Amidst the rising tide of terrorism in the Middle East directed at Israeli children and the parallel ideological assault by Syria's new young president, Bashir Assad, labeling Israelis "worse than Nazis," a small positive countermovement went largely unnoticed.(1)
In the shadow of its all-powerful Syrian neighbor and occupier, Lebanon's government has shown some real courage by distancing that small country from Holocaust denial.
Just one week before a global hatefest was scheduled to convene in Beirut, Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri banned the meeting because, in his words, "Lebanon has more important things to do than holding conferences that hurt its international standing and smear its name."(2) A day later, Lebanon's ambassador to the US, Farid Abboud, told officials of the Simon Wiesenthal Center that ideological antisemitism and the virus of Holocaust denial are alien to Lebanon's pluralist political traditions.(3)
The planned four-day gathering, entitled "Revisionism and Zionism," was being organized under the auspices of the California-based Institute for Historical Review (IHR), notorious for denying the historic veracity of the Nazi Holocaust. The event coordinator was Jurgen Graf, a professional bigot who fled Switzerland to Teheran after being sentenced to jail for defaming the memory of Hitler's victims. The IHR was coy about the details, but reportedly the Beirut event would have featured the participation not only of all international rogues gallery of anti-Israel Arab and Muslim ideologues and European and American Holocaust deniers but also such violent extremists from around the world as German Far Right leader Horst Mahler and National Alliance head William L. Pierce, author of the infamous racist tract, The Turner Diaries, which served as blueprint for Timothy McVeigh's terrorist attack in Oklahoma City.(4)
The heartening decision by the Lebanese government to make the IHR persona non grata in Beirut followed a two-month campaign spearheaded by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Swiss government. It gained additional momentum when 14 Arab intellectuals, among them prominent Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, signed a letter calling for "this anti-Semitic undertaking" to be canceled.(5)
Lebanon joined a growing list of countries worldwide concerned about the resurgence of Neo-Nazism and Holocaust denial. Great Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as Israel are among the countries that have made it a crime to defame the memory of Hitler's victims. Americans may have reservations about such laws on free-speech grounds, but we all can applaud last year's declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, encouraging all European countries to include the study of the Holocaust "in all its dimensions" in the curriculums of their schools.(6)
Tragically, despite Hariri's initiative, too many in the mainstream Arab and Muslim worlds teach their children just the opposite: that there was no Holocaust. These …