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 Posted Saturday, February 20, 1999

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AN EXTRAORDINARY row has erupted in Washington DC between high-profile journalists who were once the closest of friends. It has all the classic black comedy-elements of a Jewish squabble, except that the chosen victim, British columnist (Vanity Fair) Christopher Hitchens, was unaware until relatively recently that he must count himself one of their number.

Since Hitchens rounded on Sydney Blumenthal, and outed him in an affidavit as the source of White House smears against Monica Lewinsky, which Blumenthal had previously denied on oath, Hitchens has learned what all Free World writers must soon or later discover:

  • that, be you ever so humble, the Anti Defamation League of the B'nai Brith (ADL) in New York, headed by that lovable rogue Abraham Foxman, has a dossier of filth on you, much of it fictitious, but enough of it true, which he will pour across your head the moment you step out of line; and
  • that the rest of the yowling mob of the New York journaille will come snapping after you, licking at your heels.

Hitchens is accused, among other crimes, of consorting with British historian David Irving: which is more than enough to consign him to the eternal fires of damnation. [Mr Irving's response]

From the pages of MSNBC:

Hitchens-Blumenthal feud escalates

Hitchens, BlumenthalBeltway dispute takes ugly turn with charge of Holocaust denial

The falling-out between writer Christopher Hitchens, left, and White House aide Sidney Blumenthal has escalated.

By Jonathan Broder SPECIAL TO MSNBC WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 -- The bitter personal feud between White House aide Sidney Blumenthal and British journalist Christopher Hitchens has escalated from harsh charges of perjury and perfidy to one of the most emotionally charged accusations one can level at a political foe in the United States: Holocaust denial.

AUTHOR Edward J. Epstein, a friend of Blumenthal, told MSNBC that four years ago, Hitchens questioned whether the Holocaust had ever taken place. The Anti-Defamation League, which monitors anti-Semitism around the world, says Hitchens is not a Holocaust denier, and now Hitchens, a caustic critic of President Clinton, is accusing Epstein of launching a plot to destroy his reputation. "Why now?" Hitchens said in an interview. "I suspect it is an effort by the Clintonoids to change the subject." The White House denies it had anything to do with Epstein's charges. The public falling-out between Hitchens and Blumenthal occurred earlier this month when Hitchens swore in an affidavit that the senior White House aide had passed on to him Clinton's description of Monica Lewinsky as a "stalker" over lunch last March. Because Blumenthal recently testified that he did not mention the "stalker" to any reporters or friends, he now faces possible perjury charges.

  A THEORY OVER DRINKS Within the small world of Washington journalists and policymakers, where Hitchens and Blumenthal had been friends for 15 years, some have accused Hitchens of treachery while others, mostly Republicans, have hailed his courage. Hitchens said the target of his affidavit was Clinton, not Blumenthal. But their feud, already a cause celebre in intellectual and literary circles, has now grown decidedly uglier with Edward J Epstein's charges. Epstein told MSNBC that Hitchens had expressed his views on Holocaust denial on Feb. 12, 1995, as they ate dinner together with several others at the Royalton Hotel in New York after attending the 70th anniversary celebrations for The New Yorker magazine at the Hudson Theater. Epstein said Hitchens' remarks were so disturbing that he noted them in his diary when he got home that night. "Once seated in a booth, and freely sipping his free red wine, Hitchens advanced a theory more revealing than anything going on at the Hudson theater," Epstein wrote in his notes at the time. "His thesis, to the shock of everyone at the table, was that the Holocaust was a fiction developed by a conspiracy of interests bent on 'criminalizing the German Nation.' "He explained that no evidence of German mass murder had ever been found -- and what gruesome artifacts had been found had been fabricated after the event," Epstein wrote. "What of the testimony of Nazi generals at Nuremberg about the death camps, I asked. He explained, without missing a beat, that such admissions were obtained under Anglo-American torture. I then asked, 'But what happened to the Jews in Europe?' Hitch shrugged and said, 'Many were killed by local villagers when they ran away,' others died natural deaths, and the remainder made it to Israel."

  'A TRAP QUESTION' In a telephone interview from California, Hitchens would not comment on the conversation with Epstein that night. "It's a trap question, like 'When did you stop beating your wife,' " he said. "There is no point of getting into denials." Hitchens noted, however, that the dinner conversation took place a few months after he had written a piece in The Nation, a left-wing magazine, about French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson, and about a year before he wrote another piece for Vanity Fair about British Holocaust revisionist David Irving. "I'm very interested in the subject," said Hitchens, 49, who discovered only 12 years ago that his mother was Jewish. Hitchens, an iconoclast whose targets have included Mother Teresa, the pope and Princess Diana, raised a forest of eyebrows with his 1996 Irving piece. In it, Hitchens flayed St. Martin's Press for canceling plans to publish Irving's book on the papers of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, after protests from other Holocaust historians and commentators who labeled Irving an anti-Semite. "It's unimportant to me that Irving is my political polar opposite," Hitchens wrote. "If I didn't read my polar opponents, I'd be even stupider than I am,"

Hitchens also noted that "Irving is not just a Fascist historian. He is also a great historian of Fascism."

  'INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY' Vanity Fair later published a reply from Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "Intellectual dishonesty pervades Christopher Hitchens' comments on the well-known Holocaust denier and Nazi apologist David Irving," Foxman wrote. "He glosses over Irving's extensive record as an anti-Semite." But when asked if the ADL considered Hitchens as a Holocaust denier himself, spokesperson Myrna Shinbaum said Tuesday, "No. He's a writer. We don't always agree with what he writes about, but he's not a controversial Holocaust denier." Joshua Muravchik, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, describes Hitchens as an "intellectual entertainer," one who often takes controversial positions "simply for the fun of exercising his brain." A number of Hitchens' friends said he also often drinks too much, an observation Hitchens does not dispute. Among those who were present at the controversial 1995 dinner were Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who said through a spokesman that she did not recall the conversation that Epstein described. Epstein, however, is adamant about his recollection of what Hitchens said that night. Moreover, he insists that he didn't keep it to himself until now, as Hitchens claims, but that he shared it with a number of people at the time, including Hitchens' editor at The Nation, Victor Navasky. Navasky confirmed in an interview that Epstein had told him about Hitchens' alleged remarks at the time, but he said they did not trouble him and he never brought up the subject with Hitchens. "I never took it seriously as a charge," Navasky said.

Our opinion
Altogether another illuminating episode providing further proof of how the traditional enemies of Free Speech operate. Note how Epstein went secretly to Hitchens' editor, to discuss the British writer's offensive remarks. They operate like this, and then years later, when the innocent victims round on them, they whine: "Why us? Why us?" Not that it is the Foxmans and Epsteins of this world who suffer: it is their innocent fellow citizens, who have had no part in the skullduggery.

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