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Ultra-Orthodox, Holocaust deniers gather in Tehran

12. Januar 2009

By Amiram Barkat, Yoav Stern and Gideon Alon (www.haaretz.com)

An Iranian-sponsored conference on the Holocaust opened in Tehran yesterday, to a worldwide chorus of denunciation, with the main topic on the agenda being whether the Holocaust actually happened. Some 60 invited guests from 30 countries are participating in the event, which will also discuss the connection between the Holocaust and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki made the aims of the conference clear in his opening address. While insisting that the goal „is not to deny or confirm the Holocaust,“ he quickly added: „If the occurrence of this event is cast in doubt, the identity of the Zionist regime will also be cast in doubt.“ Advertisement The invited guests include several notorious Holocaust deniers, headed by Professor Robert Faurisson, formerly of the University of Lyon. Professor Dina Porat, who heads Tel Aviv University’s Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism, noted however that several other prominent Holocaust deniers, such as David Irving of Britain and Ernst Zundel of Germany, were unable to attend because they are currently serving prison sentences for Holocaust denial. Also attracting much attention at the conference was a small group of anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Jews from the United States, Britain and Austria. One of them, Rabbi Israel David Weiss of the U.S., said: „We came here to reveal to the world the use that the Zionists make of the Holocaust.“ The conference has sparked worldwide criticism, including from the American and German governments and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and the German government even tried to prevent German passport holders from attending. But the event has elicited criticism from the Iranian government’s domestic opposition too. In an article published recently in an Iranian paper, a senior university lecturer, Sadegh Zibakalam, blasted Holocaust denial and termed the government’s policy on this issue „a mistake.“ Organizations involved in Holocaust commemoration and research also blasted the conference, which Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev described as part of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s campaign to eradicate the Jewish state. Attorney Khaled Mahameed, an Israeli Arab who founded his community’s first Holocaust museum, said that Iran refused to let him attend the conference. „I am disappointed, because I wanted to go to the conference and confront those who denied the Holocaust had taken place,“ he said. Mahameed, who argues that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will never be solved unless Arabs recognize the Holocaust’s impact on Jews, said that he also wanted to explain that by denying the Holocaust, Iran is hurting the very people it claims to be trying to help – the Palestinians – by „augmenting Israelis‘ feelings of persecution.“ A group of Israeli Holocaust survivors also tried to attend the conference, with Germany’s assistance, but they, too, were denied entry. Iran denies visas to Israeli passport holders or anyone with an Israeli visa stamp. The Knesset held a special session on the conference yesterday and passed a resolution denouncing it, with the support of all factions except the Arab parties. The resolution also urged the UN and „all enlightened countries“ to fight Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. „What is happening in Tehran is not the problem of Israel or the Jewish world, but of all those who uphold the values of the free world,“ Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in her address to the plenum.

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