A dangerous policy.
Four years ago, the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust' was held in Tehran on December 11, 2006. Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, stated at the time that the aim of the conference was to "neither to deny nor prove the Holocaust but to provide an appropriate scientific atmosphere for scholars to offer their opinions in freedom about a historical issue."
Those who contributed to the scientific atmosphere at the conference, included David Duke, a Ku Klux Klan leader and former US state representative, Robert Faurisson, a convicted Holocaust denier from France and a number of other academic professors and educators all engaged in Holocaust Denial research and rhetoric. One such professor, Dr. Fredrick Toben, an Australian citizen, runs an Internet site vilifying Jews while promoting that Nazis did not commit the mass murder of the Jewish people. Several right-extremist politicians from Germany's neo-Nazi NPD party were invited as well, although the German government barred them from attending.
However, the central purpose of the conference went beyond providing a friendly environment for international Holocaust deniers to share their twisted sentiments. The Iranian Foreign Minister elaborated that "If the official version of the Holocaust is thrown into doubt, then the identity and nature of Israel will be thrown into doubt. And if, during this review, it is proved that the Holocaust was a historical reality, then what is the reason for the Palestinians having to pay the cost of the Nazis' crimes?"
That argument has been reiterated time and time again by Ahmadinejad, notably in exclusive interviews he has granted with US television networks; NBC and CBS. In two major interviews with the American TV networks, Ahmadinejad smoothly skirted over the reporters' questions about his Holocaust Denial, always deflecting his responses back to Palestinian issues and the State of Israel instead.
The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center calls Ahmadinejad's use of Holocaust Denial "a tool" of Iranian policy. "The Holocaust Denial campaign, as a main component of the Iranian regime's anti-Israeli policy, is not only an expression of the hatred for Jews which is rooted in Iranian politics and society, but also a clever, well planned strategy under Ahmadinejad." According to the IICC, Ahmedinejad uses the denial tactics to delegitimze the Zionist movement and the State of Israel as ideological and moral preparation for Israel destruction, as well as to increase Iranian influence among Palestinians while advancing Iranian aspirations for regional hegemony.
Indeed, Ahmadinjad's repeated rhetoric in promoting the Islamic Republic's anti-Israel agenda have been ultimately successful. Although the 'International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust' elicited much international condemnation in 2006, the Iranian President's repeated hateful rhetoric cause very few to flinch in the international community today.
Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel stated back in October 2008 that Ahmedinejad's annual appearances at the UN General Assembly demonstrates that the world has learned nothing from the Holocaust.
"Ten years ago, and less, the ruler of a country that announced its aspiration for Israel to be wiped off the map would not have dared appear and speak on the UN's podium," Wiesel stated in an Ha'aretz interview. A few months later, at the Durban II conference, a member of Ahmadinejad's entourage accosted Wiesel screaming at the Holocaust survivor, 'Zio-Nazi.'
Furthermore, US President Obama's friendly attempts to forge dialogue with Iran, while simultaneously giving Israel a cold shoulder, have scored no points with Ahmadinejad. A warm message from President Obama marking the Iranian new year was met with scorn from the Iranian leader. As reported by Reuters April 3, Ahmadinejad said the note contained "three or four beautiful words" but nothing new of substance.
"What changed? Your sanctions were lifted? The adverse propaganda was stopped? The pressure was alleviated? Did you change your attitude in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine," asked Ahmadinejad in a televised address. Iran supports Islamic insurgents targeting American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan both financially and militarily.
While Obama has decided to pursue new UN sanctions in response to Ahmadinejad's continued rejections, Iran according to Ahmadinejad, could easily cope with such petroleum sanctions.
"You should know that the more hostile you are, the stronger an incentive our people will have, it will double," he said.
Although President Obama would like to believe that he is dealing with a rational leader with whom dialogue will eventually reach, Ahmadinejad has never been one for Western rationality. After his UN speech in 2005, the Iranian president told Iran's leading cleric Ayatollah Javadi Amoli that he sensed a light surrounding him while he was delivering his address to world leaders at the General Assembly. "For 27-28 minutes all the leaders did not blink. They were astonished as if a hand held them there and made them sit. It had opened their eyes and ears for the message of the Islamic Republic," Ahmedinejad reportedly stated in a video made about his experience that was widely distributed across Iran, as reported by Golnaz Esfandiari in Radio Free Europe.
During his UN speech in 2005, Ahmadinejad called for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, who according to Muslim tradition is the final spiritual and political successor to Muhammad and savior of humankind who will return to lead an era of Islamic justice. The Iranian president has been quoted as saying that the "main mission of the revolution is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam."
If anything should be learned from Holocaust Memorial Day this year, it is that appeasement policies do not work with leaders like Hitler and Ahmadinjad. Seventy-two years ago, when France, Italy and Britain's Neville Chamberlain, agreed to the Munich Agreement with Germany, the European powers wrongly believed that the annexation of Czechoslovakia would stop the Hitler war-machine. Following this appeasement agreement, over 60 million people were killed in the Second World War, a horrific tragedy that took root when no one bothered to heed Hitler's anti-Semitic rhetoric and tirades.
Anav Silverman is the International Correspondent for Sderot Media Center: www.SderotMedia.org.il.