The good news is, Iran’s decided to go whole hog on the denial. I was worried they’d admit a few token real historians to legitimize the proceedings, but they’re laying their cards on the table: David Duke is set to deliver a keynote. The State Department and German Foreign Ministry have already condemned the proceedings, and one Palestinian jihadi recently released from an Israeli jail is begging Ahmadinejad not to go through with it lest he discredit the Palestinian cause. Too late, bro.
The one potentially interesting moment was the prospect of Khaled Mahameed addressing the faithful assembled, but that’s been nixed: news broke yesterday that the Iranian government has denied him a visa without offering a reason why. Who’s Khaled Mahameed, you ask?
Khaled Mahameed is the founder and sole proprietor of the Arab world’s only Holocaust museum. It consists of 60 photographs pinned to the walls of his law office in Nazareth. He paid $5,000 out of his own pocket to set it up and has had printed at his own expense pamphlets and handbills about the Holocaust which he leaves in waiting rooms and offers to people he meets. He also maintains a website that’s updated sporadically with Holocaust news. For his trouble he’s been shunned socially, cursed in public, and excoriated in his own museum. He’s offered to give tours to local schoolchildren and been refused by school officials. Some family members won’t speak to him because of it.
I run across articles about him every few months or so and always find myself moved by, yet wary of, what he’s doing. This piece from the San Francisco Chronicle best captures the evangelical fervor with which he’s taken on his mission — and the mixed motives that lie behind. Read it all. The good:
Mahameed’s concept takes him beyond the realm of politics, into a scenario where he imagines 42 million Arabs sitting shiva — the traditional Jewish seven-day mourning period when a close relative has died — for the 6 million Jewish victims of Hitler. He does not worry that the Arab schools he has approached have so far declined to visit his museum, saying his true intended audience is the leaders of the Arab world…
[His wife] Ezdehar said she questioned the value of the museum when Mahameed came up with it about four years ago, but her husband wore her down.
“He began to talk to me, every night, 10 o’clock,” she said. “He began to tell us — the children and me — and we felt we had to learn more about the Holocaust.”
After a family visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and many more conversations, Ezdehar said, she became a believer — even though the idea has caused screaming fights with her brother and caused Mahameed’s own brother to stop talking to him.
And the not so good:
Mahameed [said] the Arab world needs to learn about the Holocaust — not for the benefit of the Jews, but for Arabs, and especially Palestinians opposed to the Israeli occupation.
“Fighting is not just throwing bombs. Fighting is also understanding the basis of power of your enemy,” he said. “And part of that is the Holocaust.
“It’s the only way to bring peace to the Palestinians — not the Jewish people, the Palestinians.”
“If I understand the Holocaust, it strengthens my rights in this land,” he said. “If the Arabs come to the Jewish people and say, ‘We have to secure your existence so another Holocaust doesn’t happen,’ the Jewish people will say we don’t have to worry about this land.”
He told the LA Times recently that the Holocaust is a “weapon in the hands of Israelis” and that he counts Palestinians among its victims, albeit indirectly. Last year, he told Ynet that “Israel’s existence is premised on the memory of the Holocaust” and that if Palestinians accepted the facts, the conflict with Israel would be over in a matter of days.
In short, this whole thing is a means to an irredentist end for him — and yet, he genuinely does seem to believe it. Or does he? Here’s the most worrisome part, again from the Chronicle article:
To Mahameed, who believes 6 million — or more — Jews died in the death camps, such statements [questioning the number of victims] serve no purpose.
What difference does it make, he asks, if the number is true or false? So long as the rest of the world accepts it — and supports Israel, in part, out of guilt and revulsion over the Holocaust — the Arab world harms its interests by denying it.
That logic is really just the flip side of Holocaust denial in that it’s based not on the facts but on the desired political end. Presumably, if you could show him that Holocaust denial helps Arab interests, he’d have to reconsider. Thus the peril of means-ends reasoning.
No big conclusion here, just wanted to call attention to a minor character on the Israeli-Palestinian landscape who was cheated by the Iranians out of his chance to become a major one. Like I said, read the Chronicle article.