Saturday, May 2, 2009

Controversy at Harvard: Muslim Chaplain Suggests Death of Muslim Apostates?

For the past two weeks a controversy has been brewing at Harvard as reported by the Harvard Crimson. Recently it has also been covered in the Forward.

In short, the Muslim chaplain, Abdul-Basser wrote the following to a Muslim student:
great wisdom (hikma) associated with the established and preserved position (capital punishment [for apostates]) and so, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human rights discourse, one should not dismiss it out of hand.”
In the Crimson article a number of Muslim students were quoted as being quite critical of his stand. He claims that he has been misinterpreted and was not saying that he supports death for converts from Islam. It's hard how to see otherwise, particular in light of his comment about "hegemonic modern human rights discourse."

He, of course, is free to have any religious view he wishes. It is just disturbing to think that this is the point of view being imparted to students.

Durban II: Professor Dershowitz Explains What He Did at Durban II

Take a look at Professor Dershowitz's explanation of his encounter with Durban II. It's quite revealing.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Jane Fonda and Anne Frank: Banned in Beirut

There is an interesting oped in today's Wall St. Journal on censorship in Beirut by William Marling:

A professor at the American University here recently ordered copies of "The Diary of Anne Frank" for his classes, only to learn that the book is banned. Inquiring further, he discovered a long list of prohibited books, films and music.

This is perplexing -- and deeply ironic -- because Beirut has been named UNESCO's 2009 "World Book Capital City." Just last week "World Book and Copyright Day" was kicked off with a variety of readings and exhibits that honor "conformity to the principles of freedom of expression [and] freedom to publish," as stated by the UNESCO Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.\


Even a partial list of books banned in Lebanon gives pause: William Styron's "Sophie's Choice"; Thomas Keneally's "Schindler's List"; Thomas Friedman's "From Beirut to Jerusalem"; books by Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and Isaac Bashevis Singer. In fact, all books that portray Jews, Israel or Zionism favorably are banned.

Writers in Arabic are not exempt....


All of Jane Fonda's films are banned, since she visited Israel in 1982 to court votes for Tom Hayden's Senate run. "Torn Curtain" is banned: Paul Newman starred in "Exodus." And the television series "The Nanny" is banned because of Fran Drescher.


Even works by self-proclaimed Islamists such as Assadeq al-Nayhoum's "Islam Held Hostage," have been banned, and issued only when re-edited in sympathetic editions (in Syria).

Censorship is a problem throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Though a signatory of the Florence Agreement, the Academy of Islamic Research in Egypt, through its censorship board al-Azhar, decides what may not be printed: Nobel Prize winner Naghib Mahfouz's "Awlad Haratina" (The Sons of the Medina) was found sacrilegious and only printed in bowdlerized form in Egypt in 2006. Saudi Arabia sponsors international book fairs in Riyadh, but Katia Ghosn reported in L'Orient that it sends undercover agents into book stores regularly.

Works that could stimulate dialogue in Lebanon are perfunctorily banned. "Waltz with Bashir," an Israeli film of 2008, is banned -- even though it alleges that Ariel Sharon was complicit in the Sabra and Shatilla massacres. According to the Web site Monstersandcritics, however, "Waltz with Bashir" became an instant classic in the very Palestinian camps it depicts, because it is the only history the younger generation has. But how did those copies get there?

The answer is also embarrassing. Just as it ignores freedom of circulation, Lebanon also ignores international copyright laws. Books of all types are routinely photocopied for use in high schools and universities.


Mr. Marling is a visiting professor of American Studies at the American University of Beirut and professor of English at Case Western Reserve University.

New Book will Ignite a Debate About Roosevelt

See today's article in the New York Times for some recent research which is likely to ignite a debate about FDR's response in the 1930s to the persecution of the Jews. I believe it could be "consensus changing" about his response to the persection.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

"History on Trial" Optioned for a Movie

Check out this article in today's Variety and the blog, Cinematical.

As the Variety article notes, the producers of the Soloist have teamed up with Participation Media to make the film. Participation, established by Jeff Skoll, one of the founders of eBay, has made An Inconvenient Truth, The Kite Runner, Charlie Wilson's War, and the Sesame Street Story.

A caveat: Optioned is a long way from buying your popcorn for the movie.

So sit tight.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

HDOT Launches Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Russian Translations

Emory University announces the launch of Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, and Russian translations of material which exposes the charges made by deniers:

Holocaust Denial on Trial (, a Web site founded by Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt to teach about the dangers of Holocaust denial and demonstrate how deniers distort historical evidence of the Holocaust, is re-launching in four new languages: Arabic, Farsi, Russian and Turkish. These translations are designed to spread the original site's messages to areas where Holocaust denial goes the most unchallenged. was founded following the well-known David Irving v. Penguin UK and Deborah Lipstadt libel trial. Holocaust denier Irving sued Lipstadt and her publisher for calling him a denier who knowingly twists and distorts the truth of the Holocaust. A British judge found Irving to be an active Holocaust denier whose writings on the topic included both anti-Semitic and racist elements.

Despite the success of the Irving trial, online Holocaust denial has increased significantly in the past few years, says Lipstadt. "Deniers are attacking the entire history of the Holocaust piece by piece," she says. "Our site puts basic, easily accessible information into the hands of people encountering sophisticated content designed to confuse them."

At each of the new sites, visitors will be greeted by a complete parallel home page, site navigation and content in their language of choice. They will be able to search the site's database in the new languages as well.

The new sites are available at:,, and or via

"This project significantly expands the reach of in regions of the world where a significant amount of Holocaust denial is happening," says Lipstadt.

In addition, has added significantly to its offering of more than 30 Myth/Fact sheets, available in all five languages. These Myth/Fact sheets address Holocaust denial head-on by listing various claims made about the Holocaust by deniers and providing the historical evidence that shows them to be false. Over the past two years, the Myth/Fact sheets have been's most popular destination.

HDOT creates new podcast series

In conjunction with this launch, HDOT also announces the creation of a new podcast series, available through Emory's iTunes University.

The series includes podcasts featuring such figures as Lipstadt, renowned Holocaust historian Saul Friedlander and professor Ken Waltzer, who uncovered fraud in a recent and highly publicized Holocaust memoir. The series also includes interviews with Michael Shermer, a professional skeptic and author of "Denying History," and Father John Pawlikowski, a veteran of Catholic-Jewish interfaith dialogue, speaking about recent events.

"As so much of the strategy that deniers employ involves spreading their falsehoods on the Internet, we worked with Professor Lipstadt to have scholarly, authoritative resources available in podcasts. Some of the most respected experts on denial on the Internet are interviewed," says Alan Cattier, Emory's director of Academic Technology Services.

The podcasts will form the core of several new lesson plans being produced for advanced high school and college courses that will help educators and the public approach the complex of social, historical, political and ideological issues that emerge in the study of Holocaust denial.

The launch was made possible by grants from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties and other funders. The Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture helped fund the podcast series. is made possible by significant grants from Angelica Berrie and the Russell Berrie Foundation, Gralla Family Philanthropic Fund, Yvette and Larry Gralla, Fern E. and William J. Lowenberg Fund, Leo Melamed Foundation, Mozel Charitable Trust, Joshua & Nirit Resnick Foundation, Sandler Family Philanthropic Fund and The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.