Thursday March 22 7:12 PM ET
Won't Host Revisionists
By SAM F. GHATTAS,
Associated Press Writer
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - Lebanon's
government said on Thursday that it would not allow
a gathering of Holocaust revisionists in Beirut
planned for later this month.
The move won the praise of Jewish groups, which
had called the conference organized by groups that
say accounts of Holocaust atrocities are
exaggerated "a gathering of hate."
"This conference will not be held in Beirut,"
Prime Minister Rafik Hariri told The
Associated Press, several hours after a Cabinet
meeting that discussed the issue.
In the United States, the Simon
Wiesenthal Center praised Lebanon's
"It is an extraordinary
development and I think it is very, very
positive. It's one of the few bright spots to
try to create an environment of moderation,"
said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, an associate
of the center.
But one of the organizers, the Institute for
Historical Review of Newport Beach, Calif., accused
Lebanon of giving in to pressure from Jewish
"I regard this as outrageous," institute
director Mark Weber said, charging it was
hypocritical to support free speech and ban a
conference that would have been legal in other
Organizers had not revealed the exact location
of the March 31-April 3 conference, citing security
Extremist groups, such as the conference
organizers, question the historical record that 6
million Jews died in Nazi death camps during World
Jewish groups and scholars accuse them of
distorting history and anti-Semitism.
The conference's co-organizer was Swiss-based
Verite et Justice. Its head, Juergen Graf,
is currently in Iran after a Swiss court sentenced
him in 1998 to 15 months in jail for "Holocaust
denial," according to the Institute for Historical
Lebanese Information Minister Ghazi Aridi
told reporters on Thursday that no group had
applied for a permit to hold such a conference. He
described reports about the conference as part of
"a political, diplomatic and media campaign against
Fourteen Arab intellectuals, including prominent
Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, had signed
a letter calling for "this anti-Semitic
undertaking" to be canceled.
The organizers may have been counting on finding
sympathy among Arabs often at odds with Israel and
Jews. Anti-Semitic writing, some of it denying the
Holocaust or accusing Israel of imposing a new
Holocaust on the Palestinians, has appeared in Arab
Arab anger has increased following the collapse
of the Middle East peace process and amid
Palestinian-Israeli violence that has killed more
than 430 people, 355 of them Palestinians, in the
past six months
Fathi Kleib, a spokesman for the
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
guerrilla group, said he had no opinion on holding
the conference in Lebanon, but that "reviewing and
rereading history is beneficial in all cases."
Kleib said Israel has concentrated on the
Holocaust in "an exaggerated way" while it denied
the Palestinians their rights.
But some Arabs said that such a meeting in
Lebanon would only bring bad publicity.
The widely read pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat said
in an editorial last week that the meeting's
"damage to Lebanon is guaranteed."
Lebanon is keen on attracting foreign investment
and tourists to shore up an ailing economy weakened
by debt and budget deficit after a 15-year civil
war. © Copyright 2001