Four years ago, the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust was held in Tehran. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki stated that the aim of the conference was "neither to deny nor prove the Holocaust but to provide an appropriate scientific atmosphere for scholars to offer their opinions in freedom about a historical issue."
Contributors to the “scientific atmosphere” included David Duke, a Ku Klux Klan leader and former US state representative, Robert Faurisson, a convicted Holocaust denier from France, and several other professors and educators all engaged in Holocaust denial research and rhetoric. One such professor, Australian national Dr. Fredrick Toben, runs a Website vilifying Jews while claiming that the Nazis did not commit the mass murder of the Jewish people. Several far Right politicians from Germany's neo-Nazi NPD party were invited as well, but the German government barred them from attending.
However, the conference’s main purpose went beyond providing a friendly environment for international Holocaust deniers to share their twisted sentiments. The Iranian Foreign Minister elaborated that "If the official version of the Holocaust is thrown into doubt, then the identity and nature of Israel will be thrown into doubt. And if, during this review, it is proved that the Holocaust was a historical reality, then what is the reason for the Palestinians having to pay the cost of the Nazis' crimes?"
This argument has been repeatedly reiterated by Ahmadinejad, notably in exclusive interviews he granted to US television networks NBC and CBS. In two major interviews with the American TV networks, Ahmadinejad smoothly skirted over the reporters' questions about his Holocaust denial, always deflecting his responses back to Palestinian issues and the State of Israel instead.
The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center calls Ahmadinejad's use of Holocaust denial "a tool" of Iranian policy. "The Holocaust denial campaign, as a main component of the Iranian regime's anti-Israeli policy, is not only an expression of the hatred for Jews which is rooted in Iranian politics and society, but also a clever, well planned strategy under Ahmadinejad."
According to the IICC, Ahmadinejad uses the denial tactics to delegitimize the Zionist movement and the State of Israel as ideological and moral preparation for Israel’s destruction, as well as to increase Iranian influence among Palestinians while advancing Iranian aspirations for regional hegemony.
Appeasement doesn’t work
Indeed, Ahmadinejad’s repeated rhetoric in promoting the Islamic Republic's anti-Israel agenda has been ultimately successful. Although the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust elicited much international condemnation in 2006, the Iranian president's repeated hateful rhetoric causes very few to flinch in the international community today.
Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said back in October 2008 that Ahmadinejad’s appearances at the UN General Assembly demonstrate that the world has learned nothing from the Holocaust.
"Ten years ago, and less, the ruler of a country that announced its aspiration for Israel to be wiped off the map would not have dared appear and speak on the UN's podium," Wiesel stated in a Haaretz interview. A few months later, at the Durban II conference, a member of Ahmadinejad's entourage accosted Wiesel screaming at the Holocaust survivor, 'Zio-Nazi.'
Furthermore, US President Obama's friendly attempts to forge dialogue with Iran, while simultaneously giving Israel a cold shoulder, have scored no points with Ahmadinejad. A warm message from President Obama marking the Iranian New Year was met with scorn from the Iranian leader. As reported by Reuters, Ahmadinejad said the note contained "three or four beautiful words" but nothing new of substance.
If anything should be learned from Holocaust Remembrance Day this year, it is that appeasement policies do not work. Seventy-two years ago, when Britain's Neville Chamberlain, France and Italy accepted the Munich Agreement with Germany, the European powers wrongly believed that the annexation of Czechoslovakia would stop Hitler’s war-machine. Following this appeasement agreement, more than 60 million people were killed in the Second World War, with Hitler's anti-Semitic rhetoric marking the process of this horrific tragedy.
Anav Silverman is the International Correspondent for Sderot Media Center: www.SderotMedia.org.il.