The second meeting of the CHGS Reading Discussion Group was held on February 15th, 2011. The book discussed was From Empathy to Denial: Arab Responses to the Holocaust by Ester Webman and Meir Litvak. Below are some talking points and questions that were generated through the discussion. Please feel free to comment on any or all of the points.

A paradigm shift in Holocaust denial
● Denial in the Arab world - ideologies imported from European/North American deniers
Ex. Western deniers are well received in Arab countries - Mein Kampf, "Protocols of the Elders of Zion"

● Inspiration from Europe when it comes to Jew-hatred
Further reading:
-Terror and Liberalism (Paul Berman)
- Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies (Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit)

● Demonstrate how certain forms of hatred, terrorism and totalitarianism were born in Europe and then exported to the Arab world.
Ex. Compare images of members of Hamas and Hezbollah with images of followers of the worst ideologies born in Europe

The link between Holocaust denial in Arab world and the Israeli/Arab conflict
● If one does not deny the Holocaust, then anti-Jewish propaganda is more difficult to create

● Arab deniers accuse Jews of being racist Zionists - they claim Jews are racial supremacists

● They equate Zionism with colonialism

● Secular Arabs see Zionist entity as arrogant avant-garde of Western colonialism

*Are there voices in the Middle East who question Israel's policies but who aren't anti-Semitic?*
Further Reading: When Antisemitism Goes Hand in Hand with Philosemitism" by Keith Kahn-Harris guardian.co.uk 2-16-2011

Competition of victimhood

● The difficulty of the Arab people to reconcile Jews as vulnerable (victims of Holocaust) with the Zionist power they wield - this cognitive dissonance is mirrored in Western/European anti-Zionism (p. 158).
- Sartre - "Let us not forget that these Israelis are also Jews"
Further Reading:
Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate by Jean-Paul Sartre

● Competition of victimhood as a way to rationalize denial - if there is recognition of the Holocaust, then it eclipses the suffering of the Palestinians.

The dangers of pseudo-scholarship
● Pseudo-scholarship feeds the anti-Semitism. A relativist approach to truth allows that a lie can be cloaked in the language of legitimacy.

● Most dangerous and sophisticated Holocaust deniers are not the fringe neo-Nazis, but those who trivialize and relativize.

● Arabs look to the so-called "Laws on Memory" as proof that the Holocaust did not happen - this plays into conspiracy theories

The first meeting of the CHGS Reading Discussion Group was held on January 11th, 2011. The book discussed was Deborah Lipstadt's Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth.
Below are some talking points and questions that were generated through the discussion. Please feel free to comment on any or all of the points.

European (Western) Holocaust Denial and Political ideology
● In European (Western) denial, which is the focus of Lipstadt's work, there is a persistent link between Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and the idea of a Jewish conspiracy. Denial in the Middle East is linked with anti-Zionism; yet this is also the case in the West (the idea of a Zionist conspiracy has replaced the Jewish conspiracy after WWII in Holocaust deniers' circles).

● Holocaust deniers do not follow one specific political ideology; both the radical right and the radical left have been guilty of Holocaust denial. However, in her book Lipstadt does not examine the political ideologies of deniers. She is less concerned with their political ideology as she is with the actual act of denial.

For further reading on the political ideology of Holocaust denial see: The Future of a Negation: Reflections on the Question of Genocide by Alan Finkelkraut
For more information on Holocaust deniers see: Holocaust Denial on Trial

Writing History: The Problem of Truth and Historiography
● Lipstadt explores the methodology of history writing (historiography). How does one oppose Holocaust denial when the regime of truth has changed in a postmodern age?

● Postmodernism and deconstruction may not be able to prevent Holocaust denial because these theories tend to be suspicious of mere facts and to privilege interpretations (discourse, writing, representation).

● A relativist approach to truth allows that a lie can be cloaked in the language of legitimacy. The problem is that any pseudo-scientific document can claim legitimacy, whereas pseudo-scholarly resource can claim the status of "second opinion" or "the other side of the story."

● In terms of post-modernism, it is becoming very difficult to oppose Holocaust denial on factual grounds. In the American academic system, as well as the public discourse, each opinion is given equal value. Deniers are surfing on the wave of postmodern relativism; they are perverting the discourse of deconstruction and postmodernism to disseminate their "alternative narratives."

For further reading on postmodernism see: "'Laboratories' Against Holocaust Denial - Or, The Limits of Postmodern Theory" by Elizabeth Jane Bellamy. Published in Parallax: Witnessing Theory: Volume 10, Number 1

The Battle for Campus: The First Amendment
● Should Holocaust and genocide denial be banned? In France and other European countries there are so-called "memory laws" against Holocaust denial. Is it effective? Does the repression of denial cause a situation in which hatred is suppressed, and could this prove more dangerous?

● Can we say that equality of opinions in the classroom and in the public sphere is a perversion of democracy? In an era where opinions are taken as facts, all arguments are given equal value. The deniers use this ideological perversion to their advantage. Under these conditions, the public has a right to hear every "alternative opinion" or "alternative narrative."

Fighting Holocaust Denial in Campus Newspapers and Advertising

Holocaust Denial Today: Is Lipstadt's work still timely?
● When Lipstadt wrote her book in the 1990s, Holocaust denial in the Arab world was not perceived as a threat and was not discussed much, which raises the question: Has Holocaust denial somehow been transformed? Do we live in a new era of Holocaust denial?

● Is denial a growing phenomenon or is it on the decline? What is the reaction to Mahmud Ahmadinejad's referring to the Holocaust as a myth?

● This will be discussed more in depth at our next discussion group meeting when we read From Empathy to Denial: Arab Responses to the Holocaust by Esther Webman and Meir Litvak.

For further reading on Middle East denial see: Post Zionism, Post Holocaust: Three Essays on Denial, Forgetting and the Delegation of Israel by Elhanan Yakira translated by Michael Swirsky
Holocaust denial timeline

The next CHGS Reading Discussion Group meeting will be on February 15th, 2011.

Alternative Narratives or Denial?
READING DISCUSSION GROUP

In conjunction with the spring lecture series, "Alternative Narratives or Denial," CHGS will facilitate a reading discussion group focusing on seminal works on the topic of Holocaust and genocide denial.

lipstadt.jpgDenying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory
By Deborah Lipstadt
Chapters 3, 7 and 10

January 11, 12pm
Room 710 in the Social Sciences Building


Related Links:
Holocaust Denial on Trial
Fighting Holocaust Denial On Campus

Resources for Secondary Educators:
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - Holocaust Denial
Nizkor Project


litvak.jpgFrom Empathy to Denial: Arab Responses to the Holocaust
By Meir Litvak and Esther Webman
Chapter 5

February 15, 12pm
Room 710 in the Social Sciences Building


Related Links:
The Role of Holocaust Denial in the Ideology and Strategy of the Iranian Regime - Yad Vashem


armenia.jpg

Remembrance and Denial: The Case of the Armenian Genocide
Edited by Richard G. Hovannisian

Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12


April 14th, 12pm

Room 201A in Wilson Library

Related Links:
Armenian National Institute

Resources for Secondary Educators:
Armenian Genocide Resource Library for Teachers
Armenian Genocide Teaching Resources: Facing History and Ourselves