Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ahmadinejad never denied the Holocaust either

I've written about this before, but its been a while and we are seeing this claim made so often recently that I am revisiting it.

It is now well known that Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never said Israel should be wiped off the map. His real statement was that the Zionist regime should be removed from history as were his examples the USSR, the Shah's regime in Iran and Hussein's regime. His real statement is just as offensive to supporters of Israel, but not as demonizing.

But I often see formulations such as "I can't support Ahmadinejad because he is a Holocaust denier but he never called for the physical destruction of Israel". The second part is true. The first part, not so much.

The origin is a statement Ahmadinejad made, if my memory serves, in December 2006 about Western Holocaust-denial laws: They have taken this myth and elevated it even over the word of God. A person can be imprisoned for questioning it. [Edit: My memory didn't serve, it was December 2005, thanks Ziad.]

The word here being translated as myth is likely more neutrally translated as "story". But even the word myth in this context would not be used as an assertion of untruth. He is talking about the status given to the story itself. His point does not require an assertion that the story is not true and he didn't make an assertion that the story, or even myth, is not true.

The assertion of the sentence is not that the Holocaust story is false, but that it has been put into a sacred category of stories whose questioning can lead to physical punishment at the hands of the state. His point is that the West is more crass than the Muslim world, because while the Muslim world will punish people for blaspheming God or what they consider the word of God, the West ignores blasphemy against God but punishes public doubters of the Holocaust story.

Ahmadinejad has been asked about this essentially in every interview of any length since. He has consistently made the following points in response:

  • He does not support Hitler, whom he considers a criminal.
  • He is against Hitler's or any killing of innocents, including Jews and also including Muslims killed by Israel and the United States more recently.
  • He opposes giving Jews a special place in what, according to him, is the nearly 60 million civilian victims of World War II.
  • He opposes using the story of the Holocaust to support the dispossession and continuing oppresion of the Palestinians.
  • He believes the protected status of the Holocaust story is illogical and connected to the story's use as justification for crimes against the Palestinians
  • He considers Zionism an evil, non-religious, political movement that he opposes though he does not oppose Judaism, which is separate, as a religion.

In these interviews and other speeches that have mentioned the Holocaust, he has never expressed sympathy for Hitler, the Nazis or their beliefs. He has never presented any number of victims of the Holocaust as true or untrue. He has never expressed any doubt in the story. His only points have been that it should be possible to study and to revise the story without government censure, as every other story in the West can be studied and revised, and the story should not be used to punish the Palestinians.

Ahmadinejad has only brought up the story of the Holocaust to protest its use to harm Palestinians and to criticize what he sees as Western hypocrisy in disputing the status Iran gives the story of God, while extending a similar status to the story of the Holocaust.

An actual denial of the Holocaust made by Ahmadinejad does not exist. There has been no statement of the form: "the Holocaust did not happen", "only x million Jews were killed by Hitler" or "the amount of Jews commonly claimed to have been killed is false."

Ahmadinejad does oppose Zionism though, and that puts him onto unstable emotional terrain in the West. Supporters of Israel feel a strong emotional need to demonize him as much as they can. As hard as it has been to relent on the claim that he called for the physical destruction of Israel it will be just as hard and take just as long for supporters of Israel to admit Ahmadinejad has not actually denied the Holocaust.

6 comments:

Bob said...

The exact quote from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_and_Israel#Holocaust_denial_and_demands_to_relocate_Israel)

"They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets. The West has given more significance to the myth of the genocide of the Jews, even more significant than God, religion, and the prophets, (it) deals very severely with those who deny this myth but does not do anything to those who deny God, religion, and the prophet..."

His context, especisally with the word "deny," makes it obvious to me that the usage of myth was not mistranslated.

In addition, one of his political analysts admitted that he "initiated the idea that" the Holocaust is a myth and praised Ahmadinejad's comments.

I personally think all this is irrelevant in today's political climate (who cares what he thinks about the Holocaust?), but I think it is irresponsible of you to keep your blog entry the way it is with so much compelling evidence against it. Do you have any evidence that the word "myth" was mistranslated? Or is it just a guess?

Arnold Evans said...

There is no quote, including the one you pointed to which is one of several different translations of the quote I read at the time, that asserts the Holocaust did not happen.

He didn't use the word "myth" because he was speaking Persian. In the context of the statement above "myth" and "story" would mean the same thing. His assertion is not that the "myth" or "story" is untrue, but that it is wrongly elevated above the story of God.

Ahmadinejad has spoken on this issue many times since he's always asked. I guess that's the closest he's come to a denial of the Holocaust, but that is not a denial of the Holocaust.

People who deny the Holocaust are treated more harshly than people who deny God. That can't be proof to you that he is asserting that the Holocaust didn't happen. He's surely not asserting that God doesn't exist.

He's never made an assertion that the Holocaust didn't happen or was exaggerated. He's never denied the Holocaust. And I'm done unless you've seen a denial of the Holocaust that I haven't.

The only reason it matters is that as an opponent of Zionism, supporters of Israel are going out of their way to demonize him, sometimes without even knowing it.

I think it is very responsible of me to point that out.

Ziad said...

Here is another translation without the MEMRI loss;

The Iranian press agency IRNA renders Ahmadinejad on 2005-12-14 as follows: "'If the Europeans are telling the truth in their claim that they have killed six million Jews in the Holocaust during the World War II - which seems they are right in their claim because they insist on it and arrest and imprison those who oppose it, why the Palestinian nation should pay for the crime. Why have they come to the very heart of the Islamic world and are committing crimes against the dear Palestine using their bombs, rockets, missiles and sanctions.' [...] 'If you have committed the crimes so give a piece of your land somewhere in Europe or America and Canada or Alaska to them to set up their own state there.' [...] Ahmadinejad said some have created a myth on holocaust and hold it even higher than the very belief in religion and prophets [...] The president further said, 'If your civilization consists of aggression, displacing the oppressed nations, suppressing justice-seeking voices and spreading injustice and poverty for the majority of people on the earth, then we say it out loud that we despise your hollow civilization.'"

and here is a more accurate translation of the "wipe Israel off the map" meme

"They say it is not possible to have a world without the United States and Zionism. But you know that this is a possible goal and slogan. Let's take a step back. [[[We had a hostile regime in this country which was undemocratic, armed to the teeth and, with SAVAK, its security apparatus of SAVAK [the intelligence bureau of the Shah of Iran's government] watched everyone. An environment of terror existed.]]] When our dear Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Iranian revolution] said that the regime must be removed, many of those who claimed to be politically well-informed said it was not possible. All the corrupt governments were in support of the regime when Imam Khomeini started his movement. [[[All the Western and Eastern countries supported the regime even after the massacre of September 7 [1978] ]]] and said the removal of the regime was not possible. But our people resisted and it is 27 years now that we have survived without a regime dependent on the United States. The tyranny of the East and the West over the world should have to end, but weak people who can see only what lies in front of them cannot believe this. Who would believe that one day we could witness the collapse of the Eastern Empire? But we could watch its fall in our lifetime. And it collapsed in a way that we have to refer to libraries because no trace of it is left. Imam [Khomeini] said Saddam must go and he said he would grow weaker than anyone could imagine. Now you see the man who spoke with such arrogance ten years ago that one would have thought he was immortal, is being tried in his own country in handcuffs and shackles [[[by those who he believed supported him and with whose backing he committed his crimes]]]. Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement. We cannot compromise over the issue of Palestine. Is it possible to create a new front in the heart of an old front. This would be a defeat and whoever accepts the legitimacy of this regime [Israel] has in fact, signed the defeat of the Islamic world. Our dear Imam targeted the heart of the world oppressor in his struggle, meaning the occupying regime. I have no doubt that the new wave that has started in Palestine, and we witness it in the Islamic world too, will eliminate this disgraceful stain from the Islamic world."
(source: www.nytimes.com, based on a publication of 'Iranian Students News Agency' (ISNA) -- insertions by the New York Times in squared brackets -- passages in triple squared brackets will be left blank in the MEMRI version printed below)

Lastly, If Ahmadinejad's statement is unclear, Iran's Foreign Minister clarifies it;

A dispatch by Reuters confirms 2006-02-21: "The Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki has [...] repudiated that his state would want the Jewish state Israel 'wiped off the map'. [...] Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been misunderstood. 'Nobody can erase a country from the map.' Ahmadinejad was not thinking of the state of Israel but of their regime [...]. 'We do not accredit this regime to be legitimate.' [...] Mottaki also accepted that the Holocaust really took place in a way that six million Jews were murdered during the era of National Socialism."

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article12790.htm

In short, the point was the great evil of the Holocaust was a crime committed by the west and not the Palestinians and it is unfair to use it as a means to stifle discussion of the crimes being committed against Palestinians even as we write.

Richard said...

I agree that the exact meaning of that specific comment is unclear and definitely could be considered to have several interpretations.

"They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred" could easily be interpreted to mean that the actual Holocaust - the physical event - was "mythologized", and thus raised to the level of a "myth" without the actual event BEING a "myth".

The term "story" would fit that interpretation better, but the word "myth" also makes perfect sense, regardless of what the Persian term was.

Of course, one could always claim that this was merely a cover for actually still being a "Holocaust denier" so I don't suppose it will have any effect on those who want to believe that.

His primary point was obviously the use of the Holocaust as a justification for the entire Zionist enterprise, despite said enterprise starting long before the Holocaust, and this is the point that should be emphasized, because it establishes the primary intellectual dishonesty of the Zionist position.

Arnold Evans said...

The thing is that Ahmadinejad has been asked this question dozens of times and this is the closest he has ever come to a denial.

To be a denier, I would think that in dozens of discussions on the subject there would actually be a denial. If there is not, and maybe this one statement is questionable, but none of the others are, then that weighs on how this statement should be interpreted.

Richard said...

Agreed. Of course, that won't mean anything to the the Zionists.

Their attitude these days is: "You're such a good anti-Semite that we can't even prove you're an anti-Semite".

Or even worse, "You don't even realize that you're anti-Semitic."

This is what "New Anti-Semitism" is all about. I was amazed when I found that was a "legitimate" concept that was embodied in European hate legislation.

In other words, no matter what you say, they'll say it's just "code words" for being anti-Semitic.

It's a "get out of jail free card" for the Zionists. Nothing demonstrates their basic intellectual dishonesty better.

Josh Marshall is an example. It doesn't matter how many times I state clearly and unequivocally that I couldn't care less about Jews as an ethnicity, he thinks I "despise Jews".

If I say that if I didn't like Jews, why would I have the hots for Winona Ryder (nee Horowitz) or Rachel Weisz, and they'll just come back with, "Well, anti-Semites always say, 'Some of my best friends are Jews'."

You can't win.

So it doesn't matter what Ahmadinejad says now, he's stuck being a "Holocaust denier".

My attitude now is, "Fine, whatever. I'm anti-Semitic. Tough noogies." As Anton LaVey, the head of the Church of Satan, used to say, "If you've got the Devil's name, play the Devil's game."