Professor Henry Srebrnik

Professor Henry Srebrnik

Friday, November 30, 2018

Notorious Holocaust Denier Dies in France

By Henry Srebrnik, [Calgary] Jewish Free Press

The death of the Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson in France on Oct. 21 at the age of 89 reminds us that this form of anti-Semitism has been a problem for quite a while.

I presented a paper on the subject, “Control of the Past as Control of the Future: Denials of the Holocaust,” at a conference at Ohio State University in Columbus back in 1984.

Faurisson died, appropriately enough, in his hometown of Vichy. He was a staunch defender of Marshal Philippe Petain, the Vichy French leader who collaborated with the Nazi occupiers of the country during the Second World War.

A former professor of French literature at the University of Lyon, Faurisson maintained that the gas chambers in the Auschwitz death camp were the “biggest lie of the 20th century,” instead claiming that the deported Jews died of disease and malnutrition.

He also contested the authenticity of the diary of Anne Frank, the girl in Holland who managed to hide with her family from the Nazis for years before being caught and sent to concentration camps.

In a nutshell, this was the essence of Faurisson’s thesis:

Hitler’s gas chambers never existed and no genocide of the Jews ever took place. This lie, which was essentially of Zionist origin, permitted a gigantic political and financial fraud of which the State of Israel was the principal beneficiary, while the principal victims of this lie and this fraud were the German people and the Palestinian people.

The colossal power of the official means of information has, until now, guaranteed the success of the lie and censured the freedom of expression of those who denounced the lie.

Most Holocaust deniers have presented variations on that theme.
Faurisson was fined by a French court in 1983 for having declared that “Hitler never ordered nor permitted that anyone be killed by reason of his race or religion.”  

Faurisson’s ideas were derived principally from a French pacifist named Paul Rassinier, who, in his 1964 book Le drame des Juifs européens, contended that Germany’s conduct during the war was no worse than any other country’s – and that, in any case, the Jews were responsible for the war.

Rassinier corresponded with the American Holocaust denier Harry Elmer Barnes, who arranged for the translation of four of his books. In 1977, these were collectively published by Noontide Press under the title Debunking the Genocide Myth.

As for Faurisson, he revealed his skepticism of the Holocaust gas chambers in articles published in 1978 and 1979 in the French daily Le Monde. These became an embarrassment for the newspaper.

One of Faurisson’s works in 1980 was published with an introduction by Noam Chomsky, who insisted that he wrote it as a defence of freedom of speech, including that of Faurisson. 

Chomsky was accused of supporting Faurisson, something Chomsky denied. 

Faurisson also peddled his falsehoods in, among other venues, the Journal of Historical Review, a house organ of the California-based Institute of Historical Review, established in 1978 by Willis Carto. It ceased publication in 2002.

A four-volume collection of many of Faurisson’s revisionist writings, Écrits Révisionnistes (1974-1998), came out in 1999.

After France passed a law in 1990 making Holocaust denial a crime, Faurisson was repeatedly prosecuted and fined for his writings. He was dismissed from his academic post in 1991.

The most recent judgment against him came in November 2016, when a French court fined him 10,000 euros for propounding “negationism” in interviews published on the internet.

Other prominent Holocaust deniers have included Northwestern University professor Arthur Butz, who published The Hoax of the Twentieth Century in 1976.

In Canada, we’ve had James Keegstra and Ernst Zundel.

Holocaust denial is no longer only the preserve of European and North American fascists. It has migrated to the Middle East as well.

A press release by the Gaza Palestinian movement Hamas in April 2000 decried “the so-called Holocaust, which is an alleged and invented story with no basis.”

In August 2009, Hamas indicated that it would refuse to allow Palestinian children to study the Holocaust, which it called “a lie invented by the Zionists,” and referred to Holocaust education as a “war crime.”

In 2012, Faurisson himself received a prize from Iran’s president at the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his “courage, resistance and fighting spirit” in contesting the Holocaust.

In 2016, the Iranian regime exhibited over 150 cartoons that denied or mocked the Holocaust at the state-run Islamic Propaganda Organization in Tehran.

Among Iran’s ruling elite, Holocaust denial and the accompanying conspiracies about Jewish power are omnipresent and diverse.

Faurisson may be dead, but the malevolence continues and spreads.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Will States Rebel Against the EU?

By Henry Srebrnik, [Saint John, NB] Telegraph-Journal

After the Second World War, a centrist political consensus in western European nations made elections polite affairs. The issues involved were relatively mundane. The solutions were pragmatic.

After all, existential regime changes, which are often matters of life and death, were not at stake. But that may be changing, and when that happens, elections become a form of warfare – often including actual violence. 

All this is affecting the future of the European Union, which emerged in the 1950s as a modest six-nation economic vehicle.

Back then, political elites could count on the passive consent of their populations as long as the peoples in the common market could regard it as being in their economic interests.

But as the decades passed it gradually became much more than that. After the collapse of east European communism and with the entry of many new members, the EU began to consider itself a community of values, and decided to become an ever-closer union among its peoples and member states.

But these post-national ideals are now being challenged by state nationalism. The estrangement from politics in a Brussels run by technocrats has left the ordinary voter keenly aware of the democratic deficit.

The 2008 financial crisis deepened these divisions. All over Europe the economic recession brought about social anxiety and opportunities for populist anti-globalization parties to reach supporters and voters.

The refugee crisis and the growing threat of terrorism led to a search for more security at the national level, while the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom illustrated the disenchantment with EU politics. For “leavers,”  the EU had become a hyper-bureaucratic pseudo-superstate.

This has led to claims by national governments to defend their self-determination. Populist nationalism on the far right has significantly increased across the continent.

These forces capitalize on anti-globalization and perceived threats of multiculturalism, immigration and political corruption. Even Hillary Clinton has suggested immigration was inflaming voters in Europe and helping right-wing populists.

A gulf now exists at the European level between the opinion of national electorates, on the one hand, and the policies adopted by EU technocrats to solve pressing problems, on the other.

As the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas stated back in 2013, “national citizens see their political fate being determined by foreign governments who represent the interests of other nations, rather than by a government that is bound only by their own democratic vote.”

A recent example is the threat by the EU to punish Italy, which is now led by populist and anti-establishment forces, for flouting EU fiscal rules by insisting on a heavy-spending budget that fails to bring down the country’s burdensome debt.

“With what the Italian government has put on the table, we see a risk of the country sleepwalking into instability,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission vice president.

That’s what empires do: they penalize recalcitrant regions. But willItaly and other European states say “enough is enough” and rebel?

Can Igbo Nationalism Resurrect a Biafran State?

By Henry Srebrnik [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

The attempt by Igbo nationalists to secede from Nigeria and create a separate state of Biafra ended on Jan. 30, 1970. It is barely remembered by most people outside Africa.

Yet it was a vicious and bloody war, that dragged on for almost three years, killed some two million people, and inflicted massive destruction of property and the environment.

Nigeria attained independence from Britain in 1960 as a Federation of three regions (East, North and West).

In the North, a Muslim Hausa-Fulani elite controlled the politics of the region. In the West, Yoruba interests predominated. In the East, the largely Christian Igbo were the dominant group.

Though there were hundreds of smaller ethnic peoples in Nigeria, the politics of the country involved a struggle between the elites of these three largest nationalities for the control of power at the centre.

Post-independence politics was characterised by suspicion, fear and domination. The period from 1960–1966 saw increasingly violent struggles by region-based elites, each endeavouring to maintain or attain political dominance.

The background to the secessionist revolt by the Igbo can be traced to the aftermath of the January 1966 coup, led by Igbo officers.

It resulted in a counter-coup in July 1966, which restored Northern control of the federation under the leadership of Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon. A massacre of thousands of Igbos and other Easterners living in the North followed two months later.

Much of the Igbo intelligentsia and political class, under the leadership of Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu now became committed to the secession of the Eastern region from the Federation. The declaration of independence of Biafra on May 30, 1967 led to the war.
Political developments in Nigeria since the end of the civil war continue to polarise the country, with the South constantly accusing the North of political domination.          
As for the Igbo, it has paved the way for the resurgence of a secessionist agenda by various groups.

The emergence in 1999 of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), led by Chief Ralph Nwazuruike, was due to the persistence of bitter memories of the civil war, lack of security of Igbo lives and properties, and perceived marginalisation of the Igbo in the distribution of national power and economic resources.

MASSOB advocates the disintegration of the federation and periodically engages the Nigerian security agencies in battles. The Nigerian government responded through clampdowns and detentions.

In 2005, it pronounced MASSOB an extremist group, arrested several of its members, and jailed Uwazuruike on treason charges. He was released in 2007.  

That year, MASSOB re-introduced the old Biafran currency into circulation, and two years later launched the “Biafran International Passport.” 

In 2011, Uwazuruike and 280 MASSOB members were arrested while attending a function in honour of Ojukwu. There were further arrests, and shootings, of members in 2015, in various locations, as MOSSAB members were marking their 16th anniversary.
With the 2015 election victory of Muhammadu Buhari, a Northern Fulani Muslim, secessionist threats and violence have increased.

As a military officer, Buhari had participated in the civil war of 1967–1970. As a result, he is regarded as having the blood of Igbo people on his hands.

Between August 2015 and August 2016, Nigeria's military killed at least 150 pro-Biafran protesters, according to Amnesty International, warning the actual numbers killed could be much higher.

This past May, Nigerian police arrested 47 members of MASSOB and the allied Biafra Independence Movement (BIM) in Abia. Uwazuruike was sentenced to one month in prison.

Another separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), emerged in 2012. Its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, is facing treason charges. He also runs the London-based Radio Biafra.

The nationalists have not provided a clear delineation of the geographical boundaries of the proposed state of Biafra. At times, Biafra is portrayed as being within the five traditional states populated by the Igbo -- Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.       
Others want to include all Igbo-speaking areas in Nigeria; Igbos comprise more than 30 per cent of the population in Rivers and Delta states. Yet others extend it to include all the territories within the former Eastern Region.

Even Igbo leaders who do not believe in the policies of the separatists say they have succeeded in drawing attention to the continued marginalisation of the Igbo people by Nigeria.

"Trump of the Tropics" Wins Election

By Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian

For most of his 27-year career in national politics, Jair Bolsonaro has been a fringe figure on the far right of Brazilian politics. No more.

On Oct. 28, the 63-year-old former army captain defeated leftist Fernando Haddad in the runoff election for the presidency of Brazil, Latin’s America’s biggest country, receiving 55.13 per cent of the vote, against Haddad’s 44.87.

The country was geographically polarized, with the poorer northeast supporting Haddad, the rest of the country Bolsonaro.

Though he demonized opponents and polarized the nation with his history of denigrating women, gays and minorities, he swept to power in a nation angered by an out-of-control murder rate, massive financial corruption by its political elites, and a troubled economy.

Bolsonaro has been an outspoken defender of Brazil’s former military dictatorship, lamenting that it did not kill enough dissidents.

He launched his campaign with no significant political allies, a small party machine and a limited budget. He instead used social media, speaking directly to voters through tweets and Facebook.

To reduce crime in a country where the murder rate last year was 30.8 per 100,000 people, six times that of the United States, he vowed to give police expanded authority to kill suspects and advocated that gun laws be relaxed.

To jump-start the economy, which currently sees almost 13 million people unemployed, he has suggested that indigenous lands and the vast Amazon region should be opened up for development.

“It was obvious in this election that someone who could build a credible narrative of being different was going to do well. Bolsonaro understood that,” remarked Oliver Stuenkel, professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo. “He was politically incorrect, a bit weird. But that’s one way he has been able to set himself apart from the rest.”

A former army captain, Bolsonaro left the military in 1988 to begin his political career. As a congressman, he engaged in violent rhetoric, calling in 1999 for the assassination of the elected president at the time, Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

In the campaign, corruption and the ruling Workers’ Party, which had won the last four presidential elections, were his primary targets. Since democracy was restored here in 1985, two presidents have been impeached, one has gone to jail, and Brazil’s current leader has been indicted on a charge of corruption.

One-third of the lower house is under investigation for corruption, largely tied to a sprawling kickback scheme known as “operation Car Wash,” involving some of the country’s largest companies.

Bolsonaro won by tapping into a deep well of resentment at the status quo in Brazil.  The scandal at the state-owned oil company implicated not only the center-left Workers’ Party, but also the center-right Democratic Movement party. That meant there was an opening for someone to argue that it was time to defeat the entire political establishment.

“He was trying to look like Trump,” said Marcos Nobre, a Sao Paulo-based political strategist. “His message to the electorate was, ‘If the U.S. elected a Trump, so can Brazil.’ ”

Bolsonaro has suggested building “a very high wall” along Brazil’s border with Paraguay to block gun runners and smugglers.

An iron fist, though, is exactly what some Brazilians seemed to want. About 78 per cent of Brazilians trust the armed forces, compared with 31 per cent who feel the same way about Congress.

It was “the widespread anti-political sentiment, the death of the centre, and a global environment that is more tolerant of these kinds of challenges to the status quo,” that allowed him “to take center stage,” stated Flavia Biroli, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia.

The election underscores what can happen in a nation when civilian politicians seem corrupt beyond hope and the murder rate rivals casualties in a war. It’s a cautionary tale.

Bolsonaro assumes office on January 1.