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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 15:51 GMT
Media spotlight on Iran's Holocaust talks
A rabbi gives his business card to a Muslim clergyman at the conference on the Holocaust, in Tehran, Iran
67 researchers from 30 countries are attending the conference

Reports and comment on the international conference on the Holocaust being held in Tehran feature across a wide spectrum of the Middle East media.

In Iran itself, radio and TV bulletins have run lengthy reports mostly consisting of comments by foreign participants that people are not allowed to speak freely about the Holocaust in the West and that they fear prosecution when they return home.

A German participant spoke in English to a reporter from the Iranian news channel IRINN: "This is Jewish power in Europe and especially in the United States. And everybody who says something else goes to prison, is punished, and is in prison. We are not allowed to say the truth. That's it."

The conference also features as the lead story in some Iranian newspapers. The reformist daily Aftab has a front-page headline quoting the Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying: "We neither confirm nor deny the Holocaust".

Why is the denial of the Holocaust considered a punishable crime in some Western countries if these countries really defend freedom of expression?
Commentary in Al-Vefagh
The daily Al-Vefagh which is published in Arabic prints a commentary on the conference by Musib Nu'aymi.

An inset box in the same story says: "One of the speakers confirmed the Holocaust and said: This event did take place but the number of people killed is exaggerated."

The conservative Jomhuri-ye Eslami has the front-page headline: "Myth of the Holocaust criticised at a conference of 150 of the world's researchers and historians".

Iran Daily, the English-language daily published by the official news agency IRNA, runs the conference as its top story with a large photo and the headline: "Seeking Holocaust truth: Fact-finding committee planned".

Other papers give the story less prominence, preferring to lead with reports on a university speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which was disrupted by some students.

"Examination of the myth of the Holocaust at an international conference in Tehran" is the headline in the hard-line Kayhan daily; "Holocaust conference: Displaying the facts" is how the government-affiliated Iran paper sees it.

The Javan newspaper, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards, has the story as its second lead on the front page: "Criticism of the Holocaust by experts from 30 countries".

"Why is the denial of the Holocaust considered a punishable crime in some Western countries if these countries really defend freedom of expression?", he asks. "The aim of all this is just deception and obliteration of the facts."

Israel

Israeli radio broadcast a report on the conference in its morning bulletin at 0430gmt. It highlighted the case of an Israeli Arab who had apparently been refused permission to attend the gathering. The radio also reported that the Israeli parliament has contacted heads of other parliaments urging them to condemn any denial of the Holocaust.

Alongside various reports, two Israeli papers devote commentaries to the issue. Noah Kliger, writing in the centrist Yediot Aharonot, is scathing in his judgement.

The conference illustrates the linkage between Holocaust denial and Israel denial
Jerusalem Post

"All those lunatics, professional deniers of the Holocaust, who are veterans in infantile arguments that so contradict reality and all the facts, all of them rushed to Tehran to contribute their bit to this colossal scandal."

An editorial in the English-language Jerusalem Post argues that the conference "illustrates the linkage between Holocaust denial and Israel denial".

"The restoration of Jewish sovereignty over a small sliver of land was hardly at the expense of the Arabs, who came to enjoy many independent states of their own. The Iranian idea of justice is that the 22nd member of the Arab League, Palestine, be founded not alongside Israel but on our ashes."

Arabic media - TV

The Iran-backed, Arabic-language Al-Alam and the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera are the only TV channels observed to cover the conference on the day it opened in Tehran.

The two channels, especially the latter, aired lengthy reports accompanied by video footage which included interviews with European participants.

Al-Alam's presenter used terms such as the "holocaust theory" and "what is called the holocaust" in his report. The report also included a quote from a member of the Jews against Zionism group who attended the conference, expressing doubts about the truth behind the Holocaust.

Al-Jazeera's coverage of the story included a screen caption with the words "what is known as the holocaust" in its description of the conference.

The channel also aired an interview with its correspondent in Tehran who gave an account of what the conference was aiming to achieve.

Arabic media - press

The conference only features in the headlines of one of the London-based Arabic papers observed by BBC Monitoring.

The independent, Arab nationalist Al-Quds Al-Arabi runs a report headlined "Holocaust conference begins in Iran amidst protest from West." The story does not feature on the comment pages.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, only Egypt's pro-government Al-Akhbar devotes a commentary to the issue.

Ibrahim Sa'dah writes that President Ahmadinejad expects the gathering to "conclude that the Holocaust is dubious on one hand and that the figure of six million Jews, who were allegedly killed in the Nazi detention camps, is very exaggerated".

He continues that such concurrence with President Ahmadinejad's own opinions is vital, "otherwise his views will lose credibility in the eyes of Iranians".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.




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