Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Or almost all, anyway

Stephen Harper yesterday condemned the confab of kooks in Tehran denying the Holocaust as "an offense to all Canadians." I applaud the statement. Unfortunately, it appears the PM was in fact incorrect, as among the conference's attendees was a professor at St. Francis Xavier University, which is among other things the place where my little brother goes to school.

Dr. Shiraz Dossa, a professor of political science, gave a paper he described as "an essay on the abuse of imagery of the Holocaust." He says in an interview with the Globe and Mail that most of his fellow conferees are "hacks and lunatics" and that he "frankly wouldn't shake hands with most of them." In which case, I gotta ask, why did he go to Tehran in the first place? How naive, exactly, does Dr. Dossa wish us to believe him?

It never fails to amaze that people willingly allow themselves to become what Lenin called "useful idiots," giving their support to organizations, enterprises and people who are clearly hostile to them in the long-term. On top of that, it destroys their credibility-Dr. Dossa is now going to be a Holocaust denier to anyone who wants to discredit him, and he'll have a hard time convincing most people otherwise.

I suppose the message here is that the medium matters more than the message. I don't imagine I'd agree with Dr. Dossa's argument, but I can't judge from the sketchy descriptions of the paper whether or not I'd be appalled by it or not. Going to this freakshow to present the thing, though, immediately discredits the arguments in the eyes of most people.

I'm reminded of my favourite author, P.G. Wodehouse, broadcasting on German radio in 1940 giving lighthearted accounts of his time in internment camps. It doesn't particularly matter that the content of the broadcasts was in no way pro-German, much less pro-Nazi-giving them in the first place was wrong. It allowed the Germans to say, in effect, "Look, we're not so bad. We're letting this prominent English humourist to go on the radio and make fun of us." Wodehouse never lived it down, and in my role as a Wodehouse evangelist this is the single biggest sticking point in getting people to read the man-and rightly so.

Similarly, you could go to this thing in Tehran to deliver a paper on the horrors of the Holocaust, arguing that they were in fact worse that generally believed, and you'd still be part of the problem, because you'd be adding to this charade's non-existent credibility. "Look," the conference organizers would say, "We're allowing a wide array of views, even from the Zionists. We're not so bad. Better, in factm than you, 'cause you shut out important scholars like David Duke and Ernst Zundel."

Anyway, there's not a lot of importance here-the conference, its role as Iranian antisemitic provocation du jour fulfilled, will be deservedly forgotten, and Dr. Dossa will return to Antigonish and obscurity. I just find it a fascinating example of self-destruction, necessitating an amendment to Mr. Harper's speech.


Blogger Jay said...

I'm beginning to wonder how far real Holocaust denial is from "Holocaust meaning denial." In the latter, you say, well, yes, of course it happened, but it's appalling that it's used for xyz purpose - that is, it's unacceptable that the killing of six million Jews was used as a justification for real-world changes that would ensure the security of Jews in the future. Just how many Jews do have to be killed before it's acceptable to draw real-world political lessons?

Now, I recognize that this type of argument can in fact be made sincerely - by people who are concerned by the suffering that the 1948 war caused (a war started, by the way, by Arabs). But at what point does a legitimate argument that suffering can't justify more suffering become an argument that says no amount of suffering by Jewish people can justify them taking steps to defend themselves? Why is it that the Palestinians deserve a state because of the harm that a lack of statehood has caused them, but the establishment of the Jewish state after the Holocaust was illegitimate?

11:57 AM  

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