December 18, 2006
Stephen Gowans in Counterpunch, with an interesting take on the Holocaust conference:
The whole sordid business of the Holocaust conference, and earlier, the Holocaust International Cartoon Contest, would never have happened had the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, not run flagrantly racist cartoons mocking the prophet Mohamed, and had Western governments not dismissed the resultant flap as an over-reaction by a bunch of hot-headed Mohammedans. It's a free speech issue, the West's politicos said. You Muslims -- simmer down.In a way, this reminds me of the flap over Hugo Chavez calling Bush the Devil. It's possible Western journalists devote so much effort to taking the cretinous dissembling of world leaders at face value that they lose the ability to notice when someone might be sending a message on another level. Or, you know, just having a lend of us.
What a crock, retorted Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "In this freedom, casting doubt or negating the genocide of the Jews is banned, but insulting the beliefs of 1.5 billion Muslims is allowed." Bull's eye.
With the Jyllands-Posten scandal still resonating, Iran's largest newspaper, Hamshari, counterpunched. It would sponsor a cartoon contest to mock the Holocaust. If you can mock the prophet Mohamed, and say it's a free speech issue, then surely we can mock the Holocaust, and say the same.
As it turned out, the cartoons didn't do much mocking. They didn't present the genocide of Europe's Jews as a myth, or mock its victims. Instead, they explored the themes of Israeli brutality against the Palestinians, use of the Holocaust to justify anti-Palestinian crimes, and parallels between Israel and Nazi Germany.
Judge for yourself. The drawings showed: A vampire wearing a Star of David drinking the blood of Palestinians; Ariel Sharon in a Nazi uniform; three army helmets together, two with swastikas and one with the Star of David; a rabid dog with a Star of David on its side and the word Holocaust around its collar; a dove prevented from flying because it is chained to a Star of David; US president George Bush seated at a desk swatting doves; an Israeli asleep with three Arab heads mounted to the wall above his bed; an Israeli soldier pouring fuel into a tank from a gasoline can that reads Holocaust on the side; a razor blade in the ground, representing the illegal Israeli-built separation wall, bearing the word Holocaust; two firefighters, each with Stars of David on their chests, using Palestinian blood to extinguish flames issuing from the word Holocaust.
While the director of the exhibit correctly pointed out to a New York Times reporter that the drawings were anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist, not anti-Jewish, the newspaper nevertheless ran the story under the headline "Iran exhibits anti-Jewish art." Conflation of Israel and Zionism with Jew, and therefore anti-Israel and anti-Zionist with anti-Jewish, is a handy howitzer to have around whenever you need to blow away opposition to Israel.
This month's conference was similarly described as anti-Jewish and while the conference certainly featured a cast of unsavory Jew-haters, not all the participants were of the same stripe.
Shiraz Dossa, an admirer of Noam Chomsky and Hannah Arendt, who teaches Third World politics at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, delivered a paper on the abuse of the Holocaust to justify the war on terror. Dossa calls the Holocaust a reality and says that "anyone who denies it is a lunatic." He accepted the invitation to speak at the conference to help Tehran make its point: That the West's commitment to freedom of speech extends only to insulting someone else's sacred cows.
Last point: If the real aim of the conference was to call the Holocaust into question, it would hardly make sense to assemble a gang of hacks, flakes and whack-jobs whose credibility is nil. On the other hand, if the aim was to show that free speech doesn't justify a repellent, silly, and disgusting display, inviting David Duke and his gaggle of misfits, was the right stroke.