January 25, 2006


Iran "Is Making Lunacy Official Policy": Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has followed up his calls for the destruction of Israel with plans to host a conference questioning the validity of the Holocaust. SPIEGEL ONLINE interviewed German Holocaust historian Götz Aly to discuss how anti-Semitism is becoming official Iranian state policy. (der Spiegel, 1/24/06)

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Iran accuses the Israelis of exploiting the Holocaust for their own means. The Institute for the Research and Study of Zionism in the holy city of Qom is instigating work on the "implications of the Holocaust for the creation and legitimization of the Zionist regime." Is the virulent anti-Semitism in Iran not in reality anti-Zionism?

Aly: I am not so sure about that. For a long time the Arabic world stood out because it didn't take on European racial hatred. When you look at it historically, the Zionist idea can be classed as a reaction against European nationalism at the end of the 19th century. And of course the Nazi policy of extermination and the death of six million European Jews have provided another very concrete motivation for creating the state of Israel. I think it's a legitimate desire for the surviving Jews, and in fact for all Jews, to avoid ever again slipping into the role of defenseless and helpless victims, by having their own militarized state. At any rate it's a wish which seems plausible to any sensible and fair-minded person.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Ahmadinejad undermines his own credibility when he claims that the Holocaust is fiction. Is this not astonishing given that the Shoah is often glorified as a positive event in the Arab world?

Aly: It's impossible to combat obsessive historical revisionism using arguments and even the most basic logic. It is quite simply absurd to, on the one hand thank Hitler's Germany for the Holocaust -- which unfortunately does happen -- and then in the next breath say that the murder of six million Jews never took place. It's hard to understand how a state, which accepts aspects of modern life, is able to make obvious lunacy official national policy.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Would you suggest we write off the proposed Holocaust conference as nothing more than silliness?

Aly: Absolutely not. As far as Iran goes we are in the process of witnessing the political process of a state's ideology being formed out of the prejudices which are widespread in every society. The result is resentment combined with the power of a state.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How do you explain the heartlessness and brutality needed to aspire to the destruction of a country?

Aly: That is something which in Germany we know a fair bit about. Creating a universal enemy can serve as a politically uniting force for a country. This is particularly the case for states which are weak, badly led, highly corrupt and don't properly exploit their own economic opportunities. The concept of the enemy allows mass incitement to hatred to provide a diversion from the forces of modern life -- which is constantly demanding more specialization within society as well as greater flexibility.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So Israel lends itself then to this purpose in the Middle East and beyond?

Aly: The concept of Israel as an enemy allows numerous Arab-Muslim governments in the Middle East and south-western Asia to deflect attention at home from their own incompetence.

Of course, demonizing Jews won't liberalize Iran's state and economy, which is what its people want.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 25, 2006 9:58 AM

Demonizing jews won't liberalize Iran, but it will endear the Mad Mullahs to the West's "progressive" elite.

Posted by: Mike Morley at January 25, 2006 10:44 AM

Paging General Galiteri, Der Spiegel needs a quote...

Posted by: Mikey at January 25, 2006 1:36 PM

From the beginning Bush was right about Iran. The developments there are becoming dangerous to their health.

Posted by: Genecis at January 25, 2006 5:24 PM

Sixty years ago, anti-semitism almost destroyed the European continent.

Welcome to globalization?

Posted by: Barry Meislin at January 26, 2006 2:31 AM