racial hatred. These charges stemmed from his 1995 book,
The Founding Myths of Modern Israel (Les mythes fondateurs de la politique israélienne), in which he stated that there was no Nazi program of genocide during World War II, and that Jews essentially fabricated the Holocaust for their financial and political gain. Garaudy was convicted on these charges in 1998.
Before, during and after the trial, he was hailed as a hero throughout the countries of the Middle East --the trial was covered by media from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Formerly Roman Catholic and Communist, Garaudy had converted to Islam in 1982, and married a Jerusalem-born Palestinian woman, but this alone did not explain the outpouring of support he received; the "revisionist" message of his book -- whose Arabic translation was a best-seller in many of the region's countries -- clearly resonated across the region. The former president of Iran, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, announced in a sermon on Radio Tehran that his personal scholarship on the subject had convinced him that "Hitler had only killed 20,000 Jews and not six million," and added that "Garaudy's crime derives from the doubt he cast on Zionist propaganda." The main establishment newspaper in Egypt,
Al-Ahram, defended Garaudy in a March 14, 1998, article that argued that there is "no trace of the gas chambers" that are supposed to have existed in Germany, and that six million Jews could not have been killed in the Holocaust because "the Jews of Germany numbered less than two million" at the time. Numerous professional and social organizations throughout the region issued statements supporting Garaudy as well, including the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate, the Palestinian Writers Association, the Jordanian Arab Organization for Human Rights, the Qatar Women's Youth Organization, the Federation of Egyptian Writers and the Union of Arab Artists.
Support for Garaudy did not end merely with words. Seven members of the Beirut Bar Association volunteered to defend the writer in France, and Egypt's Arab Lawyers' Union also dispatched a five-man legal team to Paris in Garaudy's support. The United Arab Emirates daily,
Al-Haleej, was inundated with contributions and messages of support for Garaudy after it published an appeal on his behalf. The most surprising contribution came from the wife of United Arab Emirates leader Sheikh Zayed ibn Sultan al-Nahayan, who gave the equivalent of $50,000, in cash, to cover the maximum fine that Garaudy would be required to pay if found guilty.
Americans: Mark Weber and Bradley Smith
Possibly inspired by the outpouring of support for Garaudy, other Holocaust deniers have also cultivated contacts in the Muslim world. Mark Weber, the director of the Southern California-based Institute for Historical Review, the largest Holocaust-denial organization in the United States, has reportedly been interviewed several times on Iranian state radio (IRIB--Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting). The
Tehran Times, which published excerpts of one of the interviews, quoted Weber as saying that World War II air photos of Auschwitz "inspired" him to "search all the archives" in the pursuit of the truth of the Holocaust story. "At last I came to the conclusion," he said, "that the Holocaust had been exaggerated and that the Zionists enjoy too many political advantages." IRIB ran Weber's interviews on its English-language segments, and also interviewed Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel in German and Ahmed Rami in Arabic.
Bradley Smith, who spent much of the 1990s trying to place Holocaust-denying advertisements in college newspapers, reported in the June 2000 issue of his newsletter, Smith's Report, that his secretary, Audrey Jones, had attempted to establish contacts with Arab organizations:
A few days ago Audrey suggested that she begin to try to network among our Arab friends. I said okay, why not? We might find one who has some money and will let go of it, and we might get some interesting help in other ways. She has a lot of things to do but each day she would try to network with an Arab organization. On the fifth day she got her first response...
The response, as reported by Smith, was not overwhelming; it amounted to a Virginia-based Arab organization placing a link to Smith's Web site on its own Web site. ("Contributions?" Smith mused. "That's in the laps of the gods.") Nor has Smith reported on any further connections between his own Committee for Open Debate of the Holocaust (CODOH) and Arab organizations. Audrey Jones, however, has since struck out on her own. Using the pseudonym, MacKenzie Paine, she mixes Holocaust denial and anti-Israel rhetoric in essays that she sends out to her "Bully Buster" listserv, which she claims has several hundred subscribers. She frequently includes reports from a Jordanian man, Ibrahim Alloush, on his efforts to spread Holocaust denial in his native country.