On Saturday, the left-wing smear organization the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) attacked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for suggesting that some forms of Holocaust denial could be acceptable on Facebook. Tragically, the left-wing group did not mention a key source of Holocaust denial: anti-Israel sentiment, and anti-Semitism among Muslims. Instead, the SPLC expressed fear that Holocaust denial might hurt American Muslims.
While Nazis were the first to start crafting lies rejecting the reality of the Holocaust, Holocaust denial is most mainstream among Muslims in the Middle East. A 2014 survey by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that 63 percent of people in the Middle East and North Africa said the Holocaust was “a myth or an exaggeration. A full 65 percent said “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars.” A whopping 74 percent of those in the Middle East and North Africa harbored anti-Semitic views.
When asked directly about the Holocaust, 61 percent of Muslims under age 65 said it was a myth or an exaggeration, while Christians were consistently the least likely to deny the Holocaust (followed by Buddhists and non-religious people). Hindus also proved surprisingly likely to deny the Holocaust.
After preliminary notes about Nazis founding the practice — pushing “the deeply offensive lie that the Holocaust was a fraud concocted by Jews” — the SPLC noted that it monitors 10 active Holocaust denial groups in the U.S., four of which have a minor presence on Facebook. To its credit, the SPLC does have two pro-Palestinian groups on that list: two chapters of Der Yassin Remembered.
At the same time, after a brief mention of “the resurgence in antisemitism online,” the SPLC went on to lament the plight of American Muslims — some of whom are spreading Holocaust denial in an effort to slander the State of Israel.
“Zuckerberg’s refusal to address propaganda as hateful and obvious as Holocaust denial also bodes poorly for other vulnerable communities, such as American Muslims, a community regularly demonized by rhetoric espoused by even the president,” the SPLC warned. “As it stands, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant propagandists easily clear the low hurdles set up by platforms like Facebook.”
While the SPLC article only mentioned Jews once — in explaining the denial as “the deeply offensive lie that the Holocaust was a fraud concocted by Jews” — and anti-Semitism once, it referenced Muslims twice, and pivoted to discuss Muslims in the context of Holocaust denial, without once mentioning the mainstreaming of Holocaust denial among anti-Israel Muslims.
As the ADL discovered, this historical twisting is by far worst in the Middle East and North Africa, predominantly Muslim areas. Some Middle Eastern governments, like those of Iran and Syria, have explicitly denied the Holocaust, and The Washington Post‘s Robert Satloff reported that Egypt, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia promote Holocaust denial and protect deniers.
Leaders of the Palestinian terror organization Hamas have even gone so far as to blame Zionists — supporters of the State of Israel — for creating Nazism in the first place! Many Muslim leaders have attacked Holocaust denial, but theirs is a difficult struggle in the Middle East.
Even so, the SPLC seemed almost more concerned about how Holocaust denial on Facebook would harm American Muslims than the effects it would have on Jews worldwide.
Many Muslims deny the Holocaust because they consider the historical narrative a tactic of Zionist Jews to support the State of Israel. Their hatred for Israel bleeds over into anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. This is not to say that all Muslims harbor such animus, but Holocaust denial is far more mainstream in the Middle East than in the West.
Indeed, many Western countries have outlawed Holocaust denial. Forms of Holocaust denial are illegal or have been prosecuted in 22 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, and Switzerland. None of these countries are majority Muslim, although Bosnia and Herzegovina has a sizable Muslim minority.
The insistence that allowing Holocaust denial on Facebook bodes ill for Muslims is ridiculous, considering that Holocaust denial is most rampant among Muslims and in the Middle East and North Africa. Furthermore, Jews face twice as many hate crimes as Muslims in the United States, according to the FBI.
The SPLC sacrificed quite a good deal of its credibility on anti-Muslim issues when it branded Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz an “anti-Islamic extremist,” listing among other issues his visit to a strip club on his bachelor party. Last month, the group settled Nawaz’s lawsuit by paying $3 million, but it did not reconsider branding a great deal of mainstream organizations “hate groups.” At least one of these hate groups — the Family Research Council — experienced a terrorist attack due to this designation.
Muslims in America do indeed face prejudice, but an article about Holocaust denial should not reference anti-Muslim prejudice twice as much as anti-Semitism.
In any attack on Holocaust denial, activists should acknowledge the fact that it is most mainstream in the Muslim Middle East, thanks at least in part to anti-Zionist sentiments. For the SPLC to not only omit this fact, but to suggest that Holocaust denial harms Muslims as it harms Jews, is misleading and reckless.