Sunday, October 17, 2004

More on The NYTimes and the Frankfurt Book Fair

Re. my earlier post on the NYTimes and the Frankfurt Book Fair, I would be amiss not to add - although this does not quite constitute a "correction" - that the Times piece overlooked what might well have been the major story of the entire event. Not only did the fair, at which "the Arab World" was the "guest of honor", feature openly anti-Semitic literature - as the Time's own report reflects but cannot bring itself to say - but at the opening ceremony the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder shared the stage with a noted Holocaust denier and apologist for suicide bombers. Mohammad Salmawy, who read a message of greetings from the Nobel Prize Laureate Nagib Machfus, is the editor of the French language Egyptian paper Al Ahram Hebdo. In its pages, he has written concerning Auschwitz: "There are no findings which would indicate the existence of mass graves, because the size of the ovens could not have had the capacity to kill so many Jews." According to the German journalist and Middle East specialist Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, Salmawy also points to alleged Soviet documentation which is supposed to show that there were "no more than 70,000 Jews" in the camp. The number of Jews who died at Auschwitz is generally held by historians to have exceeded two million. There are even persons classified as "Holocaust deniers" in western Europe who, nonetheless, acknowledge a figure of upwards of 800,000. But seemingly western politicians and intellectuals have different standards when dealing with "the Arab world." On the deportations of German Jews, Salmawy has written, "the Germans had no choice but to load the Jews onto trains and deport them to the East, because they were underdeveloped and a burden to the German economy....” And in an interview with the BBC, he has claimed "that the Israeli Mossad was behind the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, despite the evidence claiming otherwise." For these and other gems from Salmawy, see von der Osten-Sacken's report here in German or here in English translation. (Hat tip to David of David's Medienkritik.) Thanks to von der Osten-Sacken's thoughtful posting of the English translation of his original article from October 8, Salmawy's presence at the fair has already received comment in the Anglophone blogosphere; and, without doing much looking, I have come across three major German papers - the Tagespiegel, the Frankfurter Rundschau, and the Tageszeitung - which have also in the meanwhile called critical attention to it. The leftist Tageszeitung or "Taz", for instance, qualified it a "scandal" in an editorial of October 11. The Times, however, has apparently yet to judge it worthy of mention.