July 03, 2008

 Iran, bogeyman II

Hear, hear to Quincy and Harold.

An additional issue in diplomacy with Iran should be Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denialism. It's true that he has limited authority and has only been speaking for himself. But Jews in and out of Israel are right to feel strongly about this idiocy. Some Holocaust denialists (Faurisson, Irving) are basically overgrown adolescent provocateurs: you see the type as trolls in many blogs. Others, like Jean-Marie Le Pen, are hardcore antisemites, signaling to their cronies their vile glee that the Holocaust did happen. It is entirely reasonable therefore to fear that a powerful politician hostile to Israel who spouts Holocaust denialism is threatening not only destruction of the Israeli state but genocide of the Jews. This inference will enter, with nonzero weight, into the thinking of the Israeli government, which controls a nuclear arsenal. Ahmadinejad’s denialism is not only repugnant, it is a threat to peace.

It's hard to see any advantage to Iran in its President's posturing.

Beyond raising the threat level, it makes Iran look backward and stupid, dragging a proud state down to the cultural level of a gaggle of Western hicks and weirdos. David Duke, for heaven's sake.

So Israel, the USA and the EU should demand from Iran:

* an official repudiation of Holocaust denial
* the translation into Farsi (footnote) and dissemination in schools of the UN Genocide Convention, to which Iran is a party.

They should also offer help in preparing curriculum elements on the Holocaust and the numerous other genocides that have studded human history and probably prehistory. Ahmadinejad's 2006 conference on the existence of the Holocaust, probably the best-attested massacre in history, was a contemptible stunt; but a non-hectoring conference on how to teach about it and other genocides could actually be useful, as no-one has a perfect answer. Educationally, insisting on the uniqueness of the Shoah is unhelpful - what's in it for Iranian children? Far better to follow the inspiration of Raphael Lemkin and treat it as the paradigm of a numerous class, in which many peoples have acted as Cain or Abel or both.

If the Iranian government were sponsoring Farsi editions of the Protocols, it would be right to demand they they stop. But this is apparently another neocon myth.

The Likud lobby won't thank me for this proposal. Defusing the fear of genocide, and distinguishing between hostility to Jews and to Israel, would remove its main propaganda tool. Israel and its friends are right to fear and take precautions against Iran's real political hostility to its existence, Jewish identity and borders. Short-term and long-term peacemaking must address this serious conflict. But why not try to exorcise, in one small context, the ghost of genocide?

The absence of a Farsi translation is puzzling. Iran ratified the convention in 1956, under the Shah's autocracy. But even autocracies need to study international treaties before signing them, and having them rubber-stamped by tame parliaments and councils. I suspect there's a translation buried in the files in Teheran.

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