Holocaust denial in Iran can be tackled by media, say experts

US Holocaust Memorial Museum holds briefing to discuss Iranian cartoon contest on the Shoah.

May 15, 2016 05:42
2 minute read.
Yad Vashem

A Holocaust survivor wears a yellow star during a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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NEW YORK – The way to tackle Holocaust denial in Iran is by feeding facts and information to nongovernment media outlets, Iranian-born author and scholar Majid Mohammadi told The Jerusalem Post after a briefing held by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in which he participated a week ago.

The briefing was held to discuss Iran’s Holocaust current cartoon contest. An exhibition featuring the participating cartoons opened on Saturday. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington has strongly condemned the initiative and said it questions the claims of Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who said in an interview with The New Yorker last month that the contest is being held without the government’s support.

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Mohammadi, who, before leaving Iran in 2000, worked to expand freedom of the press as well as human and civil rights in the country, told the Post that Holocaust denial in the country starts in school.

“The problem in Iran is that kids don’t hear anything in their history books about the Holocaust,” he explained. “The only sources they have is what the government is broadcasting or publishing. Everything is in the hands of the government.”

“This is also my own experience,” he added. “I heard about the Holocaust when I was 25.There was nothing in our books about what happened to the Jewish people in Europe.”

Mohammadi however believes Iranian society is open to learning.

“I believe that if they had different facts, different opinions, they would be ready to reevaluate what they have learned,” he said.

According to him, the emergence of satellite TV channels, which are not run by the government, can be a good platform to inform Iranian people about the Holocaust.

“It’s not difficult to translate documentaries or movies and give them for free to these channels who broadcast for Iranians,” Mohammadi suggested Tad Stahnke, the director of the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Initiative on Holocaust Denial and Antisemitism, who spoke at the briefing, told the Post that Holocaust denial and distortion is a persistent problem in 2016, despite the extensive existing documentation on the crimes committed under the Third Reich.

“What we are trying to do is reach audiences in countries where there is anti-Semitism, denial and distortion of the Holocaust, with accurate, relevant information,” he explained.

“We are working to try to partner with organizations, reaching young people, reaching future leaders and provide them materials and resources.”

In a statement last month, Stahnke added that “the global community and the people of Iran deserve an unequivocal denouncement of this Holocaust cartoon contest.

“It is so important to get accurate information to the Iranian people, and I think that now with social media and other ways to get that information into Iran, it would be a good way to counter the messages they are receiving from the government,” he said.

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