It was no surprise when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad convened a provocative conference to examine the “scientific evidence” of whether 6 million Jews were really murdered by the Nazis during World War II, considering that he has denied the Holocaust took place.
But when a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews traveled to Tehran to join forces with those who have openly called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” a storm of protest arose in Israel where more than 200,000 survivors of the Holocaust still live.
“If any Jew, for whatever reason, is capable of shaking the hand of a Holocaust denier in a generation when there are still people with numbers tattooed on their arms among us, this is insanity that has no justification or explanation,” said Holocaust survivor and chief rabbi of Tel Aviv Yisrael Meir Lau.
The group that visited Tehran belong to Neturei Karta, an ultra-Orthodox, radically anti-Zionist sect that sees a secular Jewish state as heresy. It believes that there should not be a Jewish state until the Messiah establishes it on the statutes of the Torah. “We wanted to make it clear in Tehran that Zionism uses the Holocaust as an excuse for the existence of the Zionist state in the Land of Israel,” said Israel Hirsch, a Neturei Karta member in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Yisroel Feldman of Neturei Karta International addressed the conference in Tehran. “There is no moral justification for using these events [i.e., the Holocaust] to dispossess and occupy another people who have nothing whatsoever to do with what was done in Europe,” he said. “Let Europe make amends for what took place if they so desire, not the Palestinians.”
The 67 participants from 30 countries included David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and Holocaust deniers Robert Faurisson and Fredrick Töben. The conference drew worldwide condemnation from the Vatican, the White House and western nations. Israeli Arab lawyer Khaled Kasab Mahameed was refused a visa to Iran, apparently because he has an Israeli passport and intended to challenge the Holocaust deniers.
As deniers met in Tehran, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited a Holocaust memorial in Berlin