Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I see what Ahmadinejad is doing with the Holocaust

It's a game. Here's a link to the transcript of the Columbia speech. What he's really getting at is the suffering of the Palestinians. In the speech he asks two questions, the first one about the veracity of the Holocaust the second about why Palestinians have to pay for something that happened in Europe. When challenged by a questioner about the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad said that his point was academic freedom and the freedom of academics in Europe who have been put in jail for questioning the Holocaust.

Put these two things together, the academic freedom and the question of the Palestinian people and you get a better idea of what he's trying to do: he's really saying that Palestine is suffering because of the Holocaust, which is used as a justification for the establishment of the state of Israel and of the Nakba, the 'catastrophe', where Palestinians were expelled to make way for Israeli settlers; and he's saying that people who question the rightness of this are thrown in jail in Europe. Although there are many people who question the use to which the Holocaust has been pressed into, Ahmadinejad focusses on people who European states have actually thrown in jail to suggest that intellectual inquiry on the subject of the importance of the Holocaust and its ramifications on Middle Eastern life has been quashed and isn't really done in good faith. I think there are two separate arguments going on here, the first having to do with general intellectual climate the second having to do with how certain academics are treated. It's wrong in my opinion to throw anyone in jail, especially academic researchers, because of what they've written. The connection between this throwing in jail and the intellectual climate of academia isn't proven by Ahmadinejad although like I said you don't have to go that far to demonstrate that certain topics, at least in America (because I'm not familiar enough with the academic scene in Europe), related to the rightness of the establishment of the state of Israel and the rhetoric used to justify it, are so politicized that researchers who go against the prevailing political wisdom face the threat of being fired. Witness Norman Finkelstein, author of "The Holocaust Industry", which makes no claims whatsoever that the Holocaust didn't happen....indeed he talks about both of his parents living through the camp experience.....but instead says that the Holocaust has been unfairly pressed into use to support things that are immoral. Finkelstein has been denied tenure at DePaul University, which lead to his resignation, because of his books and his ideas.

Ahmadinejad is essentially arguing, by putting on the obnoxious Holocaust conference, that he accepts a level of freedom of inquiry that Europe and the United States don't have, with the ultimate point being the Palestinians and the justification of the Israeli state. Unfortunately, although this may play well at home and through the Middle East, the fact that he chose to promote white supremacists instead of people who just had revisionist views on the founding of Israel itself has backfired in the West, at least in America. Instead, Americans just see it as Iran inviting a bunch of nuts for a conference.

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