Beirut Conference news – ADL Press Release (2/11/2001)

Holocaust Deniers to Convene in Lebanon

Jerusalem, Israel, February 11, 2001 ... Holocaust deniers are taking their drumbeat of anti-Semitism to the Middle East, where they plan to embark on a new campaign to attract the like-minded to their brand of hatred against Israel and the Jewish people.

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Beirut, Lebanon will be the site of a major conference of Holocaust deniers scheduled to begin on March 31.

Co-sponsored by the California-based Institute of Historical Review (IHR), the leading American association of Holocaust deniers, it will be the first major organized conference on Holocaust denial to be held in an Arabic-speaking nation.

The conference, titled “Revisionism and Zionism,” signals a major shift in strategy for the Holocaust denial movement, which once primarily focused its anti-Semitic propaganda on Europe and the United States. In the past, the IHR has held its annual gatherings closer to home, in places such as Los Angeles or Orange County, Calif.

“The persistent drumbeat of Holocaust denial is moving to the Middle East, where the deniers are reaching out to Islamic regimes to find sympathy for their anti-Semitic and racist views,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “The Holocaust deniers have spread their message in the United States. They have met with like-minded anti-Semites in Europe. Now they are fomenting anti-Semitism in Muslim states where there is a sinister track record for the use of Holocaust denial against Israel. For the Holocaust deniers, the already charged Mideast environment is fertile ground for their views.”

Conference organizers are not publicizing the location of the four-day conference, saying only that it will convene somewhere in Beirut. IHR has stated that any visitors, including journalists, who arrive in Lebanon with passports containing an Israeli visa or stamp will not be admitted into the country. IHR has also indicated that, in a departure from past meetings, they will be presenting lectures in Arabic, French and English in partnership with another Holocaust denial group, the Association Vérité et Justice of Switzerland. Jürgen Graf, the president of this group, fled to Iran in November 2000 after his appeals of a 1998 Swiss conviction for inciting racial hatred were denied.

Holocaust Denial: A Daily Diet for Arab Media

Anti-Semitism and racial theories still play an important cultural role in many Middle Eastern countries, where anti-Semitic stereotypes and canards are an almost daily occurrence in the state-run media. Holocaust denial has become part of this daily diet in Egypt, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and Qatar, who use it as a means to foment anti-Semitic hatred among their people.

Holocaust denial, which has become one of the most important vehicles for contemporary anti-Semitism, is especially attractive to the ideologies of anti-Israel Arab and Muslim groups. They believe Holocaust denial can undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish State by claiming that the Holocaust is a historical fabrication created to win sympathy for Jews and Israel.

Fertile Ground for Hate

After suffering several legal defeats and other setbacks in Europe, where hate speech is illegal in several countries, Holocaust deniers now see the Middle East as a fertile ground to spread anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews. The denial movement may have been emboldened by the recent renewal of Israeli-Palestinian tensions and the breakdown of the peace process.

Several nations in the region, including Lebanon, have unofficially taken up the cause, in the media and in speeches by political and religious leaders. Some of the most notorious figures in the denial movement, including Mark Weber and Ernst Zündel, have been given significant airtime on Iran’s official radio station, IRIB. In May 2000, the Iranian embassy in Vienna granted refuge to another Holocaust denier, Wolfgang Frohlich. French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy received major support from Middle Eastern countries during his trial in 1998. He received a hero’s welcome when he toured the region after the trial. Holocaust denial has also been expressed in the media controlled by the Palestinian Authority and on Radio Islam, an anti-Israel radio station that broadcasts from Sweden.

EDITORS NOTE: For additional information on Holocaust denial and to arrange interviews with ADL experts, contact the Media Relations Department via email or telephone at (212) 885-7749.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.