By Deborah Lipstadt, Author and Historian
In the last three decades of the 20th century, we witnessed a surge in Holocaust denial. Not only did it grow exponentially, but it also changed its outer garb, moving from a neo-Nazi like personae to a more (pseudo) academic and reasoned one.
This appearance of rational thinking and discourse allowed deniers entry into areas that would have been otherwise barred to them, for example university newspapers. This kind of denial was mostly of the “hard core” variety, i.e. it focused on attempting to deny that the Holocaust happened.
In pseudo-academic settings, such as the Institute for Historical Review or the scholarly-looking The Journal of Historical Review, deniers argued that there was no plan to kill the Jews, that gas chambers and death camps were a figment of Jews’ imagination, and that, while some Jews may have died (viz. died, not murdered), the number six million was a vast exaggeration.
Today, with the exception of certain areas of the Muslim world, most of this form of Holocaust denial has been accepted as false and invented. (This was a result in great measure of the London lawsuit brought against me by Holocaust denier David Irving. We exposed his claims as lies and distortions thereby stripping and, by extension, the denial movement of historical credibility.)
There is however a new form of Holocaust denial, which I choose to describe as “soft core” denial. Soft core denial does not deny the facts. Rather, it draws false comparisons, for example by claiming there is a genocide of the Palestinians or accusing Israel of “Nazi-like” tactics. The murder of the Jews is used against them. This is sometimes called Holocaust switching or inversion: the victims are rendered into the victimisers.
This is apparent not just in the charge of a genocide against the Palestinians, but also in the phantasmagorical claims of the ‘9/11 truthers’ that the Jews/Mossad were behind the attacks.
In addition to being a victim/victimiser switch, this Kafkaesque accusation has its roots in the most traditional anti-Semitic charge, the deicide myth. Just as they did at the time of the Second Temple in Jerusalem when “the Jews” crucified the innocent and pure Jesus for their own purposes, once again in 2001 Jews “crucified” 3,000 innocent Americans to serve their nefarious purposes.
These newer types of denial or inversion are, in certain respects far more dangerous than what we had to fight in court. They are harder to spot and identify and will pose a challenge in the future. • Deborah Lipstadt is an author and historian