Holocaust is a “myth”, says Iran’s president

Iran's Islamic government continues to direct criticism against Israel and the West in general. In Tehran, a two-day conference has opened. Its purpose is supposedly to examine whether the Holocaust actually happened.

Several countries have condemned the conference, including Germany, Israel and the United States. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who backs the event, has described the Holocaust as a “myth” and called to put an end to the state of Israel and Israeli policies towards the Palestinians.

An estimated 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II, and Holocaust denial is a crime in some countries, including Germany, Austria and France. Meanwhile Iran's Islamic regime believes the Holocaust is used by Israel as a form of self-justification. As Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has put it, “the Zionist regime is aware that if the conventional interpretation and picture of the Holocaust is questioned, the essence and identity of the Zionist regime will be questioned”.

The conference has attracted so-called “revisionists,” including the American white nationalist politician David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. But a number of Orthodox Jewish rabbis opposed to Zionism are also attending. “The Zionists are taking this terrible, horrific tragedy that happened to Jews,” says Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, Member of Jews United Against Zionism, “and they're using it to further their rebellion against God, to use it for the political end to build, as I said, a state, something that is the antithesis, the contradiction to everything that is Godly”.

Iran also may be testing the limits of the West's commitment to freedom of speech. The Iranian leadership is drawing a parallel with the Danish cartoons published earlier this year depicting the Prophet Mohammed, which caused outrage among Muslims.

The conference has already drawn negative response. The chairman of Israel's Holocaust museum Avner Shalev described it as a sort of event with a tragic effect. “It is not going only to harm the Jewish people and the state of Israel,” he stressed. “It is paving the way for genocide”. The Yad Vashem Museum is expected to hold a symposium later this week to discuss ways to deal with denial of the Holocaust.