What if some prominent individual or group started holding press conferences to declare that the Earth is flat, or that it is stationary while the sun revolves around it?
Would scientists rush to debunk this theory, publishing papers and holding conferences, or just shake their heads in disbelief and return to their work?
I'm not suggesting the odious, politically charged hate crime of denying the Holocaust is as benign as making spurious scientific claims. But I do think the response to it ought to be along the same lines as the scientists who shake their heads.
On Thursday Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Neytanyahu, came to the United Nations General Assembly bearing detailed plans of Auschwitz, and cited President Barack Obama's recent visit the Buchenwald. "Was President Obama paying tribute to a lie?" asked the prime minister. And, he added, are the thousands of Jews who still bear the tatoos of concentration camp numbers perpetrating a lie?
He asked these questions because on the previous day the thug who leads Iran offered up some of his usual tripe about the Holocaust being a hoax. The comments are worthy of condemnation, but the detailed response of Netanyahu and others come too close to creating a debate on the subject, something the small legion of crackpot deniers worldwide desperately wants.
Whether in academia, political discourse or popular culture, there is no serious discourse about whether the Nazi war against the Jews took place. The detailed accounts of eyewitnesses, photographic and scientific evidence and, most significant, the records of the Nazis themselves, who never sought to cover up their crimes are readily available to any inquiring minds.
While Ahmadinejad may have convinced himself there are some questions about about the scope and scale of the atrocities, it's hard to imagine even he seriously believes the Nazis did not perpetrate genocide 60 years ago. Rather, he knows it's a sure-fire way to push buttons in the West, and to expose pro-Jewish sentiment among western leaders that he can use to muster allies who hate America and Israel.
Engaging this blowhard in any kind of serious debate only plays right into his hands.
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