The Left

Denying the denial

Last week, in the wake of the Holocaust denial obscenity in Tehran, I wrote:

Now I want to be fair, and to give credit to every “anti-imperialist” individual, publication or website which unequivocally (i.e., without blaming Israel for antisemitism) condemns the Iranian authorities for sponsoring the conference and/or praises the brave Iranian students who have publicly denounced Ahmadinejad. Any candidates yet?

Credit where credit is due: the leading hard-left website carries a strong denunciation of the Tehran conference by an American Muslim (undercut by another article on the site, discussed later in this post). On the other hand a truly breathtaking apologia for Iran’s President Ahmadinejad by one Stephen Gowans appears on the hard-left website Counterpunch.

Let’s start with the claim that Ahmadinejad “has referred to the Holocaust as a ‘myth'”, a claim made by almost every major media outlet in North America.

Ahmadinejad may have said the Holocaust is a myth, but if he has, it has escaped my attention. Of course, I don’t follow him around with a tape-recorder and babel fish in my ear, so maybe I missed it. Still, the file of Ahmadinejad quotes I have before me, which goes back two years, hasn’t a single quote that backs up the near media consensus that Ahmadinejad has “repeatedly called the Holocaust a myth,” let alone called it one even once.

It took me about two seconds on Google to locate the following from a year ago on, which may or may not be a Zionist front:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has again caused international outcry by repeating his view that the Holocaust was a myth.

In a speech broadcast live on state television on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad told a crowd in the southern city of Zahedan: “They have fabricated a legend under the name Massacre of the Jews, and they hold it higher than God himself, religion itself and the prophets themselves.

“If somebody in their country questions God, nobody says anything, but if somebody denies the myth of the massacre of Jews, the Zionist loudspeakers and the governments in the pay of Zionism will start to scream.”

Gowans continues:

True, Ahmadinejad has played around the edges of the issue, saying things that amount to “maybe it did or maybe it didn’t happen, but either way, it doesn’t justify what was done to the Palestinians.” Always, the emphasis is on the Holocaust as a political construct, not an historical reality. That’s not quite in the same league as David Irving, the writer who was jailed in Austria for denying the Holocaust.

Right. So what’s all the fuss about?

The whole sordid business of the Holocaust conference, and earlier, the Holocaust International Cartoon Contest, would never have happened had the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, not run flagrantly racist cartoons mocking the prophet Mohamed, and had Western governments not dismissed the resultant flap as an over-reaction by a bunch of hot-headed Mohammedans. It’s a free speech issue, the West’s politicos said. You Muslims — simmer down.

So the reason the Holocaust cartoon contest and the conference took place was not because the Iranian regime arranged, publicized and funded them; rather they were the inevitable and unavoidable result of a Danish newspaper’s cartoons.

In fact the Iranians announced plans for the conference in January of this year, a month before the cartoon controversy erupted.

With the Jyllands-Posten scandal still resonating, Iran’s largest newspaper, Hamshari, counterpunched. It would sponsor a carton contest to mock the Holocaust. If you can mock the prophet Mohamed, and say it’s a free speech issue, then surely we can mock the Holocaust, and say the same.

As it turned out, the cartoons didn’t do much mocking. They didn’t present the genocide of Europe’s Jews as a myth, or mock its victims. Instead, they explored the themes of Israeli brutality against the Palestinians, use of the Holocaust to justify anti-Palestinian crimes, and parallels between Israel and Nazi Germany.
While the director of the exhibit correctly pointed out to a New York Times reporter that the drawings were anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist, not anti-Jewish, the newspaper nevertheless ran the story under the headline “Iran exhibits anti-Jewish art.” Conflation of Israel and Zionism with Jew, and therefore anti-Israel and anti-Zionist with anti-Jewish, is a handy howitzer to have around whenever you need to blow away opposition to Israel.

Right. Nothing anti-Jewish about this or this or this. Or this or this or this. To select but a few.

Most jaw-droppingly of all:

If the real aim of the conference was to call the Holocaust into question, it would hardly make sense to assemble a gang of hacks, flakes and whack-jobs whose credibility is nil. On the other hand, if the aim was to show that free speech doesn’t justify a repellent, silly, and disgusting display, inviting David Duke and his gaggle of misfits, was the right stroke.

Ah. How devilishly clever of the Iranians: call a conference and invite a bunch of Holocaust-denying nutjobs– not to deny the Holocaust, of course, but to make some ironic point which only Stephen Gowans seems to grasp.

Judeosphere has turned up another example of a supposed leftist denying the denial that went on Tehran: this from William Blum, who had his 15 minutes of fame when Osama bin Laden recommended one of his books. Blum is a regular contributor to Counterpunch and to ZNet, where this appeared:

I have yet to read or hear words from Ahmadinejad’s mouth saying simply and clearly and unequivocally that he thinks that the Holocaust never happened….The conference gave a platform to various points of view, including six members of Jews United Against Zionism, at least two of whom were rabbis….Clearly, the conference–which the White House called “an affront to the entire civilized world”– was not set up to be simply a forum for people to deny that the Holocaust, to any significant degree, literally never took place at all. I think its safe to say that very few of the attendees held this position, which is so untenable.

As Judeosphere writes:

What’s worse than Holocaust denial? Those who cover-up Holocaust denial, even when it’s paraded in plain sight for all to see.

Update: Oh, boy. Turns out Stephen Gowans is also a fan of the North Korean regime (as, it seems, was Che Guevara).