How Holocaust Denial Became an Obsession on Both the Extreme Right and the Extreme Left

April 30 2018

Earlier this month, the French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson lost a defamation suit against Le Monde, which had published an article calling him a “professional liar” and a “falsifier of history.” Paul Berman traces Faurisson’s intellectual development—which began when he was exposed to the ideas of the “sad-sack left-wing pacifist” Paul Rassinier—and the bizarre quarters that have been receptive to his work:

[Rassinier argued that], even if conditions in [German concentration] camps were less than good, neither were they especially terrible, and Germany’s conduct during the war was no worse than any other country’s. Germany ought not to be demonized. And the truly evil people in the camps were the Communist prisoners. And the Jews were responsible for the war. . . .

Rassinier was originally a man of the left, but his disciple Faurisson is a man with ultraright-wing origins, and some of the early successes of his thesis came about, as might be expected, on the ultraright. [It was Faurisson’s] belief that Germany in World War II acted in self-defense against the Jews. Faurissonism is, in short, a postwar extension of Nazism—as ought to be obvious at a glance. . . . In the United States, Faurisson was taken up by the right-wing champions of the old isolationist movement, who were eager to show that, just as Wilhelmine Germany in World War I was not as bad as the pro-war argument in that era had maintained, neither was Nazi Germany as bad as was said by the supporters of World War II. The old-time isolationists were glad to have an opportunity to condemn Israel and the Zionists, too. . . .

Then again, Faurisson’s successes came on the ultraleft, chiefly in France. A group of well-known veterans of the 1968 uprising in Paris, the Vieille Taupe or “Old Mole” group, led by someone named Pierre Guillaume, began to see in Faurisson’s writings a tool for advancing the anti-imperialist cause (on the grounds that Western imperialism was the largest crime of the 20th century, but its criminality has been concealed under a cloud of accusations about the crimes of Nazism—which means that, if Nazi behavior can be shown to have been no worse than anybody else’s, the scale of the imperialist crime can at last stand fully revealed). . . . [Around 1980], Noam Chomsky, who in those days was more than well-known, . . . struck up an alliance with Guillaume. . . .

Chomsky, an MIT linguist who was by then a leading far-left thinker, repeatedly defended Faurisson, insisting he was doing so in the name of freedom of speech, even while claiming that Faurisson was a “liberal” who conducted his research in good faith and was by no means an anti-Semite. To Berman, there is no doubt that Chomsky’s affinity with Faurisson ran much deeper because—like Mahmoud Abbas, another admirer of Faurisson—they shared an abiding and maniacal hatred for the Jewish state.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Freedom of Speech, History & Ideas, Holocaust denial, Imperialism, Nazism

The Riots on the Gaza Border are Carefully Coordinated Attacks on Israel, and Should Be Treated as Such

Jan. 16 2019

On Friday, the weekly riots at the Gaza security fence resumed in full force: 13,000 people participated, and a Palestinian woman was apparently killed by Israeli gunfire. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) had established a commission of inquiry in May, not long after these riots began, “to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human-rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, . . . particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests that began on March 20, 2018.” In a report to the commission, Richard Kemp, a retired senior British officer, concludes, after investigating the situation at the Gaza border, that there is no evidence whatsoever of Israeli wrongdoing, and that the commission is operating under faulty assumptions:

The terms of [the commission’s] mandate are self-evidently biased against the state of Israel and the IDF. The context cited—“the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests”—make clear that the UNHRC either failed to understand what was happening on the ground or deliberately misrepresented the reality. In addition, the commission’s mandate terms the Gaza Strip “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” which it is not. . . .

[T]he so-called “civilian protests” in reality were, and continue to be, a deliberate military operation, orchestrated and controlled by Hamas, [a] terrorist group that has been waging an armed conflict against Israel for many years. Their intention was and remains to kill and wound IDF soldiers, to break through the border fence, to murder and maim innocent civilians, to destroy property, and to compel the IDF to take defensive action resulting in the death of Gaza civilians for exploitation in the international arena. [Israel’s] “military assaults” were not what was implied by this prejudicial mandate. They were in fact lawful, proportionate, and restrained defensive actions. . . .

Suggestions that these demonstrations are [protests] against Israeli policy toward the Gaza Strip are demonstrably false and easily refuted by cursory viewing of Hamas and other public statements made at the time of the events. . . . Further, it is clear that Hamas intended this violence to continue its long-standing strategy of creating and intensifying international outrage, vilification, isolation, and criminalization of the state of Israel and its officials. . . .

[T]he starkest indication that these events were entirely under Hamas control is the simple fact that, when it suited Hamas’s political interests, the [demonstrations] occurred and were of a violent nature, and when such actions did not serve Hamas’s interests, the border was quiet. As the most recent example of this, in November 2018, Qatar began to make large cash payments to Hamas in Gaza. The most recent payment of $15 million was handed over in December 2018. These payments are reportedly part of an agreement with Hamas to diminish violence along the Gaza border. [After] the first payment, the border violence [was] reduced [and the] demonstrations [became] far more restrained.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Laws of war, UNHRC