reflections on holocaust denial

So, after Wes Streeting’s and the NUS’s condemnation of our government still attending the Durban II UN anti-racism conference, after some countries walked out after some apparently ‘anti-semitic’ remarks… it got me thinking.

First of all, what was actually said?
The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to Wes, denied the Holocaust. So.. what did he actually say? Well, according to his official speech (and the English translation thereof…) he said: “Following world war two, [powerful states] resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless, on the pretext of Jewish suffering and the ambiguous and dubious question of the Holocaust” – now, this is pretty much holocaust denial. But, according to the French translation, he deviated from his original speech and said “the abuse of the question of the Holocaust” instead of “ambiguous and dubious question of the holocaust”. These obviously give the two sentances entirely different meanings. It is telling that the conventional press has reported the first, more antisemitic, quotation rather than the second. To actually understand completely the finer nuances of what he said we would have to speak Farsi, failing that, i would go with the French translation.

Now, we all know that ahmadjinehad has blatently denied the holocaust before, so perhaps the finer nuances of what he did or didn’t say isn’t important. What is important to me is the monopoly on knowledge that we have here. Let me explain.

We all know that history has a bias towards white, middleclass, heterosexual, judeo-christian men. If it wasn’t, there would be no need for LGBT or black history month… the fact that most historians are white, middleclass, etc.. means that they choose not to record or not to find interesting the bits of history, the sequence of events that include issues that doesn’t directly effect them. What we learn from this is that history and the way we view it is socially constructed, people choose what is interesting to them, their own political perspective, and write it down. History as such is also complete pot luck. Some perspectives on events will be ignored, or not last, or indeed be destroyed at a later date because it does not match someone else’s view on that history.
Now, its pretty obvious that the actual events described as the holocaust happened, and it was tragic and awful. So many Jews, gays, intellectuals, travellers, eastern Europeans, and other minorities died needlessly. Now, how we deal with this knowledge, what perspectives we as a society find most important is interesting.

As some helpful poster on ednet pointed out, the actual questioning of how the knowledge of the holocaust is used today is hardly a new thing. Norman Finkelstein, the Jewish historian whose parents survived concentration camps, is quoted as saying that the state of israel is “one of the world’s most formidable military powers, with a horrendous human rights record, (and has) cast itself as a victim state”( in order to garner)”immunity to criticism” (by using the knowledge of the Holocaust).
Is it OK for people to use the memory of the holocaust to ease israel out of being accountable for its oppression of Palestine and its recent war crimes in Gaza? Finkelstein himself has been described anti-semitic. Just like any other pro-palestinian critic of the state of israel is constantly fielding the suggestions and accusations of anti-semitism, i guess.

And, so, with Holocaust denial being a crime in some countries in Western Europe, it seems to have far more reaching consequences than just being called racist, but actually having to do time for having a certain view on a historical event? How is this crime defined? Would a Holocaust denier be someone who, like Finkelstein, questions how the holocaust is used? or would it be someone who has to outright say that the holocaust categorically didnt happen? What is the use of such a crime? Why is it important to have it on the law books? do governments have a right to legislate about history? is it a form of thought-control?
i dont know the answers to those questions, obviously, but there are interesting to think about nonthe less.

It seems to be an interesting result of the ‘Holocaust Industry’ (Finkelsteins phrase) that some far-left German political groups have taken on defending Israel. They seem to see themselves as anti-fascist, and see fascism as anti-jew, and so align themselves with Jews and the state of israel, and defend it till the end of the earth, even when faced with with Israel’s oppression of Palestine.

What is real fascism? Well, i would say that to be anti-fascist is to be anti-oppression. that is, anti racism against jews, and iranians, and everyone else. Its anti all oppression, whereever you find it.
So, remember the holocaust… it was tragic, and is the true face of fascism, but dont let you feel unable to not criticise the oppression that is happening, right now, against the palestinians. Or anyone else for that matter.

Words over…


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