Iran Invites Scholars to Assess Holocaust as History or Fiction
By NAZILA FATHI
Published: December 6, 2006
TEHRAN, Dec. 5 â€” The Iranian authorities, who have frequently accused the Jews of distorting history to legitimize Israel, announced plans on Tuesday for an international conference on the Holocaust.
They said the conference, to be held in Tehran next Monday and Tuesday, would include more than 60 scholars from 30 countries and would examine a range of issues, including whether the gas chambers were actually used.
Iranâ€™s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, stirred outrage in the West last year when he stated on several occasions that the Holocaust, in which six million Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis, was either greatly exaggerated or an outright myth. He also called more than once for Israel to be wiped off the map.
Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi said at a news conference here that the seminar flowed from Mr. Ahmadinejadâ€™s comments.
Beyond questioning the Holocaust, Mr. Ahmadinejad has said the Jews have used it as a propaganda tool to promote Israelâ€™s interests. Since several European countries make Holocaust denial a crime, he says scholars there are not free to do honest research on the subject.
Mr. Mohammadi said the conference would â€œprovide the opportunity for scholars from both sides to give their papers in freedom and without preconceived ideas.â€ He refused to give the names of the 67 scholars invited to attend the seminar out of fear that their countries would prohibit them from coming.
The conference does not mean that Iran â€œdenies the crimes of Hitler,â€ he added. â€œSince we are not accused and responsible for the Holocaust, we are an impartial judge.â€
The Foreign Ministry is sponsoring the event though its Institute for Political and International Studies, whose Web site says, â€œThe word â€˜Holocaust,â€™ which entered the political literature during the Second World War, turned into one of the most important propaganda tools used to politically justify the support for the Jewish People in the 20th century.â€
It invited participants to submit their papers on a range of nearly 30 subjects including the nature of anti-Semitism, Jews in Iran and Islam, Zionism, gas chambers, freedom of speech and how the law treats those who deny the Holocaust.
Mr. Mohammadi dismissed the notion that the seminar could promote anti-Semitism, saying anti-Semitism was a Western phenomenon. The proof for that, he said, was Iranâ€™s community of 25,000 Jews.
The announcement came as foreign ministers of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council â€” Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States â€” plus Germany met in France to discuss possible sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt its nuclear program.
The United Nations had demanded that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program by Aug. 31.