MAHMOUD Ahmadinejad has an impeccable sense of timing. Just a week after the Iraq Study Group recommended a heart-to-heart with him, the president of Iran convened a conference in Tehran to examine whether the Holocaust really occurred. The answer from such “scholars” as David Duke, the notorious former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, was a resounding no.
On one level, Ahmadinejad’s embrace of Holocaust denial might seem surprising. A man who has repeatedly called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” surely has no problem with the murder of Jews. You might expect him to adopt the position espoused by the Egyptian newspaper Al Akhbar, which a few years ago ran an editorial praising Adolf Hitler (“of blessed memory”) and complaining only that “his revenge on [the Jews] was not enough.”
Or you might expect Ahmadinejad to take the far more common line in the Muslim world, which is to admit that, sure, some Jews died, but it was a lot fewer than 6 million and, anyway, what’s the big deal? A lot of Gentiles died too. What makes these Yids so special? This is the position taken by Arab “moderates” such as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose doctoral dissertation pooh-poohed the figure of 6 million dead Jews (“no one can verify this number”) while expressing great concern that “the German people sacrificed 10 million” -- implying that the killers suffered more than their victims.
Ahmadinejad does not hide behind such equivocations. He flatly calls the Holocaust a myth. But he is hardly a model of consistency. At the same time that he denies the Holocaust, Iran’s president claims that Israel was established by the Europeans as penance for
This is the crux of the matter. In Ahmadinejad’s view, shared by countless others across the Middle East, whatever the Nazis did is no business of theirs, so why inflict the “Zionist entity” on their region? It is only a small step from this position to claiming that Israel’s destruction is justified.
POINTLESS though it may be to argue with a madman, it is worth noting that Muslims were not as blameless in the genocide of the Jews as Ahmadinejad and his ilk would have it. Arabs were, on a small scale, cheerleaders and enablers of the Final Solution. The most famous example was Haj Amin Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem (and uncle of Yasser Arafat), who took refuge in Berlin in World War II. A rabid Nazi, he personally lobbied Hitler to kill as many Jews as possible and even helped out by recruiting Bosnian Muslims to serve in the Waffen SS.
Robert Satloff, one of the world’s smartest Arabists, reveals other links between the Arabs and the Holocaust in his groundbreaking new book, “Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach Into Arab Lands.” He shows how the Nazis set up the machinery of death in North Africa. Although “only” 4,000 to 5,000 Jews died before the Allies liberated the area in 1943, many more were consigned to forced labor camps in hellish conditions.
“Arabs played a role at every level,” Satloff wrote. “Some went door to door with the Germans, pointing out Jews for arrest. Others led Jewish workers on forced marches or served as overseers at labor camps.”
The picture is not entirely one-sided because, although most Arabs were either apathetic or sympathetic to the Nazis, a small number helped their Jewish neighbors. Satloff uncovered lost tales of “righteous Gentiles,” such as the wartime rulers of Morocco and Tunisia. And on the whole, he found that Arabs behaved no worse under German occupation than did Europeans.
But that isn’t saying much because almost every country on the Continent was heavily complicit in the extermination of their Jewish populations. Satloff’s research makes a mockery of Ahmadinejad’s protestations that the Holocaust -- if it occurred! -- was someone else’s responsibility. Individual Muslims were complicit in the horrors of the 1940s, even if, under foreign rule, they were not the primary culprits.
Even worse, while Europe has disowned its terrible history, the Nazis continue to be glorified in the Middle East. (“Mein Kampf” is a perennial bestseller in the region.) Nowhere else in the world is Holocaust denial so prevalent. Ahmadinejad deserves thanks for calling the world’s attention to this pervasive sickness.