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PM - Iran stages conference questioning Jewish Holocaust

Tuesday, 12 December , 2006 18:22:00
Reporter: Lisa Millar

MARK COLVIN: The United Nations may have moved a step closer to possible sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certainly thinks so. She expressed optimism that the Security Council would finally impose sanctions after a European draft resolution got support from the US and Russia.

Meanwhile in Tehran, a conference which some have accused the Iranian Government of staging as a provocative diversion from the nuclear issue, is well underway.

It's discussing an issue which Iranian President Ahmadinejad keeps raising - whether the Nazis really killed six million Jews in the Holocaust.

One of the two Australians at the conference claims it's the beginning of a whole new debate in which people will wake up, as he puts it, to what he calls the "fraudulent factors" behind the deaths of millions of Jews.

Frederick Töben has been jailed before for his views and says he expects to be targeted again after attending the conference in Tehran.

Lisa Millar reports.

LISA MILLAR: The three-day conference has attracted around 100 people. The Iranian Government says they've come from across the globe, and from a variety of viewpoints.

But the majority are firm believers in the argument that the Holocaust was either exaggerated or invented.

Frederick Töben from Adelaide is a keynote speaker.

FREDERICK TÖBEN: The Holocaust for many is in the memory, is in their memory, it's an absolute, but it has no reality in time or space.

LISA MILLAR: Mr Töben is an amateur historian who promotes his cause through the Adelaide Institute and its website, both of which he set up.

He's been jailed in Germany for inciting racism, but he's convinced this conference is finally giving weight to his views.

FREDERICK TÖBEN: They know that we are correct, that our argument... we have won the argument on paper. It's the beginning. It's the beginning of people in Africa, in South America, in Asia, waking up to the fraudulent factors embedded in what is called the Holocaust.

LISA MILLAR: The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, began planning the conference a year ago after his comments about wiping Israel off the map caused international outrage.

But he wasn't there when the conference opened, instead speaking at a university where students staged a rare protest.

(Sound of protesters chanting)

The President says that's a sign of the freedom Iranians have, and why the country can hold a conference about the Holocaust.

His Foreign Minister spoke on his behalf.

MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI (translated): The Zionist regime is aware that if the conventional interpretation and picture of the Holocaust is questioned, the essence and identity of the Zionist regime will be questioned.

LISA MILLAR: Israel, the US and the United Nations have all criticised the conference.

Graham Leonard from Australia's Jewish community is infuriated by it.

GRAHAM LEONARD: Look, at a time when international tensions are running high, about escalating problems in the Middle East, this conference can only be seen as another act on the part of Iran to up the ante, and one of provocation and brinksmanship, I think.

LISA MILLAR: What's it likely to achieve?

GRAHAM LEONARD: Very little, except it will give a stage for some amateur Holocaust revisionists who claim to be historians.

LISA MILLAR: Do you think this conference is giving the revisionists greater credibility?

GRAHAM LEONARD: No, I don't think it will give greater credibility at all, because people will see it for what it is, which is in the context of Iran's attempt to destabilise the region.

I think the other point we want to make very strongly is we're not against free speech. I mean, free speech is an important value in any modern, vibrant democracy.

But this is not about free speech. This is about repugnant, demeaning, state-sponsored historical revisionism, and it's just deeply offensive and should be condemned.

LISA MILLAR: Dr Benjamin MacQueen is from the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University.

BENJAMIN MACQUEEN: I don't think there's any... and I'm certainly showing my colours here, I don't think there's any serious scholarship that really agrees with the positions that are being put forward by Holocaust denial.

It still remains in, for instance, in academia, it still remains even more fringe than a fringe group.

LISA MILLAR: But as the US comes under pressure from the Iraq Study Group to begin negotiating with Iran over the future of Iraq, this conference is unlikely to help convince the President George W. Bush that talking to the regime is an option.

Frederick Töben admits there's politics behind Iran's decision to play host to the revisionists, and on that subject, Dr MacQueen agrees.

BENJAMIN MACQUEEN: I think yes, it's part of this sort of, broader movement, this sort of multifaceted attack on Israel, on the legitimacy of the Israeli state.

MARK COLVIN: Dr Benjamin MacQueen from Monash University, ending that report by Lisa Millar.


This is the print version of story

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Here is an earlier one from LATELINE, ABC TV, 21 February 2006


Australian Broadcasting Corporation



Broadcast: 21/02/2006

British historian jailed

Reporter: Tom Iggulden

TONY JONES: An Austrian court has sentenced British historian David Irving to three years jail for calling the Holocaust "a fairytale" 16 years ago, sparking debate about free speech and how to deter neo-Nazis from spreading their message. Jail time has done little to deter Australia's most prominent Holocaust denier, who's about to travel to Iran at the invitation of the country's leaders, who have recently renewed calls for the destruction of Israel and restarted the country's nuclear program. Tom Iggulden reports.

TOM IGGULDEN: Dr Frederick Toben shows off a macabre piece of what he calls 'evidence' that no Jews were gassed in World War II - a scale model of one of the gas chambers at the notorious Nazi death camp of Auschwitz.

DR FREDERICK TOBEN, HOLOCAUST DENIER: And this was then the gas chamber and gas was poured through these four holes. I was at Auschwitz and I didn't find these four holes.

TOM IGGULDEN: He'll be taking the model with him on what he describes as an academic tour of Iran, where he'll be speaking at universities, recently accused of being recruiting grounds for suicide bombers. Jailed in 1999 in Germany for denying the Holocaust and placed under a Federal Court gag order here in Australia, it's likely his views...

DR FREDERICK TOBEN: The Holocaust - I call it a myth, a dogma.

TOM IGGULDEN: ...will find sympathy in the theocratic state that's hosting his visit. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently also described the Holocaust as a hoax and renewed calls to "wipe Israel off the map".

DR FREDERICK TOBEN: It's not a novel notion that the Iranian President expressed in asking for the dismemberment for the racist, Zionist, apartheid state of Israel. That's a notion that needs to be discussed.

TOM IGGULDEN: Dr Toben's visit to Iran comes as British self-styled historian David Irving was handed a three year jail sentence in Austria. In a speech in Vienna in 1989, Mr Irving described the Holocaust as "a fairytale". Arrested on a trip back to Austria in November, he pleaded guilty, expecting a much lighter penalty, and explaining to the court that he had moderated his views.

UK REPORTER: Are you saying the Holocaust did exist now?

DAVID IRVING, AUTHOR AND HISTORIAN: I don't like trademarks. I would call it the Jewish tragedy in World War II.

UK REPORTER: But it's a simple question. Did six million people die in the Holocaust?

DAVID IRVING: Millions died, millions of Jews died, there's no question. And I've said that in all my books as well.

UK REPORTER: But did six million die?

DAVID IRVING: I don't know, I'm not an expert on the Holocaust.

UK REPORTER: You don't know whether six million died or not?

DAVID IRVING: You didn't hear my answer.

TOM IGGULDEN: But the Austrian High Court didn't see it that way, with the judge describing Irving as "a prostitute who has not changed her ways for decades."

ELMAR KRESBACK, DEFENSE LAWYER: And we're appealing. It's too strong a message. It would have been enough to sentence him for two years.

AUSTRIAN REPORTER: So will you appeal now to a higher court very shortly?



ELMAR KRESBACK: Ah, we've already registered the appeal.

MICHAEL KLACKL, PROSECUTOR: It was a good sentence, he was found guilty and the penalty? Well, I have to think about this. At the moment, no comment.

TOM IGGULDEN: The jail term was welcomed by local Jewish groups.

VIC ALDEHEFF, CEO, NSW JEWISH BOARD OF DEPUTIES: We welcome this decision as a judgment against a man who has devoted his life to racial incitement and disparagement of the Jewish people. This is a human rights verdict and one which is welcomed.

TOM IGGULDEN: And as for Dr Toben's trip to Iran, Mr Alhadeff had only this response.

VIC ALDEHEFF: The Jewish community does not enter into debate with Dr Toben or with anybody as to whether or not the Holocaust happened. And Dr Toben's activities, quite frankly, are beyond the pale.

TOM IGGULDEN: Dr Toben leaves for Iran on Monday. Tom Iggulden, Lateline.



And another PM Report from the past:



Toben jailed in Germany over Holocaust website


PM Archive - Thursday, 11 November , 1999  00:00:00

Reporter: Bronwyn Adcock


MARK COLVIN: An Australian who questions the Nazi Holocaust was sentenced to gaol in Germany today.
Frederick Toben was found guilty in a German court of incitement of the people and insulting the memory of the dead.
Mr Toben alleges the Holocaust was grossly exaggerated. He used his Australian-based website to publish his views.
The court found he'd been spreading this information, including via the Internet and sentenced him to ten months gaol.
As Bronwyn Adcock reports, some experts are saying the decision shows that what happens in cyberspace can fall within the jurisdiction of any country.

BRONWYN ADCOCK: According to Julie Eisenberg, a media lawyer with the Communications Law Centre, the gaoling of Frederick Toben shows that the nebulous concept of cyber space can be tied down to a jurisdiction. It also illustrates how different countries deal with the content of cyber space differently.

JULIE EISENBERG: Well it's a good illustration of how Internet law isn't one single thing. Obviously different countries are putting in place their own laws which reflects how they think the Internet should be regulated.
The law under which Toben has been convicted in Germany is quite different to the way that laws apply in Australia and I suppose it's a good illustration of the fact that even though people think they're doing things in cyber space they may well be caught under the laws of a particular country.

BRONWYN ADCOCK: Irene Zeitler is a partner of the Intellectual Property and Technology section of the law firm Free Hills. She says there are risks involved when cyber space allows you to cross jurisdictions.

IRENE ZEITLER: Oh there is absolutely a risk in communicating over the Internet because it isn't limited by boundaries so you need to be very careful when you do communicate over the Internet particularly where you make that communication available publicly to step back and ask yourself well, you know, is that communication, does it contain subject matter that is potentially going to fall foul of local laws.

BRONWYN ADCOCK: According to Irene Zeitler governments are now working together to overcome problems created by the Internet applying to different jurisdictions.

IRENE ZEITLER: Countries are becoming very aware of the problem of jurisdictional boundaries with respect to communication over the Internet and countries are meeting on an international level to work out protocols for handling these types of communications and recently there's been some discussion about coming to an agreement on a common set of rules for trading over the Internet, because that of course raises jurisdictional issues as well when someone purchases, when someone in Australia, for example, purchases goods in the US or somewhere in Asia, questions which laws apply.
So there are moves afoot on an international basis to try and work out common sets of rules and conduct.

MARK COLVIN: Irene Zeitler, a lawyer from Free Hills talking to Bronwyn Adcock.


....and more ABC Reports on Fredrick Töben


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