- As a new study shows a rise in antisemitism in the United
States, a group accused of Holocaust denial is preparing to unleash a media
campaign against what it calls "Jewish-Zionist power."
- The Institute for Historical Review in Newport Beach,
Calif., hopes to "dramatically increase" its appearances on radio
and television programs to spread anti-Israel messages it says Americans
are now more willing to hear. Called antisemitic by hate-watch groups,
the IHR has a modest following and a small operation in the United States.
But the institute set off alarm bells when it co-organized a Holocaust
revisionism conference that was to take place in Beirut last year.
- "For the first time ever, organized Jewry and its
non-Jewish apologists in political life and the media are having real difficulty
whitewashing Zionist atrocities," said a statement posted on IHR's
Web site explaining the institute's new media campaign.
- "The IHR is uniquely positioned to speak, factually
and forthrightly, about the U.S.-Israel 'special relationship'... and the
Zionist threat to world peace."
- Watchdog groups say that the IHR is couching its hatred
of Jews in anti-Israel rhetoric in order to make it more palatable to the
increasing numbers of people around the globe who are anti-Israel.
- "Being anti-Israel right now is a little bit more
en vogue than Holocaust denial," said a senior researcher at the Los-Angeles
based Simon Wiesenthal Center, Aaron Breitbart. "So they are going
through the anti-Israel door to perpetuate antisemitism."
- In an interview with the Forward from his office, IHR
director Mark Weber explained why he thought the time was ripe for a media
blitzkrieg: "My sense is when I have been on interviews in the last
year, there is far more receptiveness to my views. Millions of Americans
believe they have been deceived and lied to about the Middle East. There
is a growing agitation from college campuses and a sense of alarm voiced
by Jewish leaders about American public opinion and world public opinion."
- In a nationwide survey released Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation
League reported that 17 percent of the 1,000 Americans polled hold "hardcore"
antisemitic views. The number is up from 12 percent in 1998. The 626 antisemitic
incidents tallied in the past five months represent an 11 percent increase
over the 564 incidents that occurred during the same period last year,
according to the study. The study also found that 35 percent of Hispanics,
one of the fastest growing ethnic group, and the same percentage of blacks
have antisemitic beliefs.
- Although watchdog groups are alarmed by the reach the
IHR and similar outfits seem to have in the Middle East and Europe, most
say the institute has little chance of penetrating the American mainstream.
Some, however, say that the IHR may hold sway with segments of the American
population that have become increasingly anti-Israel and even antisemitic.
"It's possible that they could make inroads on campuses," said
Rabbi Marvin Heir, the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
"But they will be much less successful in the United States than in
- "There is more fertile soil for them to operate
now," said the national director of the ADL, Abraham Foxman. "But
they won't be too successful because they are so extreme, and the American
people have good sense. They'll be successful with the 17 percent but not
- Others see IHR's entrance onto the anti-Israel stage
as providing an ironic benefit to Israel, in that its presence would harm
the reputation of any movement with which it associates. "I'm annoyed,
I'm not alarmed," said Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum, director
of the Sigi Ziering Institute for the Holocaust and Ethics at the University
of Judaism. "This just brings additional discredit to anti-Zionism."
- Marilyn Mayo, associate director of the ADL's national
fact-finding department, said there are many groups like the IHR that are
looking to take advantage of a moment when the chips are down for Jews
around the globe. "Neo-Nazi groups and antisemitic groups feel that
due to the current situation in the Middle East they can exploit what they
see as anti-Jewish feeling coming out of the anti-Israel feeling to further
their own cause."
- Mayo said the IHR is too small and marginal to create
an impact here. But Mayo said the ADL is concerned about the group's liaisons
with Holocaust denier groups in Europe and the Middle East.
- The Holocaust denial conference co-organized by the IHR
was set to take place in Beirut in March 2001. It was eventually called
off by the Lebanese government under pressure from the American government.
Titled "Zionism and Revisionism," the event was billed as an
opportunity for Western extremists to meet their counterparts in the Islamic
world. A scaled-down conference took place in April 2001 in Jordan. The
event was sponsored by Verite et Justice, a Swiss neo-Nazi group. The Swiss
group is headed by Jurgen Graf, who fled to Iran after a Swiss court charged
him with Holocaust denial in 1998.
- Contrary to media reports, the ADL study showed that
antisemitism is nearly non-existent on college campuses. Only three percent
of students and five percent of faculty polled harbored antisemitic beliefs,
the report stated. "Education is the best vaccine," Foxman said.
The margin of error for the report is plus or minus three percent.
- But Foxman said the results from the ADL's most thorough
survey of the burgeoning Hispanic community were "disturbing."
He noted that although 35 percent of Hispanics held antisemitic views,
the number was inflated by foreign-born Hispanics, 44 percent of whom responded
with antisemitic beliefs. Only 20 percent of Hispanics born in the United
States fall into the antisemitic category.
- "We are greatly concerned that many of the gains
we had seen in building a more tolerant and accepting America have not
taken hold as firmly as we had hoped, and have to some degree been reversed."
- The IHR statement was mailed to solicit funds from IHR
supporters and is posted on its Web site ahead of the organization's annual
conference that is set to take place June 21-23 in California's Orange
- Weber said the IHR is neither a Holocaust denial outfit
nor an antisemitic group. According to IHR's Web site, the upcoming conference
will feature a member of the editorial advisory committee of IHR's bimonthly
journal, Robert Faurisson, a French revisionist historian who denies that
Nazis used gas chambers to kill Jews. Faurisson will tell the audience
that German soldiers during World War II were punished and even killed
for killing or mistreating Jews.
- The Web site also lists among scheduled speakers Joseph
Sobran, former editor of William Buckley's conservative National Review,
who will lecture on the "Jewish question," and Tony Martin, African
studies professor at Wellesley College, who will speak on the "the
Jewish role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade." A Palestinian "mystery
speaker" is also scheduled to discuss the Middle East conflict. Past
speakers have included author David Irving, who lost a libel suit he brought
against Deborah Lipstadt after she accused him of Holocaust denial.