After Poisoned Iranian Rain'

"Denial of the Holocaust: Stupidity seizing our summits" is the headline of an important article published last weekend by Lebanese thinker Hazem Saghieh in the international newspaper Al-Hayat, which is published in London. An important thinker, an important newspaper and a very important article that appeared on the editorial page.

"Most importantly, the `culture' of denying the Holocaust - which is, among other things, the outcome of lack of education - has grown to occupy a dominant position in Arab and Islamic public life," wrote Saghieh. "Although the issue was about to come to an end and be confined to narrow margins that combine utter fanaticism with utter retardation, the heavy, poisoned Iranian rain blew on us and was welcomed, quite avidly, by the eager Arab deserts ... This means that we are not to be envied at all. The ailment is swelling up from the heart of the societies to the decision makers therein.

"It is not a coincidence that the elements of the bloc spreading and disseminating the above-mentioned `ideas' are those same elements who promise us salvation from occupations and darkness to a brighter and more glowing horizon. It is also not a coincidence that the same bloc represents an anti-modern sensitivity coupled with a certain regression to what has been tried many times before, in power as well as in opposition .... As for the preachers of democracy in the United States, they had better draw lessons from what is going on. No matter how ignorant they may be, they should know how ailing societies vote, when they do."

Saghieh is not hinting. He is asserting that when the Iranians in their millions elect a president like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when Egyptians elect the Muslim Brotherhood and when the Palestinians vote for Hamas, whose leader Khaled Meshal is a Holocaust-denier - it is better to rethink the question of democracy, just as it is well to examine the issues of education in the Arab countries. The one depends on the other, believes Saghieh.

Saghieh's article is unusual. He did not wait to ascertain whether there is anyone else besides him who deplores Holocaust denial. He also had the right timing: the day that Ahmadinejad proposed the establishment of a research institute to study and publish information on the Holocaust, and the day on which a "correction" was published with remarks by the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt, the knights of the new democracy there.

In the "correction," the leader, Mahdi Akef, explained first of all that the sermons he publishes weekly on the Brotherhood's Internet site, and in which he has used the expression "the myth of the Holocaust," are not the result of any coordination between him and the Iranian president. "I have not studied Ahmadinejad's remarks and I have not studied the matter of the Holocaust; ignorance of these matters at this time does no harm." Secondly, Akef wrote, "all in all," the United States is biased in favor of the Zionists to the point that anyone who denies the Holocaust is judged by it, and thirdly, the accusations against him were only intended to sully the Muslim Brotherhood in the context of its rousing victory in Egypt's elections. And above all, Akef does not understand why anyone is angry at him.

And on that very same day it appeared that there was also another saint. In the Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, also published in London, cleric and philosopher Zayn al-Abidin al-Rukabi, who is considered to be one of the leaders of the religious mainstream and has published many articles against extremism and the radicals, published a response article on the matter of Holocaust denial. This is what he says after he describes the "academic" discussion in the world concerning the existence of the Holocaust and, especially, the number who died in it: "The relative truth is that there is a basis to assume that the Holocaust did indeed occur and the prevailing trend (in proving its occurrence) does not deny it but, on the basis of circumstantial evidence, is of the opinion that it did occur." He uses "of the opinion," implying something less than believing.

Al-Rukabi mentions the writings of the late Polish-born professor Israel Shahak, bases himself on evidence about the way Hitler behaved toward minorities in Germany and says, in short: "It is not impossible that Hitler did implement a Holocaust against the Jews." He sums up by saying that in his view, "the Holocaust did indeed occur, but it must be understood in the context of a different truth, which is that extreme, historical, political and propagandistic exaggeration also encompasses the Holocaust, as in it there has been a mixture of imagination and falsehood together with the truth, and this is of course not to the benefit of those who have an interest in it. There is no necessity to mention the number six million in order to prove the crime that was committed against the Jews from any direction and in order to prove the Nazis' crimes. The cremation of a single individual is sufficient to see in this a loathsome crime and not only against the Jews, but also against the entire family of man, and it is as though whoever has cremated a single person has cremated an entire world."

Thus far, everything seems fine. "Seems," because the question of the large numbers of victims is problematic for Muslim Holocaust deniers (and of course not only for them). This is because the moment it is possible to say that even the murder of a single individual is a loathsome crime, then also the killing of one Palestinian, or one Arab, is a Holocaust. But Al-Rukabi does not use this analogy. He decides to be far more direct: "The mistake is to transform this tragedy, the cause of which was Aryan racism, into a `new racism' wrapped in the garb of anti-Semitism. Claiming anti-Semitism, Zionism is conducting a battle against every free individual in the world, who criticizes the excesses of Zionism and Israel's mistakes. These are systems that are based on a false premise - a premise to the effect that there is a certain race of humans that exclusively enjoys the title of holiness or freedom from error. Was this not the claim made by Hitler the Aryan - does it not resemble the claim of Semitic racism?"

Al-Rukabi, who has proved "circumstantially" that the Holocaust indeed occurred, goes on to describe the phenomenon of Zionism that Israel is spreading in the world; it is no wonder that the number of supportive reader responses was far greater than those who wanted to challenge him about his "enlightened" remarks.

In fact, only one respondent, a Palestinian who lives in Jerusalem, decided to attack the cleric's remarks. "I live in Jerusalem and come in contact with Jews every day and I talk with them about their feelings. Despite the crimes that Israel is committing against our Palestinian people, we cannot, neither according to plain logic nor according to morality, deny that there is an enormous gap between the Nazis' deeds, which are unparalleled in human history, and the behavior of Israel, however grave its hostility might be. I truly wish that the Arab brethren will be able to emerge from their crisis and their feelings - which are justified - that they have become the oppressed and the real victims, and that they will acknowledge the evil that was done to their fellow man, even if he is their most bitter enemy."

Bashar's buddies

One needn't exactly pity Syrian President Bashar Assad, but it seems as though his stock of friends is running out. Twice during the past month he tried to invite himself to Egypt and was rebuffed by President Hosni Mubarak. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is no longer talking to him with the same regularity as he did a year ago. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not exchanged a word with Bashar for quite some time, and only his aides talk with him on the phone. And now he is beset by another problem: This week Turkey denied that it is allowing Israel to build a radar station in Turkish territory, which would track what is happening in Syria. Turkey denies this - but can Bashar believe the denial?