The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/american/ihr/press/Beirut_Conference_Cancelled.010322



Thursday March 22 7:12 PM ET
Lebanon Won't Host Revisionists

By SAM F. GHATTAS,
Associated Press Writer

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - Lebanon's government said on Thursday that it would 
not allow a gathering of Holocaust revisionists in Beirut planned for later 
this month.
The move won the praise of Jewish groups, which had called the conference 
organized by groups that say accounts of Holocaust atrocities are 
exaggerated "a gathering of hate."
"This conference will not be held in Beirut," Prime Minister Rafik Hariri 
told The Associated Press, several hours after a Cabinet meeting that 
discussed the issue.
In the United States, the Simon Wiesenthal Center praised Lebanon's decision.
"It is an extraordinary development and I think it is very, very positive. 
It's one of the few bright spots to try to create an environment of 
moderation," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, an associate dean of the center.
But one of the organizers, the Institute for Historical Review of Newport 
Beach, Calif., accused Lebanon of giving in to pressure from Jewish groups.
"I regard this as outrageous," institute director Mark Weber said, charging 
it was hypocritical to support free speech and ban a conference that would 
have been legal in other countries.
Organizers had not revealed the exact location of the March 31-April 3 
conference, citing security concerns.
Extremist groups, such as the conference organizers, question the 
historical record that 6 million Jews died in Nazi death camps during World 
War II.
Jewish groups and scholars accuse them of distorting history and 
anti-Semitism.
The conference's co-organizer was Swiss-based Verite et Justice. Its head, 
Juergen Graf, is currently in Iran after a Swiss court sentenced him in 
1998 to 15 months in jail for "Holocaust denial," according to the 
Institute for Historical Review.
Lebanese Information Minister Ghazi Aridi told reporters on Thursday that 
no group had applied for a permit to hold such a conference. He described 
reports about the conference as part of "a political, diplomatic and media 
campaign against Lebanon."
Fourteen Arab intellectuals, including prominent Palestinian poet Mahmoud 
Darwish, had signed a letter calling for "this anti-Semitic undertaking" to 
be canceled.
The organizers may have been counting on finding sympathy among Arabs often 
at odds with Israel and Jews. Anti-Semitic writing, some of it denying the 
Holocaust or accusing Israel of imposing a new Holocaust on the 
Palestinians, has appeared in Arab media.
Arab anger has increased following the collapse of the Middle East peace 
process and amid Palestinian-Israeli violence that has killed more than 430 
people, 355 of them Palestinians, in the past six months
Fathi Kleib, a spokesman for the Democratic Front for the Liberation of 
Palestine guerrilla group, said he had no opinion on holding the conference 
in Lebanon, but that "reviewing and rereading history is beneficial in all 
cases."
Kleib said Israel has concentrated on the Holocaust in "an exaggerated way" 
while it denied the Palestinians their rights.
But some Arabs said that such a meeting in Lebanon would only bring bad 
publicity.
The widely read pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat said in an editorial last week 
that the meeting's "damage to Lebanon is guaranteed."
Lebanon is keen on attracting foreign investment and tourists to shore up 
an ailing economy weakened by debt and budget deficit after a 15-year civil 
war. []


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