A leader of Egypt's most influential secular party on Wednesday dismissed the Holocaust as a "lie," the Diary of Anne Frank as a "fake," and the September 11th attacks as "made in the U.S.A." The comments by the vice chairman of the putatively liberal Wafd Party pour cold water on lingering hopes that post-Hosni Mubarak Egypt could serve as an exemplar of modern, progressive democracy in the Arab world's most populous state.
"The Holocaust is a lie" Ahmed Ezz El-Arab told The Washington Times newspaper in an interview. "The Jews under German occupation were 2.4 million. So if they were all exterminated, where does the remaining 3.6 million come from?"
Ezz El-Arab said he accepted that the Germans had killed "hundreds of thousands" of Jews, "but gas chambers and skinning them alive and all this? Fanciful stories."
Ezz El-Arab dismissed "The Diary of Anne Frank," which he said he studied as a doctoral student in Sweden, as a forgery. "I could swear to God it's a fake," he said. "The girl was there, but the memoirs are a fake."
The deputy chairman also questioned the accepted account of the September 11 attacks. Osama bin Laden "could not have the know-how or the ability to do it," he said, calling the al-Qaida leader "an American agent." "If he had the ability, one plane only landing on the Knesset would give more effect," he said, naming the Mossad, CIA and America's "military-industrial complex" as the actual perpetrators of the terrorist attacks.
Continuing the bizarre tirade, Ezz El-Arab said American soldiers "with double Israeli nationality and Jewish religion" stole Jewish antiquities from the Babylonian exile period and reburied them in Jerusalem to cement their historical claim on the city. "It's not a kind of monument robbery for selling in the black market," he said. "The things they took from Babel, they took with the intention — to my judgment — of digging it under the Aqsa mosque so that when it's discovered, they say, 'Here was the temple.' "
Mubarak's ouster has stoked concerns in Israel that the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty could be abrogated. Ezz El-Arab, who chairs Wafd's foreign-relations committee, said there is "no chance at all" of that happening. "Egypt will not go to war unless it's attacked," he said.
The interview was conducted on the sidelines of the "First Annual Conference on Democracy and Human Rights," hosted in Budapest by the Tom Lantos Institute and Center for Democratic Transition. Lantos, a longtime Democratic congressman from California who died in 2008, survived a forced-labor camp in his native Hungary and lost his mother and other family members to the Nazi occupation.
Approximately 450,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
Ezz-El Arab expressed sympathy for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose own Holocaust denial he he said is founded on antipathy toward Israel. "He's a hateful character, so whatever he says can be criticized," the Wafd leader said. "What he says about the Holocaust is true, but he doesn't say it because it's true. He says it out of hatred to the Israeli state."
Iran — with which Egypt recently reinstated ties — hosted a Holocaust-denial conference in 2006 to protest the ban in many European countries on questioning the Nazi genocide. "It's a shame that the West — the cradle of liberalism — should have a criminal law incriminating any discussion of any historical fact," Ezz El-Arab said. "It's a sacred cow. The '6 million' is a sacred cow."
A former Wafd youth leader told the newspaper that while Ezz El-Arab himself does not have a major constituency in Egypt or within the party itself, his views on the Holocaust are common. "The vast majority of Egyptians think the Holocaust never happened," Amr Bargisi said. "The fact that his presence in the party hierarchy hasn't caused any objections tells you something about the farcical nature of Egyptian politics."
The Wafd Party is one of Egypt's oldest, established in 1919 and disbanded after the 1952 military coup that ended monarchic rule. The party was reestablished in 1983 under reforms Mubarak set in place to allow nominal opposition to the decades-long rule of the National Democratic Party. Today — espousing a secular nationalist platform based on multi-party governance and human rights — it arguably represents the country's most influential political bloc after the powerful Muslim Brotherhood.
In June, Wafd announced it would run jointly in September's parliamentary election with the Brotherhood in a bid to present a united front in Egypt's post-revolution government. "For four years, in alliance, we can build a constitution based on certain principles that guarantee human rights, citizenship, no religious trend whatsoever," Ezz El-Arab said. "Once this is established, everybody can go to the ballot box and try his luck."
Last month the Brotherhood posted an article on its website by veteran movement member Sheikh Ahmad Gad arguing that the implementation of Shariah law in Egypt must be achieved gradually, by first preparing Egyptians' hearts and minds for Islamic law before introducing it in stages.
"There is no hope for reform without a return to divine rule, which the Creator chose for man," Gad wrote June 11 on the movement's official website, ikhwanonline, and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute. "There is no other way but gradual action, preparing the souls and setting an example, so that faith will enter their hearts . . . Gradual action does not impose Islam at once, but rather step by step, in order to facilitate understanding, studying, acceptance, and submission."
"I ask the honorable Al-Azhar to rally the Islamic streams in order to unite the Muslim word and effort, restore the caliphate, and prepare a practical plan to implement the law of Allah the Exalted. This is the goal of the honorable Al-Azhar and of all Islamic streams," he wrote, referring to Cairo's Al-Azhar University, the most influential institute of Sunni Islamic study. "O Allah, guide us, open our hearts to faith, and restore this nation to its previous self — one united nation worshipping You and You alone."
Three days earlier, the veteran Brotherhood figure Kamal Al-Helbawy — a bespectacled figure familiar to Western audiences as a former movement spokesman to the English-speaking media — called on Arab youth to launch a new revolution to eliminate borders drawn by "imperialist nations" and bring about a global Islamic state "called the United States of Islam."
"Why shouldn't we have a country called 'The United States of Islam,'" he said in an interview with Egypt's Al-Shorouk newspaper in comments also translated by MEMRI. "I propose that the Arab peoples who demonstrated for the sake of the revolution, so they could move from the stage of oppression and corruption to the stage of stability and security, organize themselves from now on and set a deadline — five or 10 years — [and] take to the streets with the slogan 'The Arab People Wants to Remove the Borders' . . . These borders were drawn up by imperialist nations, making our rulers guardians of imperialist borders."
Al-Helbawy also referred to Egypt's growing Salafi movement, a puritanical Islamist movement more radical than even the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood. "I say to our Salafi brothers: Why do you focus only on appearance, on the beard, the miswak [tooth-cleaning stick noted in Islamic jurisprudence], and the jilbab [religious garment]?
"There are many things far more important to Muslim society — chiefly a military industry, which is a means and a tool of jihad, as Ibn Taymiyya said," Al-Helbawy said, referring to the 13th century ideologue from whom Salafis take example. "If Ibn Taymiyya were among us, what would he think of Ahmadinejad's stance against Israel, while Arab rulers protect Israeli embassies and applaud the symbols of the Zionist entity?"
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