Holocaust scholar warns of new 'soft-core' denial

Lipstadt: Equating the Holocaust with anti-Muslim prejudice is a type of denial.

carter holding book 88 2 (photo credit: AP)
carter holding book 88 2
(photo credit: AP)
Renowned Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt warned of the dangers of "soft-core" Holocaust denial in front of a packed London crowd. She drew a distinction between "hard-core" Holocaust deniers, as represented by David Irving but now relegated to the extremist fringes, and "soft-core" denial demonstrated by those who refuse to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day unless equal time is given to anti-Muslim prejudice. Lipstadt won a resounding legal victory against convicted Holocaust denier David Irving in the British courts in 2001. Lipstadt was the guest of honor at the Zionist Federation's annual fundraising dinner, held at the Intercontinental Hotel in central London, in support of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on Sunday night. She said that had Irving not decided to sue her, they would never have been able to demonstrate Holocaust deniers strategies in such a precise, analytical and systematic fashion. "Today, those arguments are not made by anyone except hardcore deniers. The demolition of deniers' arguments during my trial has caused hardcore denial, particularly in Europe and the US, to be relegated to the extremist fringe." Irving tried to sue Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, for libel for her 1994 book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory in which she described some of Irving's work as 'Holocaust denial'. Although British libel law puts the burden of proof on the defendant rather than the plaintiff, she won the case using the justification defense, by demonstrating in court that Lipstadt's accusations against Irving were substantially true and therefore not libelous. However, she disagreed with the Austrian government's decision to imprison Irving last year both on "ideological and strategic" grounds saying he would have been the "forgotten court jester" which he was at the end of the trial. "I opposed the law on the grounds of the US First Amendment that guarantees freedom of speech and turns him into a hero and martyr. "Most of all I oppose the law because it suggests we don't have the evidence to prove the case. The Holocaust has the distinction of being the best documented genocide in history," she said. Far more dangerous than the hardcore denial purported by Irving and his followers, she said, was 'soft-core' denial practised by many anti-Semites and those who revile the State of Israel. "When the Israeli army, which just like any army in the world has done things that wrong, is called "Nazis" or "baby killers" and when the persecution of Palestinians is called a genocide, there is no question that the Palestinians have suffered but how is it called genocide? When groups of people refuse to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day [referring to groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain] unless equal time is given to anti-Muslim prejudice, this is soft-core denial." She received huge applause when she asked how former US President Jimmy Carter could omit the years 1939-1947 from a chronology in his book. "When a former president of the United States writes a book on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and writes a chronology at the beginning of the book in order to help them understand the emergence of the situation and in that chronology lists nothing of importance between 1939 and 1947, that is soft-core denial." Anti-Semitism is also rife in the Arab world, she said. "One part of the world where Holocaust denial is a growth industry is the Muslim Arab world where it has seamlessly been meshed with a profound and abiding hatred of the State of Israel," she said. "It could be argued that in certain limited cases that Holocaust denial has almost been counter productive to that world. "It has turned [iranian] President Ahmadinejad into a ludicrous figure in most parts of the world. Yet denial is how those in that world hear about the Holocaust and they do not have the tools with which to respond." To remedy this, Lipstadt is working on a project taking the documents and evidence from the trial to prepare 'Frequently Asked Questions' made by deniers and write simple answers which will be translated into Arabic and Farsi. She also talked about how the fight against anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism has become a mantra particularly on the left with so many people ignoring other issues and other causes. "It is seen, including defined as such by Carter, as the worst human rights tragedy in the world. Whatever you think of the situation in Israel, it not in the league of Darfur or Rwanda, yet these vile comparisons are made."