Tuesday, January 17, 2006

# Posted 7:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CHANCES ARE A MILLION TO ONE, but I can't help thinking that if President Ahmadinejad wants to hold a conference exposing the myth of the Holocaust, then his mind isn't 100% closed on the subject.

Cynical Iranian conservatives would never stage such a publicity stunt, since they aren't so sure of their own "evidence" and would prefer to keep the spotlight on American aggression. Better to just recylce anti-Semitic propaganda on the homefront without drawing attention to it.

But Ahmadinejad has all themarks of the true believer. My sense is that he really considers the "evidence" against the Holocaust conjured up by anti-Semitic governments throughout the Middle East to be, well, evidence. To my mind, this is the most plausible explanation of why he would risk having a conference destined to antagonize all those who might otherwise focus on restraining George W. Bush.

Now here is my really crazy idea. Send a team of the best historians in America and Europe to make a presentation in Teheran to Ahmadinejad and other high-ranking officals. Send the kind of historians like Deborah Lipstadt who have fought and prevailed against Holocaust deniers in the West.

The presentation shouldn't be part of the conference, which deserves no recognition. But when faced with a foolhardy but sincere zealot, it may make perfect sense to advertise the strength of one's own position. And perhaps demand that it be broadcast, with full translation on Iranian television?
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CURSE YOU DAVID!!!!!!!!!!!!

I thought of that idea when two days ago!!!!

Alas, I have no medium to broadcast my ideas.

Well, I somehow doubt that Deborah Lipstadt would particularly want to travel to Tehran herself for this encounter - but perhaps some of the historians who testified at her trial would do equally well with the Iranians. But alas, I can't imagine that any of them would get visas to enter Iran...
I think you're being unduly credulous where Ahmednijad is concerned. One does not rise to where he is, by the paths he has taken, by keeping an open mind on such matters.

There's presumably a domestic political angle here as well -- if he pulls a stunt like this, he can probably use the "legitimacy" provided by such a conference to attack his critics.
I completely agree with mycroft. You can't take Ahmednijad literally or seriously. What he says is purely for domestic consumption. Call him stupid before you call him dangerous.
The domestic angle is certainly the best counterargument here. Without serious knowledge of who Ahmadinejad is, it would be hard to make the call. And the burden of proof is pretty much on me here.

But what if the West expects a rejection? Make him lose face by having him back down from the offer of an open debate. Maybe on neutral ground, like Switzerland or something.

Nix that. The Swiss aren't neutral when it comes to the Holocaust. Maybe Thailand.
I actually wrote a post that dealt with this issue, at least in part. I think there's an angle to this conference you're missing. Sure, Iran would be delighted to debunk the Holocaust. But it isn't their top priority. Their top priority is delegitimizing Israel. The upshot of it is, if you don't mind me quoting myself that "They'll put up some David Irving type fellow to say that the Holocaust never happened and thus, Israel has no reason to exist. And then they'll bring up a Chomsky, who will say that yes, the Holocaust happened, but Israel still shouldn't have a right to exist. How fair! And they'll nod their heads and acknowledge the "scholarly controversy" (snort), but note that either way, Israel is an abomination to all mankind and should be annihilated."

I think it makes sense for Iran to frame the conference in that light for several reasons. First, it's more aligned with their particular interest as a state (to destroy Israel). And second, the claim that the Holocaust doesn't justify the creation of Israel is just close enough to the fringe of what is acceptable debate amongst academic types that Iran can skirt objections (of course, Israel wasn't only justified by the Holocaust, but I think that President Ahmadinejad has even less of a conception of Jewish culture and ethnic values and history than he does of the Holocaust, so he doesn't even view the issue in that light at all).
Regardless of his actual sincerity, you should still confront him with facts.

It doesn't matter if you convince him, or anyone else in Iran. You have to confront lies with the truth.
"the "evidence" against the Holocaust conjured up by anti-Semitic governments throughout the Middle East to be, well, evidence."

The most hideously anti-semitic evidence against the Holocaust is conjured in Europe, not in the Middle East. In the Middle East, they just consume it. And in fact, the vast majority reject it. Note for example the completely flop of that stupid Egyptian soop opera loosely based on the Protocols.
Another option is that, a few months from now, the Iranian foreign ministry will quietly ditch the entire conference. Most of the political points domestically have already be scored, why go through with a conference that will be one of two things:
a.) still just a little bit serious, therefore with no clear outcome on the evidence around the HOlocaust (assuming here that they would never allow such a conference to actually confirm all the details of the Holocaust).
b.) not serious at all, with a bunch of intellectual nobodies, who will declare the Holocaust a myth without any evidence.

Both options are not great for Iran. Option a might provoke further debate and interest, which would not be good. Option b (the lunatics), would give Al-Jazeera, the West and critics of the government too much ammo.

Therefore, why not go for option c; quiet postponement and cancellation?
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