Yad Vashem memorial launches Arabic Web site to combat Holocaust denial

>JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s Holocaust memorial launched an Arabic version of its Web site Thursday, including vivid photos of Nazi atrocities and video of survivors’ testimony, to combat Holocaust denial in the Arab and Muslim world.

Among those featured on the Yad Vashem site is Dina Beitler, a survivor of the Nazi genocide that killed 6 million Jews in World War II. Beitler, who was shot and left for dead in a pit of bodies in 1941, recalls her story on the site, with Arabic subtitles.

“Holocaust denial in various countries exists, and so it is important that people see us, the Holocaust survivors, that they’ll listen to our testimonies, and learn the legacy of the Holocaust – also in Arabic,” Beitler, 73, said at Yad Vashem.

Last year, Yad Vashem presented a similar version of its Web site in Farsi, aimed at Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called the Holocaust a “myth” and said Israel should be “wiped off the map.” He has also hosted a conference that questioned whether the Holocaust took place.

On the Arab street, many are indeed hostile to Israel, but Ahmadinejad’s comments stand out as much harsher than those of any mainstream Mideast leaders.

A range of sentiments toward the Holocaust exists across the Arab world, from simple ignorance about its details to outright denial, to a more complicated belief – often expressed by many Arabs – that the Holocaust did happen but does not justify what is viewed as Israeli persecution of Palestinians.

Nazi literature is accessible in many Arab cities and some of the media engage in anti-Semitic incitement. However, even Iran last year permitted the broadcast of a television miniseries that told the story of an Iranian diplomat in Paris who helped Jews escape the Holocaust – and viewers were riveted.

Last March, a poll showed that 28 percent of Israel’s Arab citizens did not believe the Holocaust happened, and that among high school and college graduates the figure was even higher – 33 percent.

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said Arabic-language Holocaust education was long overdue.

“Providing an easily accessible and comprehensive Web site about the Holocaust in Arabic is crucial,” he said. “We want to offer an alternative source of information to moderates in these countries, to provide them with reliable information.”