For most politicians and pundits, it was just like shooting ducks in a
barrel. Rarely has an international event united so diverse a group of writers and
power-brokers in revulsion.
The cause of all this unanimity was the Holocaust-denial conference sponsored
by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its irrepressible President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad. It was the sort of freak show that no rational person could defend.
The assemblage of Islamist hate-mongers and Western anti-Semites (accompanied by
a handful of rogue lunatic ultra-Orthodox "rabbis") earned its hosts a level
of international opprobrium that's rare for a Third World country.
Condemnation came from just about every corner of the civilized world. From
coast to coast, bipartisan and interfaith coalitions lined up to keep alive the
memory of the Six Million, as well as to flay Iran.
All of which is well and good. But there is also a bit of bad news about the
indignation that the Holocaust-denial meeting has generated.
As much as we can take satisfaction in the negative press attention devoted
to Iran, it also needs to be said that if some huffing and puffing about
Ahmadinejad's mad chutzpah is as far as our Iran policy will go, then we're in big
GENOCIDE'S THE GOAL
Unless the same people who were eager to take a shot at Iran are willing to
put their support behind a decision not merely to isolate it but to encourage
action ‹ up to and including force to prevent it from acquiring nuclear
weapons, then it is only Ahmadinejad who will have the last laugh.
For the religious oligarchy that controls Tehran and their irrepressible
front man, their Holocaust campaign isn't an aberration. Nor is it unrelated to
their policy goals. Their purpose in promoting denial rests primarily on their
wish to delegitimize the State of Israel and demonize the Jewish people, whom
their propaganda machine routinely accuses of being the oppressors of the
As Yigal Carmon, the head of the Middle East Media Research Institute that
monitors the Arab and Islamic world, as well as publishes translations from such
media on its Web site (www. memri.org), has written, Ahmadinejad's goal is no
mystery. If as the Iranian insists Iran wishes to "wipe Israel off the
map," it must be preceded by the same sort of campaign of incitement and
hatred of Jews that was the harbinger of the Holocaust.
"In order for Ahmadinejad to bring his plans to fruition, however, he has to
demonize the Jews and the State of Israel," said Carmon at a symposium on the
subject given at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum. "
Demonization is a necessary precondition to genocide."
Iran's openly stated objective is not merely to thumb its nose at the pieties
of the West or to raise Jewish blood pressure. It wants to murder millions.
Inappropriate analogies to the Nazis are used far too often, but this is one
case where it's hard to argue that the terms don't apply. It's true that Iran
isn't as powerful as Nazi Germany. But we may be only a few years away from a
situation where Iran's genocidal intent will no longer be merely a theoretical
And though obvious differences exist between Nazism and the extremist version
of Islam that Iran's Shi'ite rulers champion, the role of the despised Jew in
both of their worldviews remains striking.
Ironically, the clownish nature of the denial conference and the prominent
presence of bizarre personalities, such as former Ku Klux Klan leader David
Duke, may serve to undermine the resolve to resist Iran.
Few seem to take them seriously. In the 1930s, both Adolf Hitler and his
lesser dictator buddy, Benito Mussolini, also struck many otherwise right-thinking
individuals in the West as more a source of comedy than menace. Only too late
did most people realize that the buffoonish bullies ridiculed so accurately
in Charlie Chaplain's film "The Great Dictator" were actually capable of mass
All of which leads us to ask whether those now in a position of power in the
West understand the threat, and whether they are willing to do something about
There has been some fine rhetoric about Iran and the need to stop it coming
from the Bush administration, but the White House's ability to lead on this
issue is hamstrung by the conflict in Iraq. Most Americans are no longer willing
to discuss "weapons of mass destruction," such as the ones Iran covets,
because of the association the issue has with Iraq. The bloody stalemate in Baghdad
that has so soured opinion on the war leaves little room for rousing the
public to back action on Iran.
The furor over the denial conference also does not diminish the impact of the
Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James Baker, which had as
one of its key recommendations an attempt to conciliate the Iranians while at
the same time force Israel into dangerous concessions. These so-called "
realists" are about as interested in confronting a genocidal threat coming from
Tehran, as the appeasers of the 1930s were to stop Hitler.
Such "realism" in Europe will similarly spike any efforts to make meaningful
sanctions against Iran stick.
AN EMPTY GUN
Even worse, Robert Gates, the new U.S. Secretary of Defense, made it clear
during his confirmation hearings that he opposed action against Iran, thus
removing any doubt that there are no bullets in the gun that the West was trying to
use to threaten the Middle Eastern nation.
It's true that some are sounding the alarm. Both Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)
and Israeli Likud Party head Benjamin Netanyahu have been giving speeches
describing the current position as analogous to 1938. Yet both men lost elections
in the past year (for reasons that had little to do with their positions on
Iran), and so will be in no position to do anything but talk for the foreseeable
Some believe that it is possible to indict Ahmadinejad under international
law for inciting genocide. It's a nice idea, and could help establish a legal
record to aid the isolation of Iran. But anyone who thinks the United Nations or
the International Court of Criminal Justice institutions more interested
in aiding the demonization of democratic Israel than in fighting Iran will
help this cause are dreaming.
It may well be that the real case of "denial" is our own refusal to take
Iran and its genocidal intent seriously not just their ravings about the
Holocaust. With appeasement masquerading as "realism" about the war on terror
dominating the discussion, getting people to concentrate on the Iranian threat may
be too hard a sell right now.
But if those who lined up to bash Iran this month don't realize that there is
a connection between the Holocaust and the need to confront Ahmadinejad's
drive for nuclear weapons, then all of their rhetoric will be meaningless.