Michelle L. Picheny*

Abstract:  Despite documentation of the atrocities of the Holocaust, there are those who deny its occurrence. Previously, the Holocaust denial movement had been confined to the western world. Western Holocaust deniers, however, faced with opposition and legal restriction by countries such as the United States, Canada, France, and Germany, have expanded their efforts into many Arab nations, such as Egypt, Syria, and the Palestinian Authority. While Holocaust-inspired anti-Semitism is nothing new in these countries, the on-going Arab-Israeli conflict provides a fertile ground for efforts to promulgate Holocaust denial as a new anti-Semitic propaganda tool. Most disturbing is that many Arab governments and political leaders not only support, but even perpetuate Holocaust denial themselves. With no internal remedies in these Arab countries to suppress deniers’ activities, the international community must act to combat Holocaust denial worldwide.


In the 1930s Nazi rats spread a virulent form of anti-Semitism that resulted in the destruction of millions. Today the bacillus carried by these rats threatens to “kill” those who already died at the hands of the Nazis for a second time by destroying the world’s memory of them. One can only speculate about the form of the bacillus’ next mutation. All those who value truth, particularly truths that are subject to attack by the plague of hatred, must remain ever vigilant. The bacillus of prejudice is exceedingly tenacious and truth and memory are exceedingly fragile.1

[*PG332] The existence of the Holocaust is not a matter of debate.2 The Nuremberg trials and the news reports and newsreel covering the liberation of the German concentration camps established the fact of the Holocaust.3 Despite such documentation, there are those who deny the very existence of this horrific scar on world history.4 Indeed, denial activity has increased in scope and intensity since the mid-1970s.5 Given the reality that the Holocaust soon will no longer be a “living history,” such an increase in its denial is frightening.6 The Allies liberated the concentration camps almost sixty years ago; eyewitnesses of the Holocaust—victims as well as victimizers—are now elderly.7 Their first-hand, personal accounts of what happened in the concentration camps soon will cease to exist.8 To prevent a monstrosity like the Holocaust from occurring again, these accounts must be kept alive.9

To date, most scholarship on Holocaust denial addresses deniers’ activities in the United States, Canada, and European countries. These countries have employed a variety of legal tactics to suppress the activities of Holocaust deniers.10 Faced with such opposition, deniers have extended their efforts to many Arab nations.11 This Note considers the unique problem of the extension of Holocaust denial to the Arab world.

Part I of the Note reviews the history of the Holocaust denial movement in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and addresses [*PG333]some of those countries’ legal responses to Holocaust denial. Part II discusses the deniers’ expansion into Arab countries, such as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority, where the Arab-Israeli conflict provides a fertile ground for adoption of Holocaust denial. Part III contends that the international legal community must act to impede the efforts of Holocaust deniers in those Arab countries where governments support and propagate Holocaust denial, resulting in no internal monitoring of denial activity.

I. Holocaust Denial in the United States, Canada,
and Eastern Europe

The words spoken by then General Dwight D. Eisenhower following World War II (WWII) are etched in stone above the entrance to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.: “The things I saw beggar description . . . . I made the visit [to the Nazi death camps] deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to propaganda.”12 The Nazis themselves acknowledged that the implausibility of what they had done would engender disbelief from the world.13 Once the Nazis were defeated, American soldiers were ordered to visit the death camps so that there would be eyewitness accounts of places like Auschwitz, Belsen, and Buchenwald.14 Additionally, after the war ended, the Nuremberg Tribunal focused on documenting all of the Nazi atrocities in order to preserve them in history.15

[*PG334] Despite these efforts to record and remember the seemingly unbelievable horrors and devastating truth of the Holocaust, Holocaust denial, often called “Revisionism,” has flourished worldwide in books, newspapers and newspaper advertisements, on the Internet, and in late-night public-access television.16 Holocaust deniers claim that the Holocaust never happened.17 As a result, countries such as the United States and Germany have taken varying legal responses in an effort to denounce the denial movement.18

A.  History of the Denial Movement

The Holocaust denial movement finds its roots in the language employed by the Nazis.19 Immediately following WWII, defenders of Nazi Germany and critics of American involvement and postwar Allied policy emerged.20 These groups, which included legitimate historians and extremist politicians and journalists, argued that the Holocaust was a political conspiracy promoted by the Roosevelt Administration to divert public attention away from the New Deal’s failures.21 They stopped short, however, of claiming that the atrocities of the Holocaust never happened.22

Within a few years of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, previous efforts to minimize Nazi atrocities were replaced with claims that the death of six million Jews was a complete fabrication, [*PG335]an argument that is central to contemporary Holocaust denial.23 While Holocaust denial found a receptive welcome in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s among individuals known to have connections with anti-Semitic publications and extremist groups, an organized propaganda movement did not begin until the late 1970s.24

In 1979, the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), a “pseudo-academic enterprise in which professors with no credentials in history . . . convene to develop new outlets” for their anti-Semitic beliefs, was founded.25 The IHR has an international network of activists26 who write for the group’s Journal of Historical Review, attend its annual conventions, and place revisionist advertisements in college newspapers, denying the existence of the Holocaust.27

In addition to the IHR, a number of individual efforts to deny the Holocaust have gained prominence.28 Unfortunately, many of these prominent deniers carry “the câché of academia.”29 For instance, David Leslie Hoggan wrote a dissertation at Harvard with the aid of Harry Elmer Barnes, an author of texts used at several American universities, claiming that no Jewish people were killed during or immediately following Kristallnacht.30 Similarly, Arthur Butz, a Northwestern University professor of electrical engineering, pub[*PG336]lished The Hoax of the Twentieth Century; the book’s central thesis was that the claim that millions of Jews were exterminated by the Nazis was a propaganda hoax to further Zionist ends.31

With the growth of the Internet, Holocaust denial is becoming increasingly pervasive.32 Currently, the most comprehensive denial websites are the IHR’s website;33 the Zundelsite,34 administrated by German-Canadian IHR activist Ernst Zundel; and the CODOH’s site,35 which includes updates on its attempts to convince college newspapers to print its advertisements.36

The increase in the scope and intensity of Holocaust denial reflects intellectual currents that emerged in the late 1960s, when scholars argued that texts had no fixed meanings.37 According to these scholars, the reader’s interpretation, not the author’s intention, determined meaning.38 Thus, “in academic circles some scholars spoke of relative truths, rejecting the notion that there was one version of the world that was necessarily right while another was wrong.”39 Such notions fostered the philosophy that no idea was beyond the realm of rational thought and created an atmosphere that allowed for questioning the meaning of historical events.40

While these scholars were neither deniers themselves nor sympathetic to deniers, their views made it difficult to assert that there was anything “off limits,” and made it impossible for them to denounce Holocaust denial as a movement with no scholarly, intellectual, or ra[*PG337]tional validity.41 The term “revisionism” emerged from this legitimate historical tradition of reevaluating history.42 In this way, deniers tactically adopted the term to acquire an “undeserved intellectual credibility.”43

B.  Deniers’ Claims

Throughout the development of the contemporary Holocaust denial movement, deniers have maintained that there was no genocide of the Jewish people leading up to or during WWII.44 While deniers do not deny that Hitler’s government engaged in persecution of Jews in Germany and German-controlled countries, they contend that the anti-Semitic actions of the Nazis were a response to Jewish disloyalty during wartime, no different from the wartime behavior of the western allies and the Soviet Union.45 According to deniers, the term “Holocaust” refers to “a myth, a hoax, invented by the Jews, who invented it for money, to victimize Germans and to create the state of Israel . . . . The ‘real victims’ are the German people, Palestinians and [*PG338]Christians generally while the real perpetrators, the real ‘Nazis’ are Jews . . . .”46

The IHR and other Holocaust deniers adopt three basic arguments.47 First, deniers argue that the Nazis never had any plan for annihilating Jews, and that the means supposedly used for annihilation were technologically impossible.48 Second, deniers contend that those Jews who were killed were killed for justifiable reasons.49 Third, deniers maintain that Israeli and Jewish leaders and scholars have perpetuated the hoax of the Holocaust to serve their own material and political interests.50

To support these incredulous claims, deniers make numerous assertions.51 For example, they argue that the absence of a single Nazi document expressly enumerating a “master plan” to annihilate the Jewish people proves that the Holocaust did not occur.52 In the absence of such an express “master plan,” deniers further argue that the survivor testimony on which Holocaust scholars must depend is subjective and unreliable.53 Additionally, deniers disclaim some of the most widely-accepted information regarding the Holocaust.54 For instance, they deny that there were death camp gas chambers used for [*PG339]mass murder.55 They further deny the net loss of Jewish lives between 1941 and 1945, questioning the generally-accepted estimate that six million Jews died during this period.56 Finally, deniers assert that the Nuremberg Trials, where much of the information about the Holocaust first became public and where the general history about the Holocaust was established, lacked objectivity and legal validity.57 Instead, they argue that the trials were “a ‘farce of justice’ staged for the benefit of the Jews.”58

For a long time, Holocaust denial was dismissed as invalid.59 Nonetheless, deniers’ claims have had a powerful impact, despite their seemingly absurd message.60 In April 1993, the Roper Organization conducted a poll to determine the extent of Americans’ knowledge of the Holocaust.61 American adults and high school students were asked the following question: “Do you think it is possible or impossible that the Holocaust did not happen?”62 The results were astounding: 22% of adults and 20% of high school students answered that it was possible that the Holocaust did not happen.63 Polls such as [*PG340]this one suggest that Holocaust denial is not just a “wacky phenomenon,” but rather a serious threat to insuring that the memory of the Holocaust lives on.64

C.  Legal Responses

Using a variety of legal tactics, countries such as the United States, Canada, England, France, and Germany have thwarted the efforts of Holocaust deniers.65 For example, in the United States, a unique hybrid contract/tort cause of action prevailed against the IHR.66 In Germany, Holocaust deniers have been prosecuted successfully under racial defamation or hate crime laws.67 Such responses in these countries have helped to thwart deniers’ efforts to promulgate their claims.68

1.  The United States

The United States provides strict protection for speech and expression under the First Amendment to the Constitution.69 While there are certain contexts in which the regulation of free speech has been deemed constitutional,70 these contexts have been increasingly restricted over the course of the last several decades.71 For example, during World War I, courts allowed speech restrictions where proposed speech constituted a “clear and present danger” to society.72 [*PG341]While initially interpreted to require the speech only to have a dangerous tendency to lead to unlawful action, the Supreme Court limited this standard in Brandenburg v. Ohio73 to speech that is likely to cause or incite immediate violence.74 Similarly, in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire,75 the Supreme Court established the doctrine of “fighting words,” making it illegal, in the words of the New Hampshire statute, to “address any offensive, derisive, or annoying word to any person who is lawfully in any street or any public place . . . nor make any noise or exclamation in his presence and hearing with intent to deride, offend or annoy him.”76 However, this doctrine was restricted in Cohen v. California77 and Lewis v. City of New Orleans,78 such that the use of the “fighting words” doctrine against racist speech has become quite limited in current practice.79

For advocates and activists aiming to combat hate speech and hate crimes, this absolute commitment to the First Amendment often [*PG342]leads to frustration.80 The Mermelstein case in the early 1980s exhibits a creative approach to combating Holocaust denial in a democratic society.81 In that case, the IHR issued an offer in its magazine to pay $50,000 to anyone who could prove that the Jews were gassed at Auschwitz.82 When the ad was ignored, the IHR decided to generate publicity by sending letters to a number of well-known survivors, challenging them again to prove the Auschwitz gassings.83 Mel Mermelstein, a California resident and Auschwitz survivor, whose mother and sisters had been gassed in Auschwitz and whose father and brother were killed at a subcamp of Auschwitz, accepted the challenge.84 Mermelstein filed a notarized affidavit with the IHR detailing his experiences at Auschwitz and giving the names of other eyewitnesses and scientific witnesses who could corroborate his account.85 When the IHR refused to pay him, Mermelstein sued the IHR for breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other torts.86

Although the case eventually settled, Mermelstein is significant because its unique causes of action avoided First Amendment scrutiny.87 Of equal importance, the judge in the California Civil Court took judicial notice of both the Holocaust in general and the gassing of the Jews at Auschwitz specifically, stating that the gassings were facts not subject to dispute.88

The Mermelstein case, as compared with other First Amendment cases, highlights the tensions in the United States surrounding the [*PG343]interplay of the First Amendment and hate speech.89 Such tensions distinguish the United States from other Western democracies, all of which have laws that punish various forms of Holocaust denial.90 Unlike the debate in the United States, the debate in other Western democracies has not been whether to control hate speech, but rather how to control hate speech.91

2.  Germany

Germany’s approach toward Holocaust denial is more representative of the general treatment of Holocaust deniers in other Western democracies.92 Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust has led to the adoption of a policy that strictly denounces deniers’ activities.93 Indeed, denial of the Holocaust violates German law, a violation enforced by German authorities.94 A 1985 law criminalizing Holocaust denial prohibits attacks on human dignity by incitement to hatred; dissemination of writings; and the instigation of hatred as offenses against the public peace, as well as the offenses of insult, ridicule, and defamation.95 While many German trial courts have been reluctant to convict those charged with attacks on human dignity, the Federal Supreme Court has shown no such reluctance, going so far as to take judicial notice that the Holocaust occurred.96

With the rise of a violent neo-Nazi youth culture following the reunification of Germany, enforcement of the law has grown increasingly strict.97 For example, in 1999 Gunter Deckhart, leader of the right-wing National Democratic Party, organized a rally at which denier Fred Leuchter explained to the audience that there had never [*PG344]been a gas chamber at Auschwitz.98 When Deckert translated Leuchter’s speech and attempted to market it, he was convicted criminally of inciting hatred.99

To the disappointment of many who feared the narrowing of the definition of “inciting racial hatred,” Germany’s highest court reversed the conviction and remanded it to the lower courts to determine whether Deckhart was guilty of inciting hatred against part of the population, ruling that it is too great a generalization to hold that publicly repeating another person’s denial of the Holocaust is racial hatred.100 On remand, the lower court still found Deckert guilty and reaffirmed that the Holocaust is a historical fact that not need be established by evidence in Holocaust denial cases.101

Faced with such active and official opposition in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, deniers have been forced to appeal to a new audience in order to perpetuate their beliefs.102 They have found such an audience in parts of the Arab world.103

II.  Expansion into the Arab World

In recent years, the level of Holocaust denial in the Middle East has grown from a whisper to a roar . . . . While once the sole province of anti-Semites in the United States and Europe, Holocaust denial has become the latest propaganda tool against Israel for the anti-Jewish extremists of the Middle East.104

Given that the hostility between many Arab countries and Israel historically has spurned anti-Semitic sentiment, Arab countries pro[*PG345]vide a fertile ground for Holocaust deniers’ theories.105 Hindered by legislation and litigation in the Western world, deniers recently have expanded their activities into the Arab countries of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority.106 Deniers have found that, as a result of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, the atmosphere in the Arab world creates the ideal backdrop for Holocaust deniers to promote their propaganda.107 To date, Holocaust denial appears throughout many of these countries in articles and columns by journalists, speeches and pronouncements by public figures and religious leaders,108 and resolutions of professional organizations.109

A.  Holocaust Denial as a Form of Anti-Semitism

Holocaust-inspired anti-Semitism in Arab and other Muslim countries is not a new concept, but rather dates back to 1937 Nazi-conducted propaganda campaigns in the region.110 In fact, during WWII, the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, tried to create an alliance between Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Arab nationalists “for the ultimate purpose of conducting Holy War of Islam against ‘international Jewry.’”111

Since WWII, Egypt, Syria, and Iran have been accused of sheltering Nazi war criminals.112 Fritz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka, lived in Damascus for several years; Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann’s [*PG346]aide, spent almost all of his post-war years in Egypt and Syria, where he is still believed to live today; and Franz Bartel, assistant Gestapo chief of Katowice, along with numerous Nazi doctors, including Dr. Herbert Heim and Dr. Willerman, who were responsible for the “experiments” on concentration camp prisoners, have all been welcomed into and found employment in Egypt.113 In fact, Egypt has gone beyond merely offering refuge and asylum.114 Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser stated: “We will use the services of those who know the mentality of our enemies.”115

Furthermore, some Arabs have gone so far as to embrace Nazism itself and to applaud the Nazis’ attempted genocide of the Jews.116 A recent article in the Egyptian newspaper, Al-Akhbar, read: “[Give] thanks to Hitler . . . . He took revenge on the Israelis in advance, on behalf of the Palestinians. Our one complaint against him was that his revenge was not complete enough.”117

More recently, a new form of Holocaust-inspired anti-Semitism has taken shape in Arab countries, such as Syria and the Palestinian Authority, which have adopted the belief that the Holocaust never occurred.118 Once a longtime phenomenon found only in the West, Holocaust denial has expanded into, and is increasingly accepted by, many citizens of these Arab states.119

Explicit holocaust denial began in the Middle East in the late 1970s, when Western denier Ernst Zündel published a pamphlet entitled, The West, War, and Islam, which he sent to heads of state in several Arab countries.120 In 1983 Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas wrote The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and the Zionist Movement, in which he claimed that far fewer than six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.121 In the late 1980s, Moroccan Ahmed Rami [*PG347]publicly denied the Holocaust and founded “Radio Islam,” a program and now an internet site that attacks Holocaust history.122

Beginning in the 1990s, Holocaust denial began to appear in the media of many Arab countries.123 For example, the July 1990 issue of the Palestinian Liberation Organization-affiliated Palestinian Red Crescent’s magazine, Balsam, contained an article that claimed that Jews created the lie of the gas chambers in order to gain support for Israel and that the Nuremberg trials were set up fraudulently by the Jews in order to establish the Holocaust as historical fact.124

Additionally, some Arab nations have demonstrated their ties to Western Holocaust deniers by providing assistance to those deniers facing prosecution for illegal activities in their home countries.125 For example, Iran provided refuge to Austrian engineer Wolfgang Fröhlich, who testified on behalf of Swiss denier Jurgen Graf that it was impossible that Zyklon-B gas could be used to kill humans, when Fröhlich faced imminent arrest by the Austrian police.126 Additionally, Graf, who was convicted of inciting racial hatred through Holocaust denial in Switzerland, fled to Iran to escape his jail sentence and is presently living “as a guest of Iranian scholars.”127

The most well-known connection between Western and Arab denial came about in response to the 1998 trial of Roger Garaudy in France.128 Garaudy was charged with violating a French law that made it illegal to deny historical events deemed “crimes against humanity” in his book, The Founding Myths of Modern Israel.129 Over the course of the trial, he was revered as a hero and received media coverage in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority.130

[*PG348] Another significant event, with an encouraging outcome, occurred in December 2000, when the IHR announced that its fourteenth annual revisionist conference was to take place in Beirut.131 The conference’s theme was “Revisionism and Zionism,” and no one whose passport contained an Israeli entrance or exit sticker would be permitted to attend.132 Many Jewish organizations responded to the announcement with concern that the conference would result in increased anti-Semitism, and they strongly encouraged the Lebanese government to ban the conference.133 In response, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri refused to permit the conference to take place, fearing that it would tarnish Lebanon’s reputation.134

Nonetheless, in August 2002, the Arab League’s Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up, an official think-tank of the Arab League, convened a symposium in Abu Dhabi devoted to Holocaust Denial.135 The Zayed Center described the symposium as an effort “to counter the historical and political fallacies propagated by Israel.”136 Previously, the Zayed Center had hosted legitimate lectures by Western heads of state and diplomats, such as former President Jimmy Carter and former Vice President Al Gore.137 The fact that the Arab League, as well as such nations as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority, would give Holocaust denial a legitimate platform represents a critical step backwards in the effort to suppress deniers’ activities.138

B.  Holocaust Denial and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The on-going Arab-Israeli conflict provides and maintains a fertile ground for Western Holocaust deniers to expand their move[*PG349]ment.139 In 1947, responding to WWII and the Holocaust, which left hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees scattered throughout Europe, the United Nations adopted Resolution 181, recommending the partition of Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state.140 The State of Israel, the Jewish state, was established officially on May 14, 1948.141 In addition to the over 75,000 mostly illegal Jewish immigrants who had arrived in Palestine in 1945 at the end of WWII, from 1948 to 1951, there was mass immigration into the new State of Israel, with over 650,000 Jews arriving from Jewish communities in Europe, Asia, and North Africa.142

While the Arab-Israeli conflict arguably began as early as the end of the nineteenth century, once the State of Israel was established and began to develop as a Jewish state, the “conflict was transformed as wars and policies changed the relationship between Jewish and Arab Israelis and between the State of Israel and the Palestinians living outside of the state.”143 Most recently, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been marked by suicide-bombings, retaliatory attacks, and failed agreements for peace on both sides.144

Not surprisingly, the Arab perception of the Holocaust is influenced by the immediate state of the Arab-Israeli conflict.145 Whenever tensions escalate between Israel and its Arab neighbors, there is a correlating increase in declarations denying the Holocaust, “as if the denial of the Holocaust automatically eliminates Israel’s raison d’etre.”146 Similarly, whenever Israeli and Palestinian negotiators move toward a permanent peace settlement, Holocaust denial increases throughout the Arab world.147

In some Arab and Muslim countries, such as Jordan and Lebanon, only opposition parties and dissident factions that denounce any form of relations with Israel have adopted denial; denial, then, is employed to discredit their government rivals and increase popular ha[*PG350]tred of Israel.148 In other countries, including Iran, Syria, and the Palestinian Authority, the national government itself sponsors Holocaust denial.149 For example, the Iranian government provides refuge for Western holocaust deniers escaping legal prosecution.150 During the Pope’s historic pilgrimage to Israel in 2000, Sabri, the mufti of Jerusalem, publicly reiterated his belief that the Holocaust is a myth.151 In addition, the government-controlled newspapers of Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority espouse the view that the Holocaust never happened.152 Specifically, Teshreen, the Syrian daily newspaper owned and operated by the ruling Baath party, and Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, the newspaper controlled by the Palestinian authority, print numerous expressions of Holocaust denial. 153 It is interesting to note that Holocaust denial only rarely appears in the media of Arab countries, such as Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, which have taken steps to normalize relations with Israel. The previous examples of denial activity in Iran, Syria, and the Palestinian Authority, however, suggest that the governments of some Arab and Muslim countries both support and sponsor Holocaust denial and deniers’ activities.154

III.  The Unique Problems of a Government-Sponsored Media

Holocaust denial by the governments of some Arab countries creates a unique problem.155 Unlike the United States, Canadian, and Western European governments, which openly and actively condemn hate speech, the governments of some Arab and Muslim countries, such as Syria, Iran, and the Palestinian Authority, support, and even [*PG351]sponsor, Holocaust denial.156 Government support of denial in these countries has contributed to the dearth of legal responses to address denial and its damaging impacts.157 As a result, the international community must monitor denial activity in those nations that lack legal remedies to combat Holocaust denial on their own.158

A.  Government-Sponsored Media

Holocaust denial in certain parts of the Arab and Muslim world has been disseminated by political leaders and government-sponsored media.159 State-dominated media in Arab countries is a controversial topic, given that the state has historically dominated both government-owned and private media outlets.160 Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, newspapers existed solely as a governmental tool for the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which controlled the region.161 Independent Arab written press did not appear until the 1860s in Egypt.162 With the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of French and English colonialism, Europeans established a new press.163

After 1945 the press became an instrument in the fight for national independence, and many nationalist journalists were imprisoned, tortured, and exiled by the colonial authorities because of their nationalist publications.164 Once the Arab states gained independence, the independent press was abolished in most countries in favor of a nationalized press, and the only journalists who could write freely were those who had set up base in European countries.165 During the Cold War, any limited amount of journalistic independence that existed suffered setbacks, as rulers eliminated the ability of journalists to [*PG352]be “watchdogs,” and instead gave journalists the role of glorifying and legitimatising their regimes.166 The Gulf War extended Arab government media control beyond newspapers.167 Upon seeing the impact that CNN had on an international level, many Arab countries launched their own national television networks.168 Most Arab countries still control their media today, and many Arab journalists who attempt to break away from state domination continue to be imprisoned or tortured.169

B.  International Remedies

Given the reality of state-dominated media in most Arab countries, there may be no internal mechanisms in place in those countries to stop the spread of Holocaust denial.170 Therefore, the international community must intervene and take necessary action to tackle Holocaust denial in the Arab world by enforcing international human rights standards and promoting the dissemination of truthful information.171

The international community has taken a strong stance on the protection of human rights.172 The horrors of WWII led to a determination to protect human rights in international law.173 Article 55(c) of the United Nations (UN) Charter, signed in 1945 by the Allied powers, calls for “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.”174 Articles 55 and 56 are regarded as enabling provisions, vesting the UN with the power to establish human rights norms and giving the General Assembly the authority to initiate stud[*PG353]ies and make recommendations in order to promote respect of human rights.175

In 1948 the UN used its power to produce the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.176 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that “[all] are entitled to equal protection . . . against any incitement to . . . discrimination,” and that no one may “engage in any activity or . . . perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights or freedom set forth therein.”177 Although the Declaration was not a binding legal instrument, but a multilateral “soft” law instrument intended to set forth a common standard of achievement, over fifty years later, “the ‘soft’ law has . . . hardened into international legal obligation.”178 The provisions concerning civil and political rights are recognized as human rights norms in customary international law.179 Simultaneously, the Declaration has been turned into a binding legal instrument through the adoption of global treaties180 that establish universal norms and through the creation of regional regimes.181

Specifically, in 1967 the UN adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.182 Although some countries have failed to ratify these human rights instruments, customary international law norms instruct that any country engaged in a systematic policy of abusing the rights of their citizens is considered to have violated these instruments, whether ratified or not.183 Additionally, re[*PG354]gional human rights bodies developed at the end of WWII, including the Council of Europe,184 the Organization of American States, and the Organization for African Unity.185

Despite a clear commitment to human rights, such as the protection against hate crimes, the UN has stopped short of defining human rights in specific terms and establishing effective rights enforcement mechanisms.186 Likewise, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not clearly define the extent of ratifying nations’ responsibilities, and its generality creates problems for dealing with national incidents.187 Nowhere in the Declaration is there a specific reference to hate crimes; rather, perpetrations of hate crimes are inferred to violate the Declaration because, in an ambiguous sense, hate crimes hinder the protection of human rights.188

The international community has attempted to fashion various enforcement mechanisms for human rights.189 These attempts may provide a useful model for dealing with Holocaust denial in Arab countries.190 For example, beginning in the 1820’s, the international community banned slavery and the slave trade; to enforce the ban, all states were required to take measures to suppress slavery, to release all enslaved persons, and to prosecute those engaged in slavery.191 Thus, an international obligation was imposed on all states, and universal jurisdiction was prescribed to allow any state to prosecute individuals suspected of being engaged in the slave trade.192

A further example is modeled in the ICCPR, which sets forth a variety of new approaches to the enforcement of human rights norms.193 One such approach is the requirement that states’ parties submit reports to the UN Human Rights Committee every five years [*PG355]evidencing their compliance with the ICCPR Covenant.194 This requirement promotes transparency of states’ actions to protect human rights and gives human rights advocates the opportunity to spotlight countries’ human rights abuses in order to urge for change.195 The ICCPR was also the first to develop a method for individual human rights complaints.196 Unfortunately, the reporting procedure contains many hurdles and is only an optional protocol to which merely ninety-five nations have signed, notably, none of the Arab states.197

The Commission on Human Rights and the Economic and Social Council, however, has established extra-conventional reporting mech-anisms.198 These mechanisms are entrusted to either “working groups,” composed of experts acting in their individual capacity, or to independent individuals designated “special rapporteurs,” who are mandated to examine, monitor, and publicly report on human rights situations in specific countries or territories or on major phenomena of human rights violations worldwide.199

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) provides another enforcement model.200 The ECHR has created the most sophisticated procedural mechanisms for adjudicating human rights disputes, including a Council of Ministers to conciliate disputes, a Human Rights Commission to investigate and filter human rights complaints, and a Court of Human Rights to adjudicate human rights [*PG356]cases.201 Furthermore, the decisions of these institutions are “self-executing,” such that they have an immediate effect.202 A final enforcement model is that of direct action by states.203 In this model, states collectively punish other states involved in human rights abuses by, for example, breaking off diplomatic relations with the state or imposing economic restrictions on the state.204

While inherent problems exist in applying any one of these models in isolation to enforce human rights violations in Arab countries, a combination of more effective international human rights institutions, more timely complaint processes, and more forcible international insistence that states respect human dignity may be effective in situations in which political leaders and state-dominated media are condoning and perpetrating Holocaust denial.205

A further remedy for dealing with Holocaust denial may be for the international community to rally against state-dominated media and in favor of independent press.206 In addition to the international community’s proclaimed protection of human rights, there is an international consensus that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that must be guarded from suppression by governments, as seen in Article 19 of both the Declaration and the ICCPR.207 The Declaration guarantees “freedom of opinion and expression . . . [and] to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”208

A free, unbiased media, in which articles are not published solely as political tools and where truthful reporting can exist, may greatly curb Holocaust denial.209 Consistent with the Declaration, the international community did finally take interest in the suppressed Arab [*PG357]media at the end of the Cold War by requiring the observance of press freedom as a condition to the receipt of foreign aid and assistance for development.210 While there is international law supporting media freedom, and although the international community is interested in the growth of an independent and pluralist media, only a very limited number of active steps have been taken to end media oppression in the Middle East.211


Holocaust denial is incredibly disturbing in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, where it is condemned and sometimes punishable by law. The problem rises to an even greater level in those Arab and Muslim nations where the government supports and assists the spread of Holocaust denial through state-controlled media.212 The international community, which has articulated its commitment to human rights and freedom of expression, must intervene in those nations and implement enforcement mechanisms to controvert Holocaust denial.213 Holocaust denial can no longer be considered a harmless phenomenon.214 Especially where Western deniers have infiltrated the Arab world, Holocaust denial as a form of hatred and anti-Semitism must be taken seriously.215

As the Arab-Israeli conflict turns more deadly each day, it is frightening to think that Holocaust denial is being employed as a propaganda tool to fuel the continuation of hatred in the region.216 There is a link between many Arab citizens’ negative perceptions of Israel and “the daily venom fed them through Arab media and school curriculum” sanctioned by regional Arab governments. 217 That the [*PG358]Holocaust did not occur has become something of a truism for many Arabs, who are denied accurate information, taught as young children that the Holocaust is a myth created by the Jews, and barraged daily with media that is akin to brainwashing.218 As an article in Teshreen reads:

Zionism hides in the dark chapters of its black history. It invents stories regarding the Nazi Holocaust in which the Jews suffered and inflates them to astronomic proportions . . . . The problem is not in the Zionist ambition to forge history, but rather in the Zionist organizations’ ambitions to revive their distorted version of history and use it to deceive international public opinion, win its empathy, and blackmail it . . . . Israel and the Zionist organizations strive for two goals: first, to be granted more funds from Germany and European states and institutions; second, they want to use the legend of the Holocaust as a sword hanging over the necks of all those who oppose Zionism who are accused of anti-Semitism . . . . Israel, that presents itself as the heir of Holocaust victims, has committed and still commits much more terrible crimes than those committed by the Nazis. The Nazis did not expel a whole nation nor buried prisoners alive, as the Zionists did.219

How could anyone read articles like this on a daily basis and, without information to the contrary, fail to believe that this is the truth? Misinformed Arab citizens represent yet another group of victims in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In dealing with the ongoing conflict between Arabs and Israelis, the international community must investigate Holocaust denial as a form of propaganda in the conflict and take steps to hinder its promulgation in the Arab world. Only then can the Jewish community(and the world(rest assured that Holocaust survivor’s stories will never be lost.

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