“Freedom of Expression Denial”

Recent debates have swirled over an Iranian conference characterized as “denying the genocide” of the Holocaust.  Moreover, the Iranian president, Ahmedinejad, has been repeatedly quoted as calling the Holocaust a myth.  Actually, Ahmadinejad called the conference questioning the number of people killed in the Holocaust mainly as a means of challenging boasts about the freedom of expression in Europe. 

Most histories describe the number of people killed in the Holocaust as 6 million. Some historians would dispute this claim saying that it is exaggerated to provide a stronger case for the existence of the Zionist State.  What is missing on both sides of the argument is the value of each individual life.  Whether 6 million, 1 million, ten, or one, the murder of innocent civilians whether in Europe under the Nazis, in Palestine, Iraq, Africa, etc. is a crime, deserves justice, and should not be belittled. 

I don’t know how many were brutally murdered in the Holocaust – that question is in the domain of historians. Yet, historians in Europe who dare to investigate the topic are being jailed and their expression repressed.  David Irving, who ‘coincidently’ was unexpectedly released from prison after the Iranian conference, is one such historian.  He was sentenced to three years in an Austrian prison for “denying the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz.”  Again, I am not a historian, but I have been to Auschwitz and find it unbelievable for anyone to deny the existence of a gas chamber there.  However, should a man really be sentenced to prison for being a bad historian?

Moreover, I find it hypocritical for the Iranians to hold a conference aimed at exposing the lack of European freedom of expression, while in Iran freedom of expression remains stifled.  Recently students have braved government restrictions by protesting the decreasing freedom of expression in Iran.  “”Freedom of speech is being restricted more than before in Iran,” says Iran’s Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi.”  And students are complaining of being expelled from universities and professors forced to retire for expressing opinions counter to the government line. 

Isn’t it, then, hypocritical on both the Iranian and European sides to charge the other with denying freedom of expression?

The Holocaust was a tragic and horrible taint on human history, but certainly it was not the first, perhaps was not the worst, and unfortunately was not the last.  We say “never again,” but it continues to happen with every rape and death in Africa, Iraq, Palestine, etc.  What I find most disheartening is that the legacy of the Holocaust victims has been tarnished with the death of every innocent Palestinian.  But, for this, we must be careful to blame Zionism and its supporters, and not Judaism, a respected Abrahamic faith.

-Sarah Swick, Minaret of Freedom Institute

3 Responses to ““Freedom of Expression Denial””

  1. Dain says:

    Well put.

    I’ll add that the views of Ahmedinijad himself have been distorted in the past (though I feel there is no doubt that he isn’t exactly the most liberal of men!):

    “The most infamous quote, ‘Israel must be wiped off the map’, is the most glaringly wrong. In his October 2005 speech, Mr. Ahmadinejad never used the word ‘map’ or the term ‘wiped off’. According to Farsi-language experts like Juan Cole and even right-wing services like MEMRI, what he actually said was ‘this regime that is occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.’

    From Virginia Tilley’s article at Counterpunch: http://www.counterpunch.org/tilley08282006.html

  2. […] President’s Conference Denying Nazi Holocaust” (click on “Collected Responses” to see these letters). Here is my contribution: Mr. Ahmadinejad called a conference to question the historical reality of the European mass murder of the Jews in order to make a point about restrictions of freedom of speech and the press in Europe. I deplore his decision to do so, as I deplore the Danish cartoons to which he was reacting. I completely believe in freedom of speech, but I also believe in good manners. I draw the attention of those interested to the heartfelt analysis of this question in the blog of my associate Sarah Swick: “Freedom of Expression Denial.”   Responding to the bad taste of those who insulted the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with the bad taste of denying the suffering of European Jewry is one more example of the truth that two wrongs do not make a right. Attempting to use the fact of the Holocaust to justify the persecution and disenfranchisement of the Palestinians is yet another example. As Rabbi Yisroel Feldman rightly observed in his address to the conference in question (http://www.nkusa.org/activities/Speeches/2006Iran-Feldman.cfm): “No matter how we may debate some of the details of what was done to the Jews of Europe there is no doubt that they were treated brutally and that this brutality included all men, women and children. The Jews were physically attacked and murdered. Their possessions and homes were taken. They were shipped across Europe like animals jammed into cattle cars with little or no food and water. Millions died. And many of these were defenseless women and children. These are facts. The worldwide Jewish community is by and large descendents of those who survived this horrible hell…. “However, there is also no moral justification for using these events to dispossess and occupy another people who have nothing whatsoever to do with what was done in Europe. Let Europe make amends for what took place if they so desire, not the Palestinians.“ I pray that all people of good will unite in the resolve to set aside quarrels about the the scope of past atrocities in order to unite in the struggle against current ones. May God grant you all good things! Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, President Minaret of Freedom Institute Cat:  […]

  3. There may finally be a simple way to redress the great crime that has been committed against the Palestinians. The Sultan of Dubai has shown that it is possible to build artificial islands in the Persian Gulf. It might be possible to augment the paltry amount of land that the Palestinians retain by creating more land for them either in the Mediterranean sea near Gaza or in the Persian Gulf. It would be expensive, but the number of rich organizations and countries willing to contribute would probably be very large.

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