Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yad Vashem takes aim at Iran's Holocaust denial

As we mark International Holocaust Memorial Day, Yad Vashem announces a new Youtube channel in Farsi to counteract official Holocaust denial. The new channel will acquaint Iran's young and internet-savvy population with the testimonials of Holocaust survivors. The Jerusalem Post reports:

In 2006, Teheran sponsored what it called the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust, which then Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said was called to provide “an appropriate scientific atmosphere for scholars to offer their opinions.” In fact, the 67 attendees included an array of people denying that six million Jews were systematically killed by the Nazis during World War II.

Eldad Pardo, an Iran specialist at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, said Holocaust denial in Iran ran deeper than presidential statements. Iranian anti-Semitism stemmed both from the traditional Shi'ite outlook on Jews as "impure" and a more modern, Fascist version of anti-Semitism imported from Europe.

"There‘s certainly a need for this new YouTube channel," Pardo told The Media Line. "Since 2005, when Ahmadinejad came to power there has been a noticeable intensification in anti-Semitic rhetoric. No Iranian President has spoken like this before."



During World War II, Iran was officially neutral, but in effect it was a “pro-Nazi, quasi-fascist regime," Pardo said. "The Iranians, who viewed themselves as a superior Aryan race, assumed that Germany would win the war."

Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem, spoke of what he called YouTube's ability to bring survivors' personal accounts to the attention of web users in Iran.

"The connection between one person and another is extraordinarily powerful," he said. "We know this site won't radically change people's positions, but it is a good start for achieving change over time."

Approximately one half of Iran's population of 74 million was born after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and with 33 million web surfers, Iran enjoys one of the highest proportions of Internet users in the Middle East.

"The young population in Iran will now be able to get true information about what happened in the war," Rena Shashua-Hasson, a Bulgarian Holocaust survivor, told The Media Line. "This new generation, which is half of Iran's population, is misinformed by its government."

Iran has tried to block access to internet sites in the past, especially around the time of the 2009 presidential elections, in which the incumbent Ahmadinejad claimed 62% of the vote amid widespread allegations of election fraud. But David Yerushalmi, professor of Iranian studies at Tel Aviv University, said Iran's failure to completely restrict sites will give Yad Vashem a chance to bring its message.


Read article in full

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