I'm sure it's no surprise to our readers at this point that Iranian President and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke yesterday at Columbia University, one of the U.S.'s finest universities (they turned me down, so they must be good), and fielded questions regarding his remarks concerning the Final Solution. A purportedly full transcript of his remarks can be found here.
So what did the smiling guy sans necktie have to say?
M.A. addressed the issue first (not prompted by a question) by saying this: "My first question was if -- given that the Holocaust is a present reality of our time, a history that occurred, why is there not sufficient research that can approach the topic from different perspectives?"
I'm sorry, Mr. Ahmadinejad, but for someone who purportedly holds a Ph.D., you know absolutely nothing about Holocaust studies. There are hundreds of perspectives on the Holocaust, including minimalist interpretations, functionalist interpretations, intententionalist interpretations, anti-Zionist interpretations, and a host of other approaches.
M.A.: "Our friend referred to 1930 as the point of departure for this development. However, I believe the Holocaust from what we've read happened during World War II, after 1930, in the 1940s. So, you know, we have to really be able to trace the event."
Not sure who "our friend" is, or in what context the date 1930 was mentioned, so I'm going to have to take a pass on this one.
M.A.: "My question was simple: There are researchers who want to approach the topic from a different perspective. Why are they put into prison? Right now, there are a number of European academics who have been sent to prison because they attempted to write about the Holocaust or research it from a different perspective, questioning certain aspects of it."
OK, first of all, none of the people in jail for Holocaust denial are so-called academics. Not a one.
That being said, I have to wonder exactly where a man who runs a police state gets off asking a question like this. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran does not allow religious freedoms outside those recognized by the Qur'an. People are thrown in jail -- routinely -- for opposing the government. When government opponents visit the country, they are jailed. I say this without qualification: Every single country that has a law against Holocaust denial is a more free country that Iran. EVERY LAST ONE.
Now, none of us here at HC Blog believe in having laws against Holocaust denial, but one must wonder why Ahmadinejad has taken this issue up as his cause célèbre.
M.A.: "My question is: Why isn't it open to all forms of research?"
It is. What some countries (I think twelve in total, and the only one in his part of the world is Israel) have done is made it a crime to "research" the Holocaust with the implanted conclusion that it never happened and then work from that assumption.
Actually, scratch that: These idiots can "research" whatever they want. It's when they publish or speak that they get into trouble. So now we're back to the pot-kettle-black scenario.
M.A.:"I have been told that there's been enough research on the topic. And I ask, well, when it comes to topics such as freedom, topics such as democracy, concepts and norms such as God, religion, physics even, or chemistry, there's been a lot of research, but we still continue more research on those topics. We encourage it."
"Enough research on the topic"? Really? Then what am I doing here, or Jon, Nick, Roberto, and Sergey?
I seriously doubt this guy was every told this by anyone. If anyone ever actually said this, they're as big an idiot as Ahmadinejad.
As for research on democracy and freedom, what would Ahmadinejad know about either?
M.A.: "But, then, why don't we encourage more research on a historical event that has become the root, the cause of many heavy catastrophes in the region in this time and age?"
Ah, an old denier favorite. The Holocaust caused the Nakba.
No, it didn't. Zionism was a movement for fifty years before World War II and two partition plans were floated before the Holocaust even happened.
The Holocaust may have sped up the Nakba, but it wasn't the root cause.
M.A.: "Why shouldn't there be more research about the root causes? That was my first question."
There's been exhaustive research on root causes. One of the most recent overviews, Holocaust: A History by Robert Jan van Pelt and Debórah Dwork, questions the traditional root causes fairly extensively.
M.A.: "And my second question, well, given this historical event, if it is a reality, we need to still question whether the Palestinian people should be paying for it or not. After all, it happened in Europe. The Palestinian people had no role to play in it. So why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price of an event they had nothing to do with?"
Well, again, the Holocaust didn't cause the Nakba, but this is a fair point. I'll grant Ahmadinejad this one. As I once heard Rashid Khalidi say, the Jews of Europe jumped out of a burning building, and nobody can blame them for jumping, but they landed on people, and they bear a responsibility for that."
M.A.: "The Palestinian people didn't commit any crime. They had no role to play in World War II. They were living with the Jewish communities and the Christian communities in peace at the time. They didn't have any problems."
Patently false. As much sympathy as I have for the Palestinian national cause, there were anti-Jewish pogroms in Palestine in 1920 in Jerusalem and 1929 in Hebron -- the second one famously carried out against a non-Zionist Jewish population that had been living there for a thousand years.
M.A.: "And today, too, Jews, Christians and Muslims live in brotherhood all over the world in many parts of the world. They don't have any serious problems."
M.A.: "But why is it that the Palestinians should pay a price, innocent Palestinians, for 5 million people to remain displaced or refugees abroad for 60 years. Is this not a crime? Is asking about these crimes a crime by itself?"
OK, we get it. But who said it's a crime to ask about the Nakba?
M.A.: "Why should an academic myself face insults when asking questions like this? Is this what you call freedom and upholding the freedom of thought?"
Sorry, I started laughing at "an academic myself" and lost attention for a moment. I'm back.
At this point, M.A. went on to the nuclear issue.
A few minutes later, a question came, presumably from a student (or from Colubmia's President Bollinger, who frankly acted like an asshole -- not that Ahmadinejad isn't an asshole, too, but Bollinger just lowered himself to M.A.'s level): "Mr. President, a further set of questions challenged your view of the Holocaust. Since the evidence that this occurred in Europe in the 1940s, as a result of the actions of the German Nazi government, since that -- those facts -- are well documented, why are you calling for additional research? There seems to be no purpose in doing so, other than to question whether the Holocaust actually occurred as a historical fact. Can you explain why you believe more research is needed into the facts of what are -- what is -- what are incontrovertible?"
This is a lousy question. I would have asked him, rather, why he doubted the evidence and not why he thought more research is needed, because more research is needed.
That being said, I think the supposition of the question is correct. M.A. responded: "Thank you very much for your question. I am an academic, and you are as well."
Sorry, but that doesn't get any less funny as I read it.
M.A.: "Can you argue that researching a phenomenon is finished, forever done? Can we close the books for good on a historical event? There are different perspectives that come to light after every research is done. Why should we stop research at all? Why should we stop the progress of science and knowledge?"
I concede him this point, which is why my question would have been better. Damn Columbia for rejecting my application some fifteen years ago!
M.A.: "You shouldn't ask me why I'm asking questions. You should ask yourselves why you think that that's questionable? Why do you want to stop the progress of science and research? Do you ever take what's known as absolute in physics? We had principles in mathematics that were granted to be absolute in mathematics for over 800 years. But new science has gotten rid of those absolutisms, come forward other different logics of looking at mathematics and sort of turned the way we look at it as a science altogether after 800 years. So, we must allow researchers, scholars, they investigate into everything, every phenomenon -- God, universe, human beings, history and civilization. Why should we stop that?"
As correct as the questioner's supposition is, M.A. really has him by the balls at this point.
M.A.: "I am not saying that it didn't happen at all. This is not that judgment that I am passing here."
Well, with all due respect (i.e., none) you've denied it outright in the past.
M.A.: "I said, in my second question, granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people? This is a serious question. There are two dimensions. In the first question..."
And again with the linkage to Zionism. He is a one-trick pony -- two tricks at best.
Here the student continued his/her question: "Let me just -- let me pursue this a bit further. It is difficult to have a scientific discussion if there isn't at least some basis, some empirical basis, some agreement about what the facts are. So calling for research into the facts when the facts are so well established represents for many a challenging of the facts themselves and a denial that something terrible occurred in Europe in those years."
Here the audience gave the questioner applause. Again, his supposition is correct and I think he enunciated his point better here.
The student continued, "Let me move on to..." but was interrupted by M.A.: "Allow me. After all, you are free to interpret what you want from what I say. But what I am saying I'm saying with full clarity."
I think the man has a congenital inability to answer a direct question. Maybe that's just me.
M.A.: "In the first question I'm trying to actually uphold the rights of European scholars. In the field of science and research I'm asking, there is nothing known as absolute. There is nothing sufficiently done. Not in physics for certain. There has been more research on physics than it has on the Holocaust, but we still continue to do research on physics. There is nothing wrong with doing it."
Gee, "Mr. President," maybe the reason there's more research on physics is because physics is as old as the universe, and the Holocaust is only sixty years old?
But tell us all: In your country, could a scholar publish a physics paper proving God did not create the universe? The answer, I will provide for you, is this: No, s/he could not.
M.A.: "This is what man wants. They want to approach a topic from different points of view. Scientists want to do that. Especially an issue that has become the foundation of so many other political developments that have unfolded in the Middle East in the past 60 years."
Ugh. Not only does he dodge questions, but he endlessly repeats himself.
M.A.'s final remark on the topic: "Why do we stop it altogether? You have to have a justified reason for it. The fact that it was researched sufficiently in the past is not a sufficient justification in my mind."
We don't stop it altogether, you fucking idiot.
Incidentally, the next question was on capital punishment in Iran, including for homosexuals. Again: Not one of the twelve countries with laws against Holocaust denial will execute a person for a homosexual act. In many of these countries, in fact, homosexuals are a protected minority group.
His repsonse? "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country."
And I'm the queen of Romania.