Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bad Taste from the Netherlands

Boomerang, a merchant in the Netherlands, has coupled Anne Frank's image with a kaffiah, the Arab headdress which has become a symbol of international terrorism. It's really disgusting.

Thanks to Little Green Footballs for finding this.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A more critical view of the Iranian TV series on the Holocaust: Not so much to cheer about

Below is a review of the Iranian TV series which created a stir because it dealt with the Holocaust without denying it. [How low we have sunk when a state-run TV production is praised for acknowledging the Holocaust.] The review appeared in Tel Aviv University's Iranian Pulse, which contains updates and annalysis of Iranian affairs.

For those who don't want to work their way through the whole thing here is the author's key finding:

Although Western media outlets (such as BBC, Wall Street Journal, Der Spiegel) have lauded the series for its admission that the Holocaust took place, and interpret it as a sympathetic reversal in the Iranian attitude towards Jews, Zero Degree Turn is nevertheless laden with problematic messages regarding Jews. The series purports to reflect the events leading up to World War II, yet it is fraught with anachronistic discrepancies, and blatantly falsifies the historical realities of the era.

This is demonstrated, inter alia, by the false assertion that Zionists and Nazis collaborated in order to provoke Jewish emigration. Also, the series fails to address European anti-Semitism and the rise of the Zionist Movement; it is as if Zionism emerged in a vacuum. While Iranian state TV finally draws a distinction between Jews and Zionists, the series likens Zionism to Nazism by placing them on the same immoral plane—unmistakably an intentional message of the series.

No. 18 January 10, 2008


Rachel Kantz and Miriam Nissimov*

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad captured the world’s attention with his incendiary attacks against Israel and with his Holocaust denial. He shored up his rhetoric by sponsoring a Holocaust cartoon contest in 2006, encouraging a plethora of pseudoacademic inquiries into the genocide, and hosting prominent Holocaust deniers for what the regime claimed was a conference convened in order to check the veracity of historical claims regarding the Holocaust (December 2006).

If Ahmadinejad perpetuates the regime’s traditional attempts to undermine Israel’s right to exist by denying and/or trivializing the Holocaust, then why has Iranian state-run television launched Zero Degree Turn, a high-budget series which is ostensibly sympathetic to the fate of European Jewry during World War II?

Although Ayatollah Khomeini decisively reversed the Mohammad Reza Shah’s pro-Israel policy, he and his cohorts claimed to differentiate between Judaism and Zionism or Jews and Zionists. This, however, has proven to be a formidable task for the revolutionary regime, as Ayatollah Khomeini himself publicly breached the distinction, and state-run publications incessantly blur the two notions.

One such recent example, is the speech commemorating Jerusalem Day by former president and current Head of the Assembly of Experts, `Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani held in October 2007.

Rafsanjani stated that the Nazis’ “first objective was to free Europe from the evils of Zionism,” and that this was justifiable because “the Zionists, as a powerful faction, used to engage in many subversive activities in Europe, thanks to their large assets and propaganda empire.” He asserted that “one of the reasons that the Jews of that era received” the treatment they did was due to prevailing Jewish attitudes. As a result, “the Europeans intended to force the Zionists to leave Europe, because they were always a nuisance for European governments” (BBC Monitoring, October 5, 2007).

While many Iranian leaders blur the distinction between Jews and Zionists, Zero Degree Turn, written and directed by Hassan Fathi, not only conceptualizes the two as distinct and separate communities, but also portrays them in acute conflict with each other. A dominant theme of the series involves a fierce struggle between Jews and Zionists, both in Paris and Iran. In Iran, this struggle reaches its climax when the local Zionist “gang” murders the community’s rabbi, an ardent opponent of the group’s activities, thereby encouraging Jewish immigration to Palestine.

In Paris, a romance develops between Sarah Stark, a young Jewish student, and Habib Parsa, a Muslim Iranian and son of a diplomat. This story line is loosely based on a true story of heroism in which 'Abdul Hossein Sardari, the Iranian chargé d’affaires saved over a thousand European Jews by forging passports and securing them refuge in Iran. The theme of struggle between Judaism and Zionism manifests itself in a conflict between Sarah’s two uncles, ostensibly the prototypes of “Jew” and “Zionist.”

As such, one uncle, Shmuel Weiss, is portrayed as an honest and righteous intellectual who furiously argues with her other uncle, Theodore Stark, a deceptive Zionist, not coincidentally named after Theodore Herzl, the founding father of the Zionist movement. In a dispute with Stark, Weiss states: “following the transgression of the ancients, the faithful suffered long years of exile until they found security and tranquility in their various places, and now you come and encourage the Jewish people to end their exile? No, I’ve enjoyed many great years side by side with my compatriots, the French. It is not decent to abandon them now when they are faced with such an evil threat.”

The differentiation between Judaism and Zionism is accentuated with the addition of a story line “establishing” collusion between Zionist and Nazi forces—a familiar and commonly accepted notion in the Arab world. In order to realize Zionist aspirations, Theodore Stark collaborates with the Nazis and encourages harassment against the Jews in the aim of persuading them to flee Europe.

'Abdollah Shahbazi, the Iranian historian and author who acted as the “scientific” consultant for the series, underscores this claim in his Persian blog: “during World War II, rich Jewish families were party to a secret alliance with Hitler’s Germany,” and “played an important role in building Hitler’s power, [and in] the outbreak of World War II.”

The series’ distinction between Jews and Zionists and its allegation of Zionist-Nazi collusion are nothing new in Iranian public discourse. What is new is the crack in the state’s lack of tolerance for artistic freedom and religious digression regarding social norms in Iran.

This is one of the rare occasions since the Islamic Revolution state TV has invested so much money and effort in programming that contains elements that run counter to the regime’s conception of appropriate social behavior. These include a soap opera-like love story between a secular Muslim and a secular Jew, unveiled Muslim women, famous Iranian Muslim actors and actresses wearing expensive costumes reflecting 1940’s Western attire, and free discussion of life under the Pahlavis. Additionally, Sarah Stark and Habib Parsa’s discussion of respect for each other’s religious views and the need for dialogue between the religions is refreshingly new.

Finally, given the abundance and recent proliferation of anti-Semitic programming, from children’s shows to documentaries, any programming that evokes sympathy for Jews should be seen as an anomaly in the realm of Iranian state-run TV.

Although Western media outlets (such as BBC, Wall Street Journal, Der Spiegel) have lauded the series for its admission that the Holocaust took place, and interpret it as a sympathetic reversal in the Iranian attitude towards Jews, Zero Degree Turn is nevertheless laden with problematic messages regarding Jews. The series purports to reflect the events leading up to World War II, yet it is fraught with anachronistic discrepancies, and blatantly falsifies the historical realities of the era.

This is demonstrated, inter alia, by the false assertion that Zionists and Nazis collaborated in order to provoke Jewish emigration. Also, the series fails to address European anti-Semitism and the rise of the Zionist Movement; it is as if Zionism emerged in a vacuum. While Iranian state TV finally draws a distinction between Jews and Zionists, the series likens Zionism to Nazism by placing them on the same immoral plane—unmistakably an intentional message of the series.

The hard-line Kayhan congratulated the series for conveying this idea: “The ground for [creating] Israel is prepared when Hitler’s army puts pressure on activist Jews. In this sense […] Nazism [is] parallel to Zionism.” (Associated Press, September 16, 2007) Here, Kayhan hits it on the mark: the ultimate goal of the series is to delegitimize the nature of the establishment of Israel, and therefore its right to exist.

A critical viewing of the series reveals that despite the new expressions of artistic freedom, Zero Degree Turn imparts common establishment messages, which are in perfect harmony with Ahmadinejad’s policy of denying the Holocaust in order to undermine Israel’s right to exist. Given that the director has mentioned that the state intends to market the series beyond Iran’s borders, the series should be seen as a sophisticated attempt to showcase the regime’s virulent anti-Israel views abroad.

• Rachel Kantz is a Research Fellow at the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University.
• Miriam Nissimov is a Research Fellow at the Center for Iranian Studies and a PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Historical Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ms. Magazine's "stupidity" and prejudice sparks a reaction

There will be a press conference today protesting the outrageous action by Ms. Magazine in rejecting the ad by the American Jewish Congress celebrating the fact that three women have achieved pinnacles of professional success in Israeli government.

Reaction to Jan Gross' Fear

In today's Ha'aretz

Saturday, January 12, 2008

David Irving talk in Liverpool: One newspaper gets it right.... and one wrong

A talk Irving was scheduled to give in Liverpool, England was recently cancelled when the hotel discovered that Irving was one of the speakers. It was scheduled to coincide with the European Holocaust Memorial Day which is on January 27th.

What interest me is not the cancellation but how two different Liverpool newspapers covered the news. The Liverpool Echo article read:
Talk by jailed historian David Irving axed

In contrast, the Liverpool Daily Post's headline read:
Holocaust denier Irving ‘targeted’ Liverpool

[Thanks to Sara Salzman for catching this contrast in headlines.]

Friday, January 11, 2008

Columbia professors going to apologize to Ahmadinejad?

[Edited and links added November 12th]

According to the Tehran Times a group of Columbia professors is going to Tehran to apologize to Ahmadinejad for President Lee Bollinger's comments to him when the Iranian president visited that campus in fall 2007.

[Note: This report has not been officially confirmed and, if it does go, it will not be an official Columbia delegation.]

Maybe, while they are there, they might ask about the young boys who were hung for homosexual activities [maybe that's why Ahmadinejad said there are no homosexuals in Iran they have all been hung...].

They might ask about those professors who have been punished and imprisoned by the government for speaking their mind.

They might also ask about the people who had a hand and a foot amputated because they were convicted of stealing

They might also ask about the woman who was stoned for killing her husband. The woman, age 23, was married at age 15 to a man who apparently abused her.

They might ask about the Amnesty International report that, by mid-October 2007, 250 people have been executed in Iran so far this year – 21 of them on the morning of September 5th alone. This includes children. Iran has been described by human rights organizations as the last executioner of children.

They might ask about the 30 people hung during July and August as part of a suppression of efforts to spread democracy. [One of the reasons we know about the hangings is that they were done publicly. Even Texas doesn't do that.]

They might ask why Dr. Esfandiari, who was held in solitary confinement for 105 days, was arrested in the first place.

My guess is that they won't ask any of these things because they will be too busy groveling and they are more worried about Ahmadinejad's freedom of speech than that of the people who have been persecuted by this regime.

[Maybe Gandhi's grandson will say something about this....except that he's too busy condemning Israel and all Jews for their culture of violence.]

Ms. Magazine suffers from a major attack of the stupids [if not worse than that]

Apparently Ms Magazine declined to accept an ad from the American Jewish Congress which featured three Israeli women who have reached the highest levels of success in their country.

The New York Sun reports that the advertisement, which was prepared by the American Jewish Congress, included pictures of three Israeli women who have reached the pinnacle of success in their fields: the president of the Israeli Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch; Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, and speaker of the Knesset, Dalia Itzik. The text under the picture read: "This is Israel."

Though Jewish leaders -- correctly -- called this an anti-Israel act, Ms. defended itself by claiming to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that because two of the women photographed belong to the same political party, the advertisement showed favoritism.

Gimme a break.

This is the magazine that opened so many women's eyes to the subtle -- and not so subtle -- impact of sexism and discrimination against women.

For it to behave in this fashion is beneath contempt. I wish I subscribed to MS. so I could cancel my subscription.

An antisemitic column by Ghandi's grandson

As readers of this blog know, I do not label people or writings as antisemitic unless they are blatnatly so. Well Gandhi's grandson has written a column for the Washington Post which is clearly so.

Arun Gandhi is the fifth grandson of “Mahatma” Gandhi and is president and co-founder of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence.

He begins by describing Jews as being
"locked into the holocaust experience-- a German burden that the Jews have not been able to shed. It is a very good example of a community can overplay a historic experience to the point that it begins to repulse friends."
If his people had lost one out of every three members of its community would he suggest that they "shed" this experience? Then he goes on to posit that
"The holocaust was the result of the warped mind of an individual who was able to influence his followers into doing something dreadful."
An individual? Seems to me that history shows that a whole lot more than one person was involved in making this happen.

He then proclaims that the "Jewish identity in the future appears bleak" because Jews are "anchored to the past" and believe that their "survival can only be ensured by weapons and bombs."

He goes on to describe Israel and its policies as "a snake pit -- with many deadly snakes in it" He asks "Would it not be better to befriend those who hate you? Can you not reach out and share your technological advancement with your neighbors and build a relationship?"

Finally he declares that "we have created a culture of violence (Israel and the Jews are the biggest players) and that Culture of Violence is eventually going to destroy humanity."

This reeks of antisemitism. Jewish identity based on violence? Not a word about suicide bombers? Hamas? Rockets from Gaza? Withdrawal from Gaza?

My question is how did the editors of the Washington Post decide to publish this? Couldn't they have found something more subtle? Didn't they realize that this piece was too heavy handed? I am really disappointed in them.

[In case you have any doubt that past par should be read with a heavy dose of sarcasm.]

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Ron Paul a race baiter....

I am sitting here watching the New Hampshire returns and I see a number of young people enthusiastically waving Ron Paul signs. Well, as I have been blogging over the past ten days or so, the guy should be looked at more carefully.

Up until now I have been careful not to paint Paul as a too bad a guy but have pointed at the people he attracts to him. I wondered why he did not reject them.

Well now we have the answer. Seems that Ron Paul shares their racist and antisemitic views. [We don't know about his Holocaust denial.]

A reporter at the New Republic, James Kirchick, has done the legwork and discovered that Ron Paul has over the years expressed highly racist views, has attacked gays, and he also showed an "obsession" with Jews and Israel... not in a positive way.

Here are some quotes:
In December 1989 in his Investment Letter he predicted that in the 1990s "Racial Violence Will Fill Our Cities" because "mostly black welfare recipients will feel justified in stealing from mostly white 'haves.'"

In November 1990, an item in his newsletter advised readers, "If you live in a major city, and can leave, do so. If not, but you can have a rural retreat, for investment and refuge, buy it." In June 1991, an entry on racial disturbances in Washington, DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood was titled, "Animals Take Over the D.C. Zoo." "

"In an October 1992 item about urban crime, the newsletter's author--presumably Paul--wrote, "I've urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming." That same year, a newsletter described the aftermath of a basketball game in which "blacks poured into the streets of Chicago in celebration. How to celebrate? How else? They broke the windows of stores to loot."

Regarding gays: He complained about President George H.W. Bush's decision to sign a hate crimes bill and invite "the heads of homosexual lobbying groups to the White House for the ceremony," adding, "I miss the closet."

Regarding the World Trade Center bombing: His newsletter said, "Whether it was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly a retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, matters little."
He has not done well in the campaign thus far.... but remember how much money he has raised.... and how he has swept some people off their feet.

Pretty scary.

Details on Fred Leuchter and why he should not be trusted with anything... especially lethal injections

[January 9th: Check out the previous post to see Leuchter and his electric chair. ]

Some people have asked for more background on Leuchter. Here are some sources:

1. From, the website on my trial, take a look at

2. For how the Leuchter material played out in court, take a look at History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier.

3. You might also want to see what the judge had to say about Leuchter.

4. In Denying the Holocaust [p. 172], I cited the following information about Leuchter:

According to an affidavit by Dr. Edward A. Brunner, chair of the Department of Anesthesia at Northwestern University Medical School, "Leuchter's lethal injection system caused excruciating pain but rendered victims incapable of screaming to communicate their distress."

5. Of course there is both Robert Jan van Pelt's, The Case for Auschwitz, a majesterial work, which is essentially his report for my trial [you can also find it at ] and Shelly Shapiro's small but classic work, Truth Prevails, which was the first work to address the multiple flaws, misstatement of facts, and other inventions in the "Leuchter Report."

6. And finally there is Erroll Morris' Mr. Death.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Holocaust Denier and the Death Penalty Case before Supreme Court

Today the Supreme Court heard Baze v. Rees, a case arguing that the drug cocktail used in lethal injections constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

So what does that have to do with this blog?

Turns out that the "cocktail" was invented by one Fred Leuchter who, posing as an engineer, wrote the bogus report on the non-existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz and Maidanek.

This guy has an electric chair in his basement -- I assume it's non-operative -- and poses in it on occasion. [That's him in his chair above. You can also see these scenes in Erroll Morris' film, Mr. Death.]

However you might feel about the death penalty, I doubt that Fred Leuchter should be depended on to invent anything....

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Poland and the Holocaust: Jan Gross' book, Fear, about to appear in Polish translation.

"This may be the biggest event of the year." So said a reporter from Rzeczpospolita, one of Poland's leading dailies, when he called to interview me this afternoon.

Fear, which examines some -- many -- Poles' treatment of Jews during and immediately after the Holocaust. He has found some horrifying evidence. It is unclear just how widespread this antisemitic behavior was, but, according to Gross, it was not unique to Jedvabne [Yed-vab-nia] the town in which the Jewish residents were murdered in the period right before the entry of the Germans into the town. Gross wrote about that town in Neighbors.

The book strikes at the Polish self-image of the nation as a "victim." I reviewed the book in Publisher's Weekly [the review is posted on Amazon] and then commented on it subsequently in previous posts.

More on this as it evolves. It will be a striking example of how history is not confined to the past. In fact it's not even over.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Ron Paul on Isolationism

I had no intention of devoting so much time -- or any at all -- to Ron Paul but this guy says things and does things which almost demand comment.

Last month, The Washington Post reported, in an article entitled A History Lesson, that Ron Paul had responded to criticism of him by John McCain. McCain had compared Paul's opposition to the Iraqi war to the 1930s appeasement movement in the US. [I don't agree with McCain's comments. But, as you will see, that is beside the point.]

The appeasement movement, as many readers clearly know, was vigorously opposed to any action against Nazi Germany. While it may have had many well-meaning members in its ranks, it also had many people who were sympathetic to Nazis Germany and who, while they may not have approved of all its policies, were clearly enthralled by much of what it was doing [and vehemently opposed to FDR's policies]. Think Charles Lindbergh and Ambassador Joseph Kennedy.

In response to McCain's criticism Paul said the senator was"confused historically." He went on to tell the Washington Post:
"People in the 1930s who didn't want war didn't cause World War II. I think Hitler caused the war, not the Americans who argued for a pro-American foreign policy...."
To say the isolationists were arguing for a pro-American foreign policy is to also say that those who wanted vigorous action against Nazi Germany wanted an anti-American policy.

Paul may not be an historian and may not be a man of nuance but when you begin to put all these things together, you get a disturbing picture of a man who had won the hearts and opened the pockets of a surprisingly large number of Americans.

[The Washington Post article was also posted on the official Ron Paul for President site which is where Adam Holland, who alerted me to this, apparently first saw it.