Q&A with Wolf Blitzer on Muslim Refugees, ‘Fake News’ and His Favorite Journalism Movie


CNN newsman Wolf Blitzer, one of the world’s most recognizable journalists, has personal and professional connections to the Holocaust and Israel.

Blitzer’s paternal grandparents died in Auschwitz. His parents, both survivors from Poland, immigrated to the United States after the war, following the 1948 passage of the Displaced Person’s Act, which opened America’s borders to Europeans persecuted by the Nazis.

Blitzer, 69, was born in Germany and raised in Buffalo, N.Y. He was a reporter in Israel before joining the staff of CNN in 1990.

After being honored Nov. 5 by the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Blitzer discussed today’s Muslim refugees, being a Jewish journalist at a time of rising anti-Semitism, his favorite journalism movie and more.

Jewish Journal: Can you compare the plight of Jewish refugees after the Holocaust with today’s Muslim refugees from Syria? 

Wolf Blitzer: As a son of Holocaust survivors who came to the United States as refugees after World War II, I strongly believe in refugee resettlement. This country welcomed my parents, who went on to establish a wonderful life in Buffalo, N.Y. My parents, like other Holocaust refugees, were thoroughly vetted by U.S. officials before they were granted entry visas. My dad told me about the questions he was asked. They were so grateful to this country and went on to become great American patriots.

JJ: How comparable are the situations?

WB: Refugees are refugees even as there are, of course, different degrees of oppression that made them refugees. Surviving genocide and mass murder, for example, is different than surviving a civil war. But make no mistake: Both are awful and brutal.

JJ: What can be done about Holocaust denial in the Muslim world? 

WB: The best way to deal with Holocaust denial is to get the truth out there — whether it’s here in the United States or elsewhere around the world, including in the Muslim world. And that’s where Holocaust survivors play such a critical role. They survived the horror and their stories are so powerful. Unfortunately, they are now in their 80s and 90s and there are fewer survivors every year. Their personal stories and testimony — shared at Holocaust museums on video — will remain and should be told in the Muslim world and everywhere else.

JJ: Before joining CNN, you worked at The Jerusalem Post and at Reuters’ Tel-Aviv bureau. How was the transition to CNN?

WB: It was very smooth. The folks at CNN are so nice. They really spent some time helping me during the transition. I was a print reporter and the hardest thing was learning how to write for television. It’s different than writing for newspapers or magazines. But in the end, it’s all about being a reporter and gathering the news. Those techniques are the same. My first day at CNN was May 8, 1990 — and Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait a few weeks later in August. I was CNN’s Pentagon correspondent, so I had no choice but to learn all about broadcast journalism very quickly.

JJ: Do Jewish journalists have special responsibilities at a time when anti-Semitism in on the rise?

WB: Our responsibility is the traditional responsibility: report the news honestly and fairly and get the job done. That’s what we’ve done for my whole career, that’s what journalists do and that’s what the viewers, readers and the listeners deserve — factual, honest reporting.

“Occasionally we make a mistake. If we have to correct something, we correct it, then we move on.”

JJ: In the age of “fake news,” and with President Donald Trump calling CNN fake news, how can journalists ensure that the public can continue to trust the media?

WB: Just keep doing our job and don’t get distracted. Just report the news and be honest and responsible. Look, we’re the first draft of history. Occasionally, we make a mistake. If we have to correct something, we correct it, then we move on. But it’s not that complicated: just report the news. That’s what we try to do.

JJ: What’s your favorite journalism movie?

WB: “All the President’s Men.”

JJ: What’s the likelihood of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement?

WB: We’ve been working on that a long time. Let’s see what happens.

Remembering is Important, but Now It’s Time to Step Up and Also Remind


Eight years ago, I stood on Auschwitz Birkenau’s railroad, where more than 1 million Jews were led to their death only 65 years beforehand.  It was part of a special 8-day journey offered to 11th graders in Israel, to travel to Poland and learn more, and from up-close, about the horrors of the Holocaust.

 

It took me a while to decide on whether I want to join this trip or stay home. Up until then, I had tried to avoid seeing and hearing too much about the Holocaust, fearing it would be too much for me to handle. But eventually I decided to join my classmates on what became the most meaningful experience of my life.

 

It took us a while to soak everything in, and realize what we’re seeing, hearing and touching. It was there, on Auschwitz Birkenau’s railroad, when the haze finally cleared. I remember standing there, waving the Israeli flag, and vowing to always remember and never forget.

 

On that day, I wrote in my journal:

 

“This feeling cannot be described on paper. You have to be there to feel this intense, powerful, complicated feeling. We marched, hugged together, in a concentration and death camp that looks as if 60 years never passed by. The only difference is that instead of the smell of scorched bodies, there’s the salty smell of tears. There is blue sky instead of no sky. Other than us, there was a church group, led by a priest, who also came to witness the unbelievable. I can’t describe the joy I felt knowing we are not the only ones who care. One by one, we begin to appreciate what we have. I am very lucky to be here today with my friends.”

 

Today, we mention Israel’s National Holocaust Remembrance Day, which should be a reminder to everyone, not only Israelis, to guarantee history doesn’t repeat itself.

 

Anti- Semitism is still alive and well, more bluntly than ever before. What was considered a taboo for decades, is now practically mainstream, as haters step out of the shadows. Behind computer screens, they spread hatred mixed with lies, which gives a shady legitimacy to them bluntly attack innocent civilians on the streets.

 

About 80 years ago, people in Germany were frustrated. The loss of WWI came with a high cost, and many were stripped of their assets and their pride.  People were looking for someone to blame, and a small political party came up with an answer. Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party blamed all of Germany’s problems on the Jews and the people followed. Some were just happy to hear that their problems are not their fault, others took action and joined the Nazi party’s efforts in “migrating the problem.” The seeds of hatred sawed by Hitler grew to become one of the darkest times in history, which we later swore to “never let happen again.”

 

Now, decades later, the path to destruction is being built again, and “never again” can no longer only be a saying. This is when it needs to become an action.

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Last night, I participated in an event called “A Memory in the Livingroom” (זיכרון בסלון), an alternative to official national ceremonies offered to Israelis on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, where we get to sit and talk to Holocaust survivors.

 

This is the fourth year I am participating, and every year a discussion begins, on what people will remember after the last survivor will pass away. This year, everyone agreed, unanimously, that the memory of the Holocaust will never die. We promised to not let it die, and it is our promise to keep. But the only way to do so, is by fighting the scary wave of Holocaust denial and all forms of radicalism that can easily give legitimacy to history repeating itself.

 

There’s always justification to be found and someone else to be blamed. Extremists will always find a way to act, spread false truths and raise their voices and their hands. It is up to us, the sane majority, to prevent radicalism from becoming the new normal.

 

This day is a reminder, for me and hopefully everyone else, to not only remember the Holocaust, but actively battle ignorance by sharing the truth and telling the stories. We can’t let Holocaust denial become louder than the truth. We must turn up the volume, REMEMBER AND REMIND.

 

The Temple de Hirsch Sinai synagogue in Seattle was hit with anti-Semitic spraypaint. Photo courtesy of YouTube.

‘Holocaust is fake history’ scrawled on Seattle synagogue


A synagogue in Seattle was defaced with graffiti denying the Holocaust.

“The Holocaust is fake history!” was found spray-painted on the wall of the Temple de Hirsch Sinai synagogue on Friday morning.

“There were two things we felt: shock and sadness, and resistance,” Daniel Weiner, the synagogue’s senior rabbi, told NBC News. “We were shocked that this had reached our own community and that such things, such stereotypes had become frequent. But we are also adamant to not give in to the intolerance and growing climate of hate in Seattle and our nation, and will resist.”

With more than 1,500 member families, the synagogue, founded in 1889, is one of the largest in the Pacific Northwest.

The incident comes amid a wave of threats against Jewish institutions nationwide, including more than 100 bomb threats, mostly against Jewish community centers, since the beginning of the year.

Csanád Szegedi (left) and Rabbi Boruch Oberlander in “Keep Quiet.” Photo courtesy of Passion Pictures.

From denier to devout: amazing transformation?


Is it possible for a onetime rabid anti-Semite to be sincere in becoming an observant Jew? That’s one of the questions posed by “Keep Quiet,” a new documentary about a Hungarian Holocaust denier who undergoes just such a metamorphosis.

“The anti-Semitism in Hungary is ingrained in this country’s psyche,” said the film’s producer, Alex Holder. “The genesis of anti-Jewish legislation is [in] Hungary. The Nazis themselves remarked on the Hungarian people being overjoyed to help in the murder of Hungarian Jewry. I do not suggest or imply that all Hungarians are anti-Semitic, but there is no doubt that stereotypical concepts of Jews are still discussed literally today.”

Holder’s documentary, which opens March 3 in the Los Angeles area, traces the emotional, political and spiritual journey of Csanád Szegedi, who, while a university student in 2003, helped establish Hungary’s extremist, right-wing Jobbik party, which espouses such mantras as “law and order,” “taxes for the multinationals,” and “Hungary for the Hungarians.” Szegedi eventually became the party’s vice president, and in 2007, formed the Hungarian Guard, a military-type group, now banned, that was modeled after the World War II pro-Nazi party known as the Arrow Cross. In 2009, he was elected to the European Parliament as a Jobbik representative.

Then, in 2012, at the height of his power and popularity, Szegedi was forced to confront an unbelievable reality: A rival right-wing activist, Zoltan Ambrus, charged that Szegedi — who had written an autobiography claiming his father could trace his pure Hungarian ancestry back 1,000 years — was Jewish on his mother’s side of the family.

In the film, Szegedi at first dismisses the accusation, only to have his maternal grandmother admit that her family is Jewish and that she had been deported to Auschwitz. She then rolls up her sleeve and, for the first time, shows her grandson the tattoo from the camp. She says that, out of fear, she had decided to “keep quiet” about her Jewish heritage.

Holder, who is Jewish, said the grandmother’s decision was not unusual.

“The incontrovertible belief in a future Holocaust by those who survived the concentration camps caused them to erase any aspect of their religion,” Holder said. “Indeed, many converted to other religions, baptized their children and never spoke of their experiences. I by no means disagree with this approach. How could I? However, it is this mindset which affected me viscerally. No person or people should ever fear persecution. If I could choose one lesson for a person to take away from this film, it will be to stand up and be heard.”

Once his lineage becomes public, Szegedi is expelled from Jobbik and, for a time, is utterly lost. The film follows him as he begins to embrace his newly discovered identity with the same fervor that once drove him to promote Jobbik’s ideology. He contacts the leader of the Orthodox community in Budapest, Rabbi Boruch Oberlander, who becomes his mentor as he steeps himself in Judaism. Szegedi starts taking religious instruction, attending services, observing the Sabbath, studying Hebrew and the Talmud, even getting circumcised. He also makes a pilgrimage to Auschwitz in the company of a survivor, who recounts the horrors of her internment.

Alhough he has seemingly thrown himself wholeheartedly into the faith, many Jews who attend his speaking engagements reject him with overt hostility because of his past and challenge his sincerity.

“I don’t think that Csanád himself knows how sincere he is,” Holder said. “Csanád is a young man, confused and wanting. He desperately craves attention and will go to extremes to achieve it. To him, a circumcision at age 33 is less of an issue than actually saying ‘sorry.’ ”

The film’s co-director, Sam Blair, said viewers need to allow for some ambivalence in their reading of Szegedi.

“One of the things I hope the film illustrates is that we are all complex, our identities are complex, our political and social histories are complex,” Blair said. “Csanád was guilty of boiling his identity down to that of a ‘pure’ Hungarian, and is perhaps then also guilty of going completely the other way and trying to understand himself purely as an Orthodox Jew. I think that Csanád’s biggest step forward is that he begins to allow shades of gray into his understanding of himself, and so we should do the same for him simply because I think it’s too complicated a situation to be fixed in our reading of him.

“I also think the way the film illustrates the circular nature of history touches on something much wider and something incredibly troubling,” Blair continued. “It’s not simply that we repeat the mistakes of the past, but also that, if not dealt with, repressed pain is passed on and can find its way out in very destructive ways. It is not a coincidence that within three generations, a grandson began to re-enact the horrors that tormented his beloved grandmother’s life 60 years earlier.”

Blair added that the film must be open-ended and raise more questions than it answers.

“We wanted the film to provoke discussion in an audience, to be a film that was debated and chewed over once it had ended,” he said. “The pleasure of attending screenings and Q-and-As has been that it has done exactly that. Reactions to the film have come in many forms, and we have seen every emotion. People get angry, people cry, people think it’s absurd — and all those responses are totally valid.

“I just hope the conversations around the themes in the film can continue, as we seem to need them now as much as we ever have.”

“Keep Quiet” will be shown March 3-9 at the Laemmle Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills and the Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino.

Former Canada Green Party candidate accused of hate speech for denying Holocaust


Human rights complaints have been filed against a former candidate for Canada’s Green Party after she posted online videos in which she denied the Holocaust occurred.

The complaints were launched after two videos surfaced of Monika Schaefer, who ran for the party in Alberta. In one titled “Sorry Mom, I was wrong about the Holocaust,” the Canadian-born Schaefer talked about being teased as a child of German immigrants.

She said she now understands her mother’s claim of not knowing about the mass murders of Jews “because these things did not happen.”

Schaefer, a resident of Jasper, Alberta, described the Holocaust as “the most persistent lie in all of history”; claimed that prisoners at Nazi death camps “were kept as healthy and as well-fed as was possible”; and asserted “there were no gas chambers” in the camps.

Schaefer appeared in a second video produced by a group called Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust.

“If the evidence supported the Holocaust,” she said on the video, “they wouldn’t need laws prohibiting debate. They would show us the evidence. Only lies need to be protected by laws. The truth stands on its own.”

Her statements led fellow Jasper resident Ken Kuzminski to file complaints against Schaefer with the Alberta Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, alleging her remarks constitute hate speech.

Schaefer was the federal Green Party candidate in an Alberta electoral district in 2006, 2008 and 2011. She was rejected as a candidate for the district prior to the 2015 federal election and in a 2014 by-election.

Green Party Executive Director Emily McMillan in a statement called Schaefer’s comments “outrageous and shocking,” adding that Schaefer “has no standing within the Green Party of Canada, and her views are exclusively her own.”

McMillan said the party will request that a motion be put forward at its next meeting to terminate Schaefer’s membership.

Italy’s Parliament approves bill criminalizing Holocaust denial


Italy’s Parliament approved a bill making spreading Holocaust denial illegal.

The bill, which adds to an existing anti-racism bill, was approved Wednesday evening by the lower assembly of the Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, by a vote of 237-5, with 102 abstentions.

The new law would go after those who deny genocide or crimes against humanity, using the definition by the International Court of Justice, the German news agency DPA reported. Those convicted could face prison terms of two to six years.

The measure punishes ideas “based entirely or partly” on negationist ideology only when “there is a real danger of their dissemination,” according to DPA.

U.S. Holocaust museum rips revisionist cartoon contest in Iran


The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum slammed a Tehran-based contest that invites contributors to create cartoons questioning the historical truth of the Holocaust.

The Second Holocaust International Cartoon and Caricature Contest, which is under the supervision of Iran’s supreme leader, “continues a dangerous pattern of government-sponsored or sanctioned demonization of Jews,” the Washington museum said in a statement. The contest is being organized by the House of Cartoons and the Sarcheshmeh Cultural Complex.

“This comes from a country whose influential leaders use genocidal language against Israel and employ inflammatory speech to incite violence,” the statement said.

The contest is seeking caricatures of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Adolf Hitler.

Winning submissions from the first contest in 2006 denied and minimized the genocide committed against the Jews. Cartoonists from Brazil, France, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Morocco and Syria submitted entries, according to the statement.

Museum officials called on world leaders “to join us in denouncing this unacceptable event and all forms of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.”

 

After intrigue, theft and deterioration, Holocaust collection secure at CU Boulder


The yellowing document is crumbling and fading, but the smooth signature on its cover is as legible as it is chilling: Rudolf Hess, the Nazi who served as a Hitler deputy from 1933 to 1941.

The signature, which adorns a 70-year-old leniency plea for top Nazi Hermann Goering during the postwar Nuremberg trials, is one of some 500,000 discrete items and 20,000 books donated last year to the University of Colorado at Boulder — nearly the entirety of one of the world’s largest privately owned Holocaust collections. The unusual trove includes aerial surveillance photos of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, decaying copies of the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer, Nuremberg trial transcripts, and a trove of pro-Nazi and Holocaust denial literature.

“We don’t even know what we have,” said David Shneer, director of the Jewish Studies program at University of Colorado at Boulder and the person responsible for bringing the archive to the university. “We have teams of students inventorying it. We hope to get through everything by the fall.”

The unlikely story of how the archive, known as the Mazal Holocaust Collection, ended up in Boulder is a tale of Holocaust denial, a hidden Jewish past and the shady market for Holocaust artifacts.

The collection represents the life’s work of Harry Mazal, a businessman from Mexico City who was raised Protestant and discovered during his teen years that he was Jewish. Mazal’s family emigrated from present-day Turkey before World War II, and his father built a successful women’s lingerie business that he subsequently passed on to his son.

Though neither Mazal nor his parents personally experienced the Holocaust, Mazal became increasingly disturbed by the rising tide of claims that the genocide against the Jews was fabricated. Determined to do something about it, Mazal, who made his first research trip to Germany in the 1960s and died in 2011 at age 74, began collecting and carefully documenting evidence of the concentration camps, the Final Solution and the murder of the 6 million Jews.

Mazal became fixated on documenting the Holocaust. He traveled to Europe to photograph the camps and bought rare Holocaust artifacts on eBay. He established a relationship with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and became a repository for trial transcripts that were duplicates of material the museum already had. He collected Yizkor memorial books, original sketches of extermination camps and aerial photographs of the camps taken by the U.S. military, American Nazi newspapers from the 1930s and ‘40s, materials relating to the David Irving-Deborah Lipstadt Holocaust denial trial in England, and an extensive array of Holocaust denial literature. He also wrote scholarly articles and lectured about the attempted genocide of the Jews.

“I remember him being very offended by the fact that Holocaust denial was so prevalent,” Mazal’s daughter, Aimee Mazal Skillin, told JTA. “He really took it to heart. He began to collect as much information as he could about the Holocaust and the war, and about how the Jews were mistreated. Combating Holocaust denial was his real motivation. It was like he was walking around with horse blinders and saw nothing else other than this mission.”

By the mid-1990s, there was no more room for Mazal’s collection in his home in San Antonio, Texas, where he had moved with his family. So Mazal built an addition to his house, which proved inadequate even before it was completed. He later added two more expansions, bringing the total space dedicated to his in-home Holocaust library to 3,000 square feet. It became one of the largest privately held collections in the world, according to Lipstadt, the Holocaust historian who was sued by Holocaust denier David Irving in 2000. Mazal even kept some bone fragments collected at Auschwitz in a glass case on his desk (his daughter later buried them).

As Mazal’s collection grew, he enlisted help. That ultimately led to one of his most devastating discoveries: that someone working for him was stealing one-of-a-kind materials and illicitly selling them online. Mazal, who by the time of the discovery was ill with cancer, mounted a sting operation to find the perpetrator.

Ultimately, a young man named Mansal Denton who had volunteered at Mazal’s Holocaust library was arrested in January 2011 and charged with stealing some 17,000 pages of documents valued at $100,000 to $200,000. Last June, Denton was sentenced to eight years in prison. Some of the material Denton pilfered still has not been recovered.

The Denton theft underscored the need to find a proper home for the collection, especially after Mazal’s death in 2011, when it became clear his family wouldn’t keep the big house. Skillin considered selling the materials, whose value was estimated at $1 million to $1.5 million, but she didn’t want the collection to be broken up.

While planning to move her own family to Boulder, Skillin, who is an interpreter and social media consultant and is raising her children as Jews, was introduced to Shneer. In 2011, Shneer had helped bring the collection of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the father of the Jewish Renewal movement who died last summer, to the University of Colorado.

Skillin and Shneer hit it off, but with Skillin’s imminent plans to sell her San Antonio home, Shneer had to act fast. When he flew to San Antonio to examine the collection, he only had 24 hours or so to figure out what to do with it, he recalls.

Eventually, a small portion of the collection went to Texas A&M University-San Antonio, including about 8,300 books. The rest was packed into 367 boxes and trucked to Boulder.

In the months since, Shneer has been overseeing a team of student interns and graduate students cataloging and digitizing the collection in a windowless office in the bowels of the university library.

Schneer says it has been challenging not just to figure out what’s in the trove, but how to deal with the copious collection of Holocaust-denial and pro-Nazi material, including literature produced by the American Nazi Party beginning in the 1930s.

“We have to think about how we deal with Holocaust denial literature,” Shneer said. “Libraries are afraid of the material. We can’t just put it on shelves without context. How do we deal with this?”

Once the Mazal collection is categorized and digitized, the university plans to make it accessible to researchers all over the world by putting it online. Some of the collection’s 20,000 books will end up on the library’s shelves. Rare and one-of-a-kind volumes will be preserved in the university’s 60,000-square foot archive.

Iran’s foreign minister: Iran will not be demonized by Holocaust denial accusations


Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a parliament session broadcast live nationally reiterated his condemnations of the Holocaust and said he will not allow Iran to be demonized by accusations of Holocaust denial.

“Iran is an independent, mighty and stable country, but widespread propaganda and political activities are underway to portray Iran as a threat to the region and the global peace and security,” he said.

Zarif was summoned at the request of parliament hardliners, who are worried that the administration of President Hassan Rouhani has softened on Israel and the Jews, and who are angry at Zarif for having condemned the Holocaust.

Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, denied the Holocaust, and as recently as March, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, questioned its scope.

Zarif said that Israel is trying to inflame anti-Iran sentiments with accusations of Iranian Holocaust denial.

“[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu shamelessly raises hue and cry that Iran is denying the Holocaust and says that Holocaust-denying Iran is after creating another Holocaust by producing an atomic bomb,” he said.

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005 was roundly condemned for calling the Holocaust a “myth.”

Zarif in September 2013 told the Islamist Tasnim news agency that “Tehran condemns the killing of Jews by Nazis,” but at the same time stressed that the “Holocaust has become a pretext for Zionists to violate the rights of the Palestinian nation.”

 

Russia makes Holocaust denial illegal


Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law making Holocaust denial illegal.

The law signed Monday makes denial of Nazi crimes or misrepresentation of the Soviet Union’s role in World War II punishable by up to five years in jail or a $14,000 fine.

Both houses of Russia’s parliament approved the legislation last month.

Russia already bans public display of Nazi symbols.

Comparisons with Nazi Germany have arisen in recent months amid Russia’s conflict with Ukrainian nationalists.

A Turkish Muslim perspective on Yom HaShoah


When people of reason and conscience look back on the subject of Shoah (otherwise known as the Holocaust) today, it is common to hear questions like: “How could a nation of philosophers, composers of classical music, technology, poets, in this seat of the Enlightenment itself, suddenly give vent to savagery not seen since the Dark Ages? How could such dreadful, inhumane impulses seize every apparatus of a nation and cause it to commit such atrocities?”

In looking at the subject of the Holocaust violence, we can see the obvious influence of pseudo-scientific thought as well as a reversion to a far darker philosophy in human history. Arguably, the roots of anti-Semitism in Europe run quite deep, and found their most lethal expression in the Shoah itself; when some six million innocent Jewish men, women and children were done to death on the edge of mass graves in the Ukraine, Poland and Russia or had their lives systematically snuffed out at factories of mass murder such as Sobibor, Majdanek, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Chelmo and Belzec, names that shall forever be remembered as grim testaments to hatred. While it is not my intention to go too in-depth on the roots of European anti-Semitism, it must be touched upon in order to illustrate how prejudice led to disdain, then to hatred, and finally to genocide.

Anti-Semitism in Europe has a long and tragic history. For many centuries, this dislike of the Jewish people of the Diaspora was confined to the religious and social sphere; indeed, it's all too easy to recall such events as the massacres of the First Crusade in 1096, the Spanish Inquisition, and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, the assorted pogroms in Russia and Ukraine; the list is long and horrific. This awful situation persisted as recently as 1959, when a reference to “… perfidious Jews” was finally dropped from the Good Friday Liturgy of the Catholic Church (it must be said here that the Roman Catholic Church has made enormous strides in its relations with the Jewish people, most notably beginning with Vatican II and the later efforts of Pope John Paul II; and let us not forget the many Catholics – and others – who risked, and in some cases, lost their lives to save innocent Jews from Nazi terror).

Until the 19th century, European anti-Semitism was largely confined to the religious sphere (and to a lesser extent, the socio-economic sphere as well). Then, by the middle of the Nineteenth Century, it began to change in tone and style. Anti-Semitism became no longer a matter of theological difference, but rather a matter of biological differences. This was the introduction of so-called “scientific racism” through the introduction and application of Darwinian evolutionary theory, which had gained widespread acceptance by the end of the Nineteenth Century. And with this, the argument among European anti-Semites changed from, “Let us convert the Jews” to “Let us rid ourselves of this infectious and invasive species” (May God forbid). Simply put, an openly exterminationist sentiment had arisen, based on pseudo-scientific reasoning. The Jewish people had gone from being “the Other” to being “the Subhuman”, “a bacillus”, “a virus”. Surely they are beyond this defamation.

Darwinism, and its false implication that human beings are mere animals, classified as “superior”, “inferior” or “non-human” is the basis for the pseudo-science of racism. When Hitler said, “Take away the Nordic Germans and nothing remains but the dance of apes”, he was referring to the falsehood of Darwinist ideas. (Carl Cohen, Communism, Fascism and Democracy, Random House, New York, 1972, p. 408-409) While certainly, there are differences between people, to suggest that a group of people is inherently superior to another, and therefore has a right or moral imperative to subjugate the other, is a grossly mistaken idea.

As a result of such pseudo-scientific fallacies and and neo-romanticist fantasies, six million Jews, innocent men, women and children over a vast swath of the European continent were dehumanized, corralled into ghettoes and exterminated by the conquering Nazis. According to their racial delusion, the Nazi herrenvolk would rule over a vast empire of slaves, with the conquered peoples being the hewers of wood and drawers of water, and with the Jewish people (not to mention anyone else who failed to measure up to the Nazis exacting Darwinian standards) having been eliminated from the face of the earth itself. The Nazis' crude interpretations of Darwinism – influenced by agricultural practices such as animal husbandry – and their outlandish views of history such as Ariosophy, are all too familiar to anyone with even a rudimentary education, and there is no need to comprehensively explain their overall ideology. There are indeed people alive in Israel today, and many other countries, who survived this darkest period of human history, who can easily attest to the horrors they witnessed and experienced.

As Muslims, we bear a special obligation to confront the anti-Semitism that has infected the Muslim world. We must not traffic in discredited ideas and unbecoming stereotypes or proclaim, as truth, notorious forgeries such as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (it has been well known for almost a century now that this tract was a forgery by the Czarist Secret Police in order to justify pogroms in Russia). We must not subscribe to pseudo-scientific notions such as racism, nor allow ourselves to succumb to pseudo-historic nonsense such as Holocaust Denial. When it comes to anti-Semitism, we must confront it. We must educate against it. And most of all, we must repudiate it utterly.

We can also look to the recent past and remember how Turkish diplomats worked to save Jews from persecution and extermination during the Second World War. Although it is neither as emphasized or as well-known as the stories of Oskar Schindler or Raoul Wallenberg, it is a fact that Turkish diplomats provided official documents such as citizenship cards and passports to thousands of Jews. Just to give one example, the Turkish ambassador Behiç Erkin -in order to save the Jews- gave the Nazis documents certifying that their property, houses and businesses, belonged to Turks. In this way, many lives were saved. Yet another example is that of the Turks who organized boats to carry Jews to safety in Turkey. My intention in mentioning this is that Muslim Turks' attitude for centuries has demonstrated that Turks and Jews have continued to help each other in times of great crises and God willing, it will continue to be this way, no matter what happens.

For hundreds of years, Jews have known suffering, pain, and have never been at ease. Since the Diaspora, they have been expelled from almost every place they ever went for centuries. And now there are some who say they want the Jews to leave Israel also. The question arises, “Where are they supposed to go?” The Jews, the people of Israel, have the right to live in the Holy Land, in peace and security; indeed, it is so commanded by God Himself in the Qur'an: “And thereafter We said to the Children of Israel: 'Dwell securely in the Promised Land.'” (Surah Al-Isra, 104) Therefore, no one who professes submission to God and heeds the Word of God can oppose their existence in the Holy Land. And as Turks, as Muslims as much as we want the welfare of humanity, we want Jews to live in peace as well. We will always make our best efforts to ensure this goal. To do otherwise is to stand in defiance to the Will of God Himself.


The author is a political and religious commentator from Turkey, and an executive producer at a Turkish TV. She is also the spokesperson of a prominent international interfaith organization. She can be reached on http://www.facebook.com/sinemtezyapar and https://twitter.com/SinemTezyapar.

German university fires professor for denying Holocaust


The University of Aachen in Germany fired historian Vladimir Iliescu for claiming the Holocaust never happened in Romania.

The institution  “cancelled the teaching contract” of Iliescu “immediately after statements he made to the Romanian Academy became known,” a spokesperson for RWTH Aachen told JTA on Tuesday, adding that the university was “appalled” by his words.

“In Romania there was persecution against Jews, 20,000 Jews died, but this is not a Holocaust,” Iliescu said last month during an address organized by the Romanian Academy in Bucharest.

The 87-year-old Iliescu was temporary professor of Ancient History at RWTH Aachen in 1985 and was appointed supernumerary professor in 1993.

“In recent years, he delivered survey lectures on Eastern European history without remuneration,” RWTH Aachen wrote in a statement.” As far as the University knows, Iliescu does not have any publications on the topic of the holocaust.”

“The Holocaust in Romania is a huge lie,” Iliescu said at his Bucharest lecture, which was filmed. “The Holocaust happened in Germany and Hungary, since only from these countries Jews were sent to Auschwitz. However, all the Jews who were deported to Transylvania by Marshal Antonescu returned home and lived an almost normal life.”

Romania, an ally of Nazi Germany from 1940 to 1944, had a Jewish population of about 757,000 before World War II, when “extreme anti-Semitic tendencies escalated,” according to Yad Vashem.

The Israeli Holocaust museum's website says that Romanian and German troops murdered 380,000-400,000 Jews in areas controlled by Romania during the rule of Ion Antonescu.

Holocaust-denying bishop expelled from radical Catholic sect


Bishop Richard Williamson, who has denied the Holocaust, was expelled from a radical Catholic sect for disobeying his superiors.

Williamson was expelled from the Society of Saint Pius X, which opposes Church reforms decided by the second Vatican Council, the society said Wednesday. The British bishop is opposed to recent society efforts to reintegrate into the Catholic Church.

He and three other bishops who are members of the society were excommunicated from the Catholic Church in 1988. Pope Benedict XVI rehabilitated the bishops in January 2009 in hopes of healing a rift between conservative and progressive Catholics.

Williamson gave an interview just before the rehabilitation to the Swedish SVT broadcaster in which he called the murder of Jews in gas chambers during the Holocaust “lies, lies, lies.” He also allegedly denied that any Jews were murdered in gas chambers during the Holocaust and insisted that not more than 300,000 European Jews were killed in total.

The interview, given in Regensburg, Germany, also was was available on the Internet.

In 2010, the Regensburg court found him guilty of incitement to hate and fined him.

Italian Prime Minister says he will stand by country’s Jews


Italy’s prime minister promised Italian Jews he would stand beside them in the fight against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

“We know that anti-Semitism has not been eradicated in Europe,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said at a ceremony Tuesday night marking the 69th anniversary of the World War II round-up and deportation of 1,024 Roman Jews to Auschwitz. “We will not leave you alone.”

Monti, who was joined by Rome's mayor, several government ministers and other officials, spoke before several thousand people gathered outside Rome’s Great Synagogue to mark the anniversary. Earlier, many had taken part in a torchlight memorial march through the city.

Monti promised that the government would act against mounting racial prejudice and xenophobia in Europe.

Remembering racist persecution during World War II, he said, “means also assuming a responsibility: to combat every form of anti-Semitism and racism and to work so that minorities are protected and not discriminated against.”

Warning against the dangers of Holocaust denial and revisionism, Monti urged people to remember what Holocaust survivor Primo Levi once wrote: “Those who deny Auschwitz are ready to do it again.”

Auschwitz museum won’t let Holocaust denier lead tour


The Auschwitz museum will not allow Holocaust denier David Irving to give a tour at the site of the former concentration camp.

Irving, a British historian, cannot lead a tour group at Auschwitz because he is not a licensed tour guide, officials of Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum told the German Press Agency DPA.

Irving arrived in Poland this week to lead a tour of British and American tourists to important Nazi sites, including Hitler’s headquarters and the Treblinka death camp, as well as the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz. 

In an interview earlier this month with the British Daily Mail, Irving criticized Polish authorities for turning Auschwitz into a “money-making machine,” and accused them of building fake watchtowers. He said other death camps have been neglected because they are not as “marketable” and “don’t have a Holiday Inn down the road.”

Irving was jailed for Holocaust denial in Austria in 2006 for a 1989 speech in which he said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz.

Denying the Deniers


This month marks nine years since Holocaust denier David Irving lost his libel suit against historian and scholar Deborah Lipstadt, who chronicled her battle against him in the book, “History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving” (HarperCollins, 2005). Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, has just unveiled the translations of the popular “Myths & Facts” sheets, which help refute deniers with historical evidence, in Arabic, Farsi, Turkish and Russian.

On this Holocaust Remembrance Day — 70 years since the start of World War II — Lipstadt discusses with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency the changing face of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism, how the next generation of Jews relates to the Holocaust and the role it should play in forging Jewish identity, and why Hollywood loves her story.

Question: What has happened to you and the field of Holocaust denial since the end of the trial and when your book came out?

Deborah Lipstadt: After the lawsuit I didn’t change in any way, what I have to say didn’t change in any way, but people give me more credence and listen more carefully to what I have to say. I went head-to-head with the world’s leading Holocaust denier, and thanks to terrific lawyers and a terrific research team and the support of lots of people, we were able to expose the lies and distortions in which he engages — and by extension all Holocaust deniers, [who] either make up the lies or repeat the lies.

Have we solved the problems of Holocaust denial? Of course not. We did provide precise explanations by following their footnotes. By tracking their sources we proved that what they said are lies and inventions. We didn’t prove what happened, we proved that what they say happened did not happen.

Q: What’s the difference?

DL: There’s a difference. I wasn’t proving how many people were murdered at Auschwitz. But when they say only 68,000 people were killed — it didn’t happen. We weren’t proving how many people were killed — we were showing that their contentions are based on lies, distortions and inventions and there’s nothing to what they say.

Q: Is that how you advise people to deal with Holocaust deniers?

DL: The first way is to see if the facts prove the case — but you might have to be more of a specialist to do this: If they say ‘At this meeting Hitler said X, Y and Z,’ you can go and check if they changed the date or a fact — and suddenly their point is not a point. The second way is by citing the facts: If they say, ‘How do we know there were gas chambers?’ you can say, ‘Let me show you the German plans for gas chambers.’ The third way is deductive reasoning or logic. Deniers will say that the very fact that there are so many survivors proves that the Holocaust never happened, because the Germans were so powerful and so efficient that if they wanted to kill the Jews, they would have killed the Jews. How do you counter that? [You say], ‘The Germans wanted to win the war, the Germans wanted to defeat Moscow’ but they didn’t — this claim that the Germans were so all-powerful, we know this is not true, it makes no sense. But I don’t bother to answer deniers. Just the people who might be influenced by them.

David Irving

British revisionist historian David Irving.
Photo by Martyn Hayhow/AFP

Q: Why don’t you fight deniers?

DL: It’s like trying to convince a committed anti-Semite that not all Jews are rich or conniving. It all starts from an illogical premise. Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism [are] prejudice. Think about the etymology: pre-judge. Don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve made up my mind. So if you try to argue with a person who is committed to a completely illogical premise, then you’re lost to begin with — you’re already sucked into their world of fantasy.

Q: How has Holocaust denial changed since your trial and book?

DL: I see the evolution of Holocaust denial — there is what I call ‘soft-core denial.’ Hard-core denial is David Irving or Bishop [Richard] Williamson. Soft-core is more slippery. It’s ‘Why do we have to hear so much about the Holocaust?’ or saying, ‘the genocide of the Palestinians.’ Soft-core denial is not denying the facts, but either inverting it so the victims become the perpetrators — ‘Why did the Germans hate the Jews? Because they Jews were rich and conniving’ — as if to say they deserved it. It’s justifying it. Soft-core denial is also making a false comparison, and that dilutes what the Holocaust was. It’s a much more slippery kind of manifestation, but it’s very much there.

Q: How do you fight it?

DL: It’s much harder. You have to go back and zero in on what it is — you can say, ‘Look, you might disagree with Israel’s policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians or that they should not have gone into Gaza, but to call this a genocide is to deny what a genocide is.’ They are not denying the Holocaust but they are making a false comparison, which elevates by a factor of a zillion any wrongdoings Israel might have done, and lessens by a factor of a zillion what the Germans did. And that’s not to defend everything Israel does, but you can’t call it a Holocaust unless you want to distort what the Holocaust is. When you begin to use the Nazi term and you begin to compare Israeli soldiers — who are not angels and sometimes do awful things for which they should be criticized and punished — that’s different than genocide. The Holocaust was state-sponsored. It came from Berlin, and Berlin worked to make sure that every Jew on which it could lay its hands would be killed. In no way can you compare what’s going on in the Middle East to that. Even if you have the extreme belief that there should be no State of Israel, to make the argument that Israel is committing genocide is a complete fabrication and a worm of soft-core denial.

Q: Is Holocaust denial on the rise?

DL: Holocaust denial is rising. I’m not going to yell, ‘The sky is falling.’ It is increasing. In part because of the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel [feelings], like you’ve seen ‘Sharon=Nazi,’ ‘Bush=Nazi.’ And because of anti-globalization forces, and because Israel is so close to America. Accusing Jews of atrocities is a very convenient way of engaging in anti-Semitism. It becomes a vehicle for anti-Semitism.

Q: Is anti-Semitism rising too?

DL: I just gave a seminar to the executive staff of the Holocaust museum on this subject. In the last few years, since Durban [the 2001 U.N. conference against racism], it has escalated, although it began long before that. There is a level of attacks that hasn’t been seen before. I am more concerned now than I have been in a long time, but I am not yelling ‘gevalt’ or yelling ‘head for the barricades’ or ‘the sky is falling.’

Q: Why have you decided to translate ‘Myths & Facts’ into Arabic, Farsi, Turkish and Russian?

DL: After my trial, Emory University felt there should be a digitized Internet access archive of the trial — it had the judgment, the appeal and everything. Over the course of time, we felt it was being used by a lot of lawyers, students, international agencies bringing cases against Holocaust deniers — but it was not easily accessible to a person on the street who has to respond to a Holocaust denier. It’s putting content in the hands of people who don’t know how to respond to Holocaust denier material — particularly sophisticated material. And then we realized in places like Iran, Russia and Turkey, there was an absence of a narrative to counter the charges. In America, there are a thousand sources you can use to answer a denier, but if you hear it in Egypt, that’s what you think is the truth because there’s no basic books on the Holocaust in the Arab- and Russian-speaking world. Eventually, we want to publish in Spanish — there’s a lot of denial in South America and Latin America.

Q: How has the Internet changed the conversation about the Holocaust?

DL: What the Internet has done is put a lot of unfiltered information out there, and by so doing it makes it harder for people to differentiate what is legitimate information and what is not; what is fact and what is fiction. The Internet is a wonderful thing — it allows us to spread information in a way we never did before. But it puts out a lot of lies and it’s easy access for people. Someone wrote to me that his son Googled ‘Jews, Soap and the Holocaust’ and the first four sites were Holocaust denial sites. This is a myth. Jews were not made into soap. It never happened — there might have been experiments. Deniers say, ‘This is another lie that Jews made up.’ That’s why I’m such a stickler and I get so upset and worried when you have people making up Holocaust memoirs like ‘Angel at the Fence.’ It’s fodder for the deniers. The deniers then say, ‘Here’s another example of a Jew being a denier. How can you believe “Night” [by Elie Wiesel] or “The Diary of Anne Frank” — it’s all lies.”’

Q: Do Jews of younger generations view the Holocaust differently from older generations?

DL: We grew up knowing survivors. We took it for granted. But they’re getting older, and they may have passed away. Those who were in the camps are few and far between. When I first started teaching my course on the Holocaust, I could choose between the survivors. Now it’s getting harder and harder.

Q: Does the younger generation relate to the Holocaust differently?

DL: When I hear someone say, ‘I studied the Holocaust in the fourth grade,’ I get nervous. It’s too young to understand! That’s a mistake. The Holocaust is much more de rigueur today. When we were growing up, no one studied it. There’s a Hebrew phrase [that means] ‘You tried to grab too much, you didn’t grab anything at all.’ We make too easy references and too easy comparisons to the Holocaust. I get very disturbed when people say, ‘Isn’t what’s going on right now, like 1939 in Europe?’ and I say ‘No, that’s ridiculous.’ But people often will make that statement. What’s going on now is bad. But it’s not a Holocaust, it’s not 1939. Jews in most places are living quite securely, but there are enough developments on the scene that there’s a cause for concern. I’m not saying things are good, but let’s think strategically instead of overreacting and not thinking smart.

 

Q: How does the Holocaust and anti-Semitism play a part in Jewish identity?

DL: I think we have to be very careful not to build Jewish identity on ‘oys,’ but on joys. We can’t build Jewish identity by saying, ‘Everyone hates the Jews’ — that’s a lousy reason to motivate Jewish identity. That’s why when you say to people, ‘Israel is under attack, so you should support it,’ it’s a very negative way to build a connection to Judaism. Support Israel because it’s a Jewish homeland, because it’s an amazing country. And it needs your support because it’s under attack.

Q: So how should younger Jews be educated about the Holocaust?

DL: I would teach about the Holocaust. I would never say, ‘Be strong in your Jewish identity because of the Holocaust,’ that’s a terrible message to teach a younger person. Be strong in your culture because of the amazing things that Jewish culture and heritage and tradition represent. And because it’s yours — not because everyone wanted to destroy us. Because it has given so much to the world, it has so much to teach, it has so much value to it. That’s why you should identify — not because of, but despite. I remember many years ago someone once said to me, ‘It’s so important that we have a Holocaust museum just to show deniers.’ Wrong. It’s important to have a Holocaust museum not because of the Holocaust deniers, but to teach about the event.

Q: Your book about the trial with David Irving has been optioned as a film?

DL: Producers at Sony Pictures were taken by the story of this trial. They think it’s important historically and [telling] the story of standing up against what they see as a struggle against an effort to twist history and spread hatred.

Q: What’s next for you?

DL: I’m writing a series for Nextbook on the impact of the Eichmann trial 50 years later [1961], and I’m also doing another book on Holocaust denial in the 21st century. In my first book [“Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory” (Plume, 1994)] there was no Internet to address, we didn’t have the rise of Holocaust denial in the Arab-Muslim world. We didn’t have all these Holocaust denier trials. We didn’t have soft-core denial. If you had told me way back when I wrote my first book that I would have been writing a second book, I would have said, ‘These people are like flat-earthers.’ I would have said, ‘They’re not important.’ I’ve come to see that they’re not important, but they can do significant damage.

For more information, visit www.hdot.org

 

New U.N. chief puts priority on Israeli-Palestinian peace


U.N. Chief Puts Priority on Israeli-Palestinian Peace

The new United Nations secretary-general said solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was key to wider peace in the Middle East.

“If the issues with the conflicts between Israel and Palestine go well, other issues in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Syria, are likely to follow suit,” Ban Ki-moon said in an interview with South Korea’s Hankyoreh newspaper published after he took office Sunday. “I will meet with the concerned parties as soon as possible.”

The sentiments recalled those of Ban’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, and run counter to Israel’s assertions that Arab and Muslim regimes often focus excessively on the Palestinians’ plight as a means of distracting from their own problems.

Shalikashvili: Look to Israel on Gays in Military

A former U.S. military chief of staff cited Israel’s experience in recommending allowing gays to openly join the military. Gen. John Shalikashvili, who was chief of staff under President Bill Clinton when the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was introduced, said it was time to move on to the next phase: open acceptance of gays in the military.

“I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces,” Shalikashvili wrote on Tuesday’s New York Times’ opinion page. “Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.”Shalikashvili cited “Israel, Britain and other allies in the fight against terrorism” as having militaries that have successfully integrated gays.

Report: Katsav Indictment Imminent

Israeli President Moshe Katsav will reportedly be indicted this month in a sex scandal. Yediot Achronot reported Monday that the State Attorney’s Office plans to file criminal charges within two weeks against Katsav, who has been accused of sexually molesting or raping several female employees. Katsav, who is due to step down this summer, has denied wrongdoing. According to Yediot, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has yet to decide whether to include rape on the indictment or make do with lesser charges. Mazuz’s office declined comment.

Jewish Group Sues Iran Conference Participants

The Forum of Jewish Organizations in Antwerp filed suit against participants in a recent Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran. The Belgian lawsuit includes anyone who gave a speech questioning the Holocaust at the conference sponsored this month by the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Holocaust denial is illegal in Belgium and is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. The purpose of the lawsuit is to cause legal problems for attendees who might want to visit Belgium, according to a Forum source. The rabbinate in Antwerp issued a declaration against conference participants and urged that the few Jewish attendees of the conference — mostly members of the fringe Neturei Karta group — be banned from Antwerp synagogues. There are 15,000 Jews in Antwerp; according to some estimates, at least half of whom are Orthodox.

Kosher Internet in Israel

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have reportedly secured “kosher” Internet service in Israel. Yediot Achronot reported Sunday that the Rabbinical Committee for Communications Affairs and Bezeq, Israel’s main telephone company, recently reached a deal on providing separate Internet servers for ultra-Orthodox subscribers. The servers will be supervised by rabbis to ensure that pornography is kept out and that users only have access to approved religious sites, Yediot reported.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Living in Denial


When Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa met with Jewish leaders in Washington recently, the topic was supposed to be the Mideast peace process. But the Egyptian official was pummeled on a different subject: the anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial that continue to flow from the government-controlled media in his country.

Moussa blandly promised the problem will be resolved when Israel and the Palestinians reach a final accord.

But his Jewish interrogators — and a growing number of Israelis — aren’t so sure. Across the political spectrum, Jewish leaders say the anti-Semitic surge casts doubt on the motives of Israel’s negotiating partners and on the underlying cultures that will ultimately determine whether peace treaties are worth the paper they’re written on.

Syria responded to new rounds of talks in January with a barrage of Holocaust denial, undermining support for the peace process in Israel, where voters must approve any deal giving Syria the Golan Heights.

Recently, a delegation of Americans for Peace Now leaders raised the issue of anti-Semitism in textbooks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat; his response was “deeply disappointing,” said APN political director Mark Rosenblum.

“It’s an ongoing, serious problem,” said Rosenblum. “Anyone who minimizes the degree of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment is sticking his head in the sand.”

Arab anti-Semitism, he said, “marginalizes those in Israel who are fighting for peace.”

Even in countries that have made peace with Israel — Egypt and Jordan — anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are on the rise.

And the rising chorus of anti-Semitism is undercutting support in Congress for a strong U.S. role in the peace process.

“It must be condemned,” said Henry Siegman, director of the Mideast program of the Council on Foreign Relations and a strong peace process supporter. “I recently wrote this in the Arabic press; the leaders of these countries have to have their feet held to the fire. I pointed out in the article that not a single political leader or clergyman in the Arab world has said a word condemning it.”

But the anger generated by the venomous rhetoric, he said, “should not be allowed to take the peace process hostage.

The motives behind the recent rise in Arab anti-Semitism are hard to sort out; what’s painfully evident are the consequences.

Daniel Pipes, a Mideast scholar who was one of the first to write about anti-Semitism in the Arab world, said Jew-hatred came late to Islam.

“The anti-Semitism found in the Christian world historically was not seen in Islam,” he said. “Jews and Judaism were an affront to the very truth of Christianity; that was not true of Islam.”

But with the birth of modern Israel, suddenly “Jews became a challenge,” he said.

Arab leaders found the language of Christian anti-Semitism useful for distracting populations from their economic woes and their failure to deliver on promises to wipe out the upstart Jewish state. By the late 1950s, European-style anti-Semitism had taken root in Arab countries — everything from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, still a perennial bestseller in Arabic, to the twisted theories of Holocaust denial.

Anti-Jewish animus, sown by governments to serve political purposes, played into the powerful feeling of victimization in the Arab world; traditional views of Jewish world domination provided convenient explanations for Arabic weakness in the face of an Israel that was seen as almost demonically strong.

Since the start of the Madrid peace process in 1991, bitter anti-Semitism has served another function: helping Arab governments defuse popular resentment about their decision to negotiate agreements with Israel.

Today’s rising anti-Semitism may reassure the Arab public that peace treaties don’t necessarily mean friendship with Israel.

Pipes pointed to Jordan, where the leadership has crafted a relatively warm peace — but where fierce anti-Semitism among the people is pulling it in the opposite direction.

“Jordan has a wonderful agreement with Israel — but civil society said ‘no’ with one voice. For the current king, it’s simply too painful to fight it,” Pipes said.

Other analysts say the expressions of anti-Semitism in Jordan are more a vestige of decades of education and political hostility to Israel.

“It will change — but it will take several generations,” said the CFR’s Henry Siegman.

Still, the impact is strong in Israel, whose citizens crave genuine change in Arab attitudes, not just paper treaties.

Just as troubling is the breadth of resurgent Arab anti-Semitism.

“In most places, support for progress, peace and reconciliation comes from the intelligentsia — writers, lawyers, doctors, judges,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “In the Arab world, it’s the opposite; the kind of anti-Semitic expressions we see today come most powerfully from these groups.”

It won’t change, he said, “until there is a real leadership effort to educate people, to counter this kind of expression in the media. So far, they’ve done nothing. In Egypt, we’ve had 22 years of peace, but Egypt is still the worst. Every editorial cartoon has Jews with hooked noses — grotesque caricatures. And nothing is being done to counter it.”

Other Jewish leaders say the Clinton administration has not done enough to persuade Arab leaders to speak out — although officials here say the issue has been raised countless times in the past year.

Recent anti-Semitic outbursts have disappointed and angered Israelis.

“The kind of anti-Semitism we’ve seen lately has a direct impact on the ability of the Israeli leadership to take risks for peace,” Foxman said. “Israelis ask — legitimately — how can you trust them if they do nothing to change the environment? It’s a hard question to answer.”

But that erosion of trust may be exactly the point, according to other analysts; the recent rise of anti-Semitism may be intended to derail the peace process and leave Israel holding the bag for the wreck.

“Maybe these countries really don’t want real peace but also don’t want to be seen as the culprits,” said an official with a right-of-center Jewish group. “Maybe the intention here is to use deeply offensive rhetoric to turn the Israeli people against peacemaking, so Israel will be the one blamed for ruining the peace process.”

Still, the growing clamor of Arab anti-Semitism shouldn’t turn Israel away from the current peace process, Foxman said.

“I tend to agree with Prime Minister Barak — that you have to recognize it as a problem and try to deal with it, but if you make changes in attitude a precondition of peace, you’ll never get peace. Still, it’s a troubling development.”

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