Iran: Holocaust denial contains an appeal to repeat it

Holocaust denial  is one of the the three key sides of an ideological triangle, together with elimination of Israel and demonisation of Jews, espoused by the Iranian regime. in this important interview by Karmel Melamed of the Jewish Journal, German academic Matthias Kuntzel says that current Iranian antisemitism has undoubted parallels with Nazism.

 Dr Matthias Kuntzel

Karmel Melamed: Can you please explain why the current Iranian
regime for nearly 20 years has had such a massive public and overt
obsession with the subject of Holocaust denial? Why do they keep
bringing up this topic as a part of their foreign policy?

 

How can you wish to get rid of Israel and at the same time
acknowledge the truth of the Holocaust? That is impossible. Anyone who
accepts the reality of the Holocaust can’t at the same time believe that
the Jews are the rulers of the world and that Israel of all countries
is the root of all evil. These three items: elimination of Israel,
demonization of Jews and Holocaust denial – are interwoven and belong
together. They form what I call an ideological triangle. If any of the
three sides of this ideological triangle is absent, the whole structure
collapses.

Holocaust denial is at the same time antisemitism at its peak.
Whoever declares Auschwitz to be a “myth” implicitly portrays the Jews
as the enemy of humankind, who for filthy lucre has been duping the rest
of humanity for the past seventy years. Whoever talks of the
“so-called” Holocaust suggests that over ninety percent of the world’s
media and university professorships are controlled by Jews and thereby
cut off from the “real” truth. In this way, precisely the same sort of
genocidal hatred gets incited that helped prepare the way for the Shoah.
Every denial of the Holocaust thus tacitly contains an appeal to repeat
it. And that is what the Iranian leadership does.

From the former Iranian president Ahmadinejad, to Iran’s
Supreme Leader Khamenei and others in the Iranian regime, they
unapologetically deny the Holocaust, embrace Holocaust deniers, sponsor
Holocaust denial conferences and Holocaust denial cartoons which have
caused an uproar in the West. Do you think they do not care about the
negative public relations image this creates? Or is there another
motivation?

They care about their negative image. That is why the tone of
Holocaust denial has changed since President Rohani and Foreign Minister
Zarif entered office. Previously, denial of the Holocaust was the
leitmotif of Iran’s foreign policy. Today it is still an undisputed part
of Iran’s state ideology, but is no longer the centerpiece of its
public diplomacy.

However, even the internationally presentable Rohani is still far
from acknowledging the Holocaust. Asked, for example, whether the
Holocaust was real, Iran’s new president responded: “I am not a
historian. I’m a politician.” To pretend that the facts of the Holocaust
are a matter of serious historical dispute and available only for
historians is a classic rhetorical evasion.

Later Rohani maintained that “a group of Jewish people” had been
killed by the Nazis during WW II. But again: Holocaust deniers commonly
acknowledge that Jews were killed while insisting that the number of
Jewish victims was relatively small and that a systematic effort to wipe
them out did not place.

In your new book, you discuss the role Radio Berlin
broadcasted into Iran played and the works of Nazi academics played in
exporting their form of anti-Semitism to Iran during World War II. Can
you please shed light into why this is important for us to understand
today regarding the current Iranian regime’s hatred for Jews?

In defending the nuclear deal with Tehran, President Barak Obama and
Secretary of State John Kerry gave the impression that they view the
regime’s anti-Semitism as an incidental problem; to take it seriously
would be a waste of time. Others believe that Iranian anti-Semitism is
merely a response to Israel’s policies. I show in my book, that both
assumptions are wrong.

On the one hand, there was in the Shiite tradition always a strong
anti-Jewish tendency. And there is, on other hand, still the
after-effect of Nazi propaganda: Between 1939 and 1945 the Nazi’s
anti-Semitism was exported via a daily Persian-language broadcast from
Berlin to Iran. This broadcast was popular and its main radio speaker,
Bahram Sharokh, a celebrity during those years.

The Nazis based their antisemitic incitement in Persian language on
Islamic roots. They radicalized some anti-Jewish verses of the Koran and
combined them with the European phantasm of a Jewish world conspiracy.
Ruhollah Khomeini was, according to Amir Taheri, a regular and ardend
listener of “Radio Berlin”. His claim of 1971 that “the Jews want to
create a Jewish world state” mirrored a classical trope of Nazi
antisemitism.

For more than 30 years the Iranian “propaganda ministry”
has repeatedly marched out Iran’s sole Jewish members of Parliament and
individual Jewish leaders in front of Western media outlets to claim the
Iranian regime “loves Jews and treats Jews equally”. As Jews who fled
this regime in Iran, my community in America knows these claims are
false and the Iranian regime has no love for Jews. I believe the Iranian
regime has taken a direct page out of Josef Goebbels propaganda play
book in trying to spin a false media image of Jews being treated nicely
to cover their true evil. What is your assessment of this phenomenon?

It is true that the Iranian regime distinguishes between Zionism as a
menace and Judaism as a legitimate religion and at holiday time,
wishing all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashana.
However, a “Jew” is here characterized as someone who is willing to
support Tehran’s antisemitic program and Israel’s elimination. Only this
kind of Jew – the fanatical followers of the Neturei Karta sect, the
intimidated leaders and members of the Iranian Jewish community, or the
useful idiots of the Jewish radical left – are acceptable to Tehran.
All other Jews are fair game.

The killing of five Jewish tourists in Bulgaria in 2012 and the
attacks or planned attacks in Thailand, Georgia, and India perpetrated
by Hezbollah terrorists and Iranian agents made headlines. Other Iranian
attempts to kill Jews in Kenya, Nigeria and Bangkok are less well
known.

The 1994 suicide bombing of the Jewish AMIA-Center in Buenos Aires
caused the death of 85 persons and injured more than 150. This was the
most deadly terror attack against Jews since World War II and it was the
Iranian leadership including Khamenei and Rafsanjani that made this
decision and instructed Hezbollah to commit the crime. The sole reason
was the fact that Argentina did not want to continue its nuclear
co-operation with Iran. Who, however, should be blamed and punished for
Argentina’s independent decision? The AMIA example clearly shows that
Iran’s anti-Jewish paranoid pattern contains a call to kill.

The Iranian regime and its leadership, spews hatred against
Israel and “the Zionists” instead of using the word “Jews”. The
regime’s leaders claim they have no “ill will” against the Jews but only
hate for Israel. Is their hatred really against just Israel, or is this
just a cover-up for a deeper rooted anti-Semitism?

You’re right. Though the regimes distributes thousands of
antisemitic brochures such as the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” it
rarely mobilizes openly against “Jews” but agitates against the
“Zionists”. It is important, however, to understand that this regime
invests the word “Zionist” with exactly the same sense as that with
which Hitler once invested the word “Jew”: namely that of being the
incarnation of all evil. Destroying Israel is in their understanding the
only way to stop that evil. Or in Ahmadinejad’s words: “The Zionist
regime will be wiped out, and humanity will be liberated.”

This sentiment—liberation through destruction—is the one for which
the Holocaust historian Saul Friedlaender coined the term “redemptive
antisemitism”. It is not so far from that expressed in a Nazi directive
of 1943: “This war will end with antisemitic world revolution and with
the extermination of Jewry throughout the world, both of which are the
precondition for an enduring peace.”

The regime’s hatred of Jews resembles Hitler’s ideology in this
aspect: Both have a utopian element. Just as Hitler’s “German peace”
required the extermination of the Jews, so the Iranian leadership’s
“Islamic peace” depends on the elimination of Israel. It is high time
that the White House recognizes this utopian element and takes it
seriously.

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