No doubt inspired by the perverse Holocaust conference sponsored two years ago by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, student members of the Islamist Basij militia published a book of cartoons mocking and minimizing the Shoah just in time for a festive distribution at a Tehran rally for Al-Quds Day. The annual hate-fest glorifies the Palestinian cause and is an opportunity for Iranians to wildly denounce Israel and America and bemoan the continuing presence of Jews in Jerusalem.
The 108-page book of 52 crude cartoons and satire, which evolved from a 2006 cartoon exhibition and competition, similarly has as its purpose to question the validity of the Holocaust itself, offering, according to the official Iranian news agency, “historical orientation on the Holocaust fiction and analyses of this historic distortion.”
Iranian and Arab Holocaust denial has been growing, and particularly as part of Ahmadinejad’s own strategy, as it has proven to be an effective tool for satisfying some of the same motives of deniers in America and Europe – namely, further insulting the memory of human tragedy and torturing both the living and the perished by second-guessing the extent, nature, or even certitude of the Final Solution.
But where traditional deniers have stopped there – even as they condemn the Jews in general for perpetrating a great lie for the purpose of evoking the world’s continued sympathy and moral and financial support – the Muslim world has taken this revisionist effort to another level, accusing Zionism of creating and perpetuating the Holocaust lie for the express purpose of justifying Israel’s creation and the subsequent subjugation, persecution, and “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinians.
Thus, the Holocaust as myth serves a politically healing purpose for Iranians that no Western denier has needed to seek. Muslims, who do not care to mend the reputation of the Third Reich or defend its other nationalistic achievements by denying its role in the extermination of European Jewry, do want the reality, the actual occurrence of the Holocaust, to be proven false – if for no other reason than it would diminish most of Israel’s moral capital by eliminating the cataclysmic social and political event that led the world to accept and endorse the creation of a Jewish state.
It is also a politically expedient accomplishment to position the Palestinians as the ultimate victims among victimized peoples, and this is much easier without the inexpressible evil of the Holocaust as a core element of Israel’s tragic heritage. “After all,” as Jonathan Eric Lewis has written, “if Zionism manufactured the lie of the Holocaust, then the Arab world, in exposing the lie, can view itself as the double victim of European imperialism and Zionist propaganda about European history.”
If the victim status of Israel, and by extension all Jews, can be diminished by exposing the “lie” of the Holocaust, the Palestinians become the more aggrieved victims, a people victimized by former victims, the Jews, who spread the lie of their own suffering for material ends. Thus, for Ahmadinejad and other deniers, “denying the atrocity,” Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman put it, “denies any moral authority to victims of the atrocity.”
It is not without irony, of course, that while Ahmadinejad, not to mention Israel-haters in the West, want to rob Jews of the piece of dismal history that brought about the extermination of six million of their people, they are eager to repeat regularly the vile comparison they draw between the perceived behavior and shared values of the Zionist state and the Nazi regime.
Ahmadinejad and his like-minded brethren in the Muslim world have a secondary motive for resenting the actuality of the Holocaust, which initially conferred on Israel victim status and gained the world’s sympathy. If the Iranian president can point to a great lie that led to Israel’s creation, if he can ascribe to Israel a conspiratorial and exploitive deception that garnered the world’s financial and moral support for the “Zionist regime,” as he is fond of calling it, he can also dismiss the successes of the democratic Israeli state and help explain why Iran’s own society and culture have languished in comparison: Jewish wile and duplicity.
Whether or not people believe the Holocaust actually took place is, for Ahmadinejad and other Jew-haters, immaterial; more important for them is slandering and causing hurt to Israelis, and in the most cruel and hateful way, by accusing them of having turned into a nation that practices genocide and engages in inhuman barbarism – just like the Nazis did.