Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the viciously anti-Israel supreme leader of Iran, has once again aligned himself with Holocaust denial, which is widely recognized as a form of antisemitism.
Yesterday, he sang the praises of Roger Garaudy, the late French anti-Zionist zealot and Holocaust denier. On the 21st anniversary of Garaudy’s conviction of Holocaust denial, a crime in France, Khamenei lashed out at the French authorities for having prosecuted him.
Garaudy, a Catholic convert to Islam who died in 2012, placed himself in legal jeopardy with the publication of his incendiary book, The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics. In this turgid tome, published in 1996, he claimed the deaths of six million Jews during the Holocaust was a “myth,” questioned whether gas chambers ever had been used in Nazi concentration camps, and maintained that three Western leader — Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower and Charles De Gaulle — had “invented” the Holocaust to justify the postwar Allied occupation of Germany.
On the Amazon site, Garaudy’s provocative book, a slurry of fierce anti-Zionism and unremitting Holocaust denial, is clinically described as a “readable, thoroughly documented study (that) examines the brutal dispossession and mass expulsion of Palestine’s Arabs, exposes the farce of the Nuremberg victors’ show trial, and shows that the notorious German ‘final solution’ term referred to a ‘territorial’ program of resettlement, not extermination.”
Garaudy, a philosopher and historian, paid a penalty for peddling lies about the Holocaust. He was slapped with a hefty fine and handed a suspended sentence and his book was banned. From that moment on, he was lumped together with such notorious French Holocaust deniers as Paul Rassinier and Robert Faurisson.
In respectable academic circles, Garaudy’s image was forever tarnished, regarded as little more than a tinpot propagandist. But in much of the Muslim world, where skepticism of the Holocaust runs deep, he was hailed as a hero.
The Iranian government invited him to Tehran, where Khamenei praised Garaudy for exposing Israel’s “Nazi-like behavior” toward the Palestinians. Syria’s former vice-president, Abdul-Halim Khaddam, called him the “greatest contemporary Western philosopher.” Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi compared him to Plato and Aristotle. Hezbollah chieftain Hassan Nasrallah congratulated him for having exposed the “alleged Jewish Holocaust.”
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 Arab terrorist attacks in the United States, Garaudy’s reputation took another hit when he promoted the wild conspiracy theory that the U.S. government had planned and implemented these deadly assaults, which claimed the lives of almost 3,000 people.
Despite the ill repute in which Garaudy is generally held, Khamenei continues to revere him. On December 16, he paid fulsome tribute to Garaudy, calling attention to his “bravery” and “tirelessness” and commending him for his hostility to Zionism and his doubts concerning the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.
Khamenei’s flirtation with Holocaust denial is nothing new. Five years ago, in a tweet, he referred to the Holocaust as “an event whose reality is uncertain,” and in 2016, he uploaded a video to his website questioning the scale of Nazi Germany’s Final Solution.
In spite of his forays into Holocaust denial, Khamenei claims he is not an antisemite. As recently as last month, he told the International Islamic Unity Conference he is not antagonistic to Jews. “We are not antisemitic,” he said. “Jews are living in utmost security in our country.” In a reference to his regime’s lust to destroy Israel, he went on to say that “the disappearance of Israel does not mean the disappearance of the Jewish people, because we have nothing against Jews.”
Khamenei is clueless, a hopeless case.
He will never understand that his insistent calls for Israel’s destruction are tantamount to antisemitism. Nor does he grasp the notion that denying or minimizing the Holocaust is equivalent to legitimizing and glorifying antisemitism.