Stop This Obsession With Rohani’s View of the Holocaust

Why feed the fallacy that the Nazi genocide forms the base of Israel’s foundation?

Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer
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Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer

Nu, so has he said it yet? Has the man from Tehran actually uttered the H-word? Is he willing to attest to its uniqueness or is he simply referring to it as another crime of history? Can we move on to more advanced questions? What’s his opinion on the Fuehrer Prinzip and does he have a theory to explain the lack of a written order? And where does he stand on Rumkowski? Savior of Charlatan? We have to know the answers to all these questions and we will not let Hassan Rohani rest until he has danced the dance of the six million veils and has been stripped before us of any sliver of pretense of doubt of denial. And then what?

For the last couple of weeks, as Rohani has given interview after interview to the Western media and sat for off-record briefings with senior American journalists, the ridiculous charade has repeated itself. Each time he is asked about the Holocaust and he gives some kind of answer. I’m not entirely clear what he actually said because I don’t speak Persian and there has apparently been some controversy over the translation of some of his remarks (even in the case of one CNN interviewer who does speak Persian). But some people feel that he has put some distance between himself and the previous Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was considered a Holocaust-denier, and others feel he has simply been obfuscating. I don’t know and I don’t care.

Even if Rohani was to go to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and recite aloud the 4 million names collected there and then join the researchers there for a couple of shifts trying to locate the other 2 million names still missing, what would that change? Would that change the fact that the regime he serves is sponsoring mass murder of Syrian civilians? For some reason we have transformed acknowledgment of the Holocaust into a political litmus test, as if we need some Iranian to confirm that our great-grandparents were slaughtered 70 years ago. The whole exercise is a mockery of their memory.

I doubt there are many events in human history that are as well-documented and as deeply researched as the Holocaust. Not that I need the historians when I can still talk to thousands of survivors who are living witnesses. But Holocaust denial is not about historical research; the David Irving trial made that quite clear 13 years ago. There is not one reputable historian in the world who would even think of questioning the accepted facts. A few crackpots who still claim that a few Jews may have died from typhus during the Second World War but that there were no gas chambers - they are of no interest to anyone today. What we have today is not Holocaust denial in that sense but instead an attempt by various opponents of Israel to trivialize and marginalize its memory in the belief, as one Iranian writer has said, that it is “the Achilles heel of the Zionists.” Their belief that the only reason Israel has managed to survive over the last 60 years is the hold it has over the Western nations due to the Holocaust. Whether or not they believe the Holocaust ever happened and how many Jews were killed in it is irrelevant. The Iranian leadership believes that if they can cause the world to believe that the Holocaust was no greater an injustice than other war crimes, or that it was comparable to the Palestinian tragedy in 1948, Israel will suffer a fatal blow.

And the Israeli and Jewish leaders and journalists who are making a fuss of whatever Rohani said or did not say are helping them. Their obsession with Iran’s Holocaust obsession is strengthening the fallacy that the death of six million Jews was the reason or justification for Israel’s establishment, and not 2,000 years of Jewish prayers for the return to Zion and the founding of political Zionism half a century before the Second World War broke out. While the Holocaust further emphasized the fundamental justice of a Jewish state, it was not and cannot be in itself a reason. And in the same way even if tomorrow a branch of Yad Vashem was to open in every city in Iran, it would not necessarily change anything in Tehran’s policies. Thirty years ago Iran was Israel’s closest regional ally; did all Iranians then commemorate the day of Auschwitz’s liberation? Probably not. Alliances in this part of the world are not based on friendship or shared values, only shared interests. Some of Israel’s erstwhile Turkish, Egyptian, Palestinian and Saudi allies have also dabbled in Holocaust denial, but those are the kind of people you have to do business with.

Our problem with Iran is the nuclear weapons they are developing that could launch a mad arms race in the region, their support of a murderous regime in Syria which has already killed in two and a half years of civil war more people and made more refugees than in the 66 years of the Israel-Palestine conflict and their sponsorship of Hezbollah, which has carried out terror attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets around the world. Ignoring the Holocaust has always been the hallmark of the worst dictatorships; the Soviet Union was prepared only to commemorate the “victims of Fascism,” and persecuted Jewish writers who tried in any way to detail the genocide of Jews. Iran’s attitude towards the Holocaust is a symptom of its repressive nature, but that is the problem of Iran’s long-suffering citizens and not ours.

Rohani steps out of his plane.Credit: AP

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