Thursday, December 14, 2006

Iranian absurdities

Next year I suppose Iran will host an international gathering of the Flat Earth Society. “Our purpose is not to deny or confirm that the Earth is a spheroid,” an organizer will intone sanctimoniously. “We simply want to provide an opportunity for those whose views are derided and suppressed in the Imperialist West to be able to speak freely and openly. This is an important topic that deserves a fresh and independent investigation.”

Those are almost exact quote from organizers of the two-day “International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust” that just wrapped up in Tehran. Absurd stuff, but with a serious side.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust a myth, though on other occasions he has claimed to be ready to be convinced. But to call a conference and invite worthies like Louisiana’s Ku Kluxer David Duke, the Frenchman Georges Thiel and the German-born Australian Fredrick Toeben, whose specialty is denying the Nazis had gas chambers, seems over the top.

To be sure, European countries like France, Germany and Austria, which have laws against denying the Holocaust, unwittingly set the Iranians up for this. These laws against freedom of speech and inquiry – even foolish, crackpot or uninformed speech and inquiry – allow the Iranian regime, which strictly controls and punishes speech by Iranians it doesn’t like, to pose as the friend of free inquiry and persecuted “scholars.”

Ahmadinejad has given the real game away several times, most recently at the conclusion of this bogus conference. “The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon the same way the Soviet Union was,” he intoned, “and humanity will achieve freedom.”

Here the riff. If the Holocaust hadn’t happened, the newly formed United Nations would not have authorized and recognized the state of Israel – which is a plausible although arguable proposition. So if we decide the Holocaust never happened, then there’s no justification for the existence of Israel, and we can feel morally justified in saying it should be eliminated. Get it?

That doesn’t account for all the Jews who started moving to the Holy Land at the beginning of the previous century and were numerous and organized enough to demand independence from the British, who ran the place following World War I and were ready to shed their overseas empire after World War II, but hey, no historical theory is perfect.

So why this event? Ahmadinejad has expressed the desire many times to wipe Israel off the map, and Iran has financed and provided training for Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations that attack Israel. Whether Iran would use a nuclear weapon, if it ever built one, on Israel (which has the capacity to respond in kind) is another question, but the Iranian regime’s hostility to Israel, with all that implies for continued unrest in the Middle East, is unquestionable. This conference was an attempt to justify that hostility.

I still think it's better to laugh out loud at it rather than to denounce it in horrified and pompous statements. But there is a serious side to it.

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