HAIFA, Israel – A key figure in Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's government called the Holocaust a hoax cooked up by U.S. intelligence operatives and claimed the 6 million Jews who were killed by Nazis simply moved to the U.S.
The outrageous claims, by Fathi Shihab-Eddim, a senior figure close to President Morsi who is now responsible for appointing the editors of all state-run Egyptian newspapers, came as the world marked Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, and also as the U.S. continues to assess its relationship with the increasingly radical Arab state.
“The myth of the Holocaust is an industry that America invented,” Shihab-Eddim said, leaving no room for doubt that the Egyptian government -- like Iran's -- has at the very least significant elements that deny one of history's best documented genocides.
“U.S. intelligence agencies in cooperation with their counterparts in allied nations during World War II created it [the Holocaust] to destroy the image of their opponents in Germany, and to justify war and massive destruction against military and civilian facilities of the Axis powers, and especially to hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the atomic bomb,” Shihab-Eddim said.
The ludicrous claims were especially worrisome to Israeli experts who have been watching since the Muslim Brotherhood Morsi administration took over the Egyptian government in elections last summer, following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, who maintained good relations with Israel. Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center in New York, said Shihab-Eddin's comments were as troubling as they were ridiculous.
“Fathi goes on to claim that the 6 million Jews all really moved to the United States during the war (and oddly no one noticed) and that the number of Jews killed in the war was about the number who died in traffic accidents,” Greenfield wrote in Frontpagemag.com.
Efraim Zuroff, Israel Director of the Jerusalem-based Simon Weisenthal Center, whose mission is to defend against anti-Semitism and teach the lessons of the Holocaust to future generations, told FoxNews.com the remarks show a dangerous, but common, mindset.
“Obviously, if a person in that position makes that ridiculous claim it is of concern," Zuroff said. "The sad truth is that these views are relatively common in the Arab world and are the result of ignorance on one hand and of government-sponsored Holocaust denial on the other hand.”
The latest Holocaust denial from a senior Egyptian figure comes hot on the heels of the much-publicized comments made by President Morsi in 2010, that Jews are “the descendants of apes and pigs,” remarks that Morsi insists were taken out of context. Despite Morsi's claims, archivists subsequently said the Egyptian leader made similar statements repeatedly before he rose to power.
Mohammed el-Baradei, a leading figure in Egypt’s secular opposition and formerly the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, spoke out against Morsi’s remarks and his assertion that his comments had been misinterpreted.
“We are all aware that those statements were not taken out of context and that this discourse is very common among a large number of clerics and members of Islamist groups, El-Baradei said. "Apart from the remarks themselves, I am calling upon the person who made them to courageously admit either the real stance he and the Muslim Brotherhood and their followers adopt, or how mistaken they had been for all those years.”
Anti-Semitic statements and denial of the Holocaust are seemingly part and parcel of the Muslim Brotherhood doctrine. Among many examples of the vitriol espoused by senior figures from the parent organization of the terrorist group Hamas, one of their spiritual leaders and a popular Islamic television figure, Youssef Al-Qaradawi said, “I’d like to say that the only thing I hope for is that as my life approaches its end, Allah will give me an opportunity to go to the land of Jihad [Israel] and resistance, even if in a wheelchair. I will shoot Allah’s enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus, I will seal my life with martyrdom.”
Al-Qaradawi further stated in a 2009 broadcast about the Holocaust, “He [Hitler] managed to put them [the Jews] in their place. This [the Holocaust] was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.”
With Morsi facing significant resistance to his rapid imposition of more stifling legislation in Egypt, fears are rising that Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, and anti-Israeli rhetoric will increase in a country that continues to receive significant financial and logistical support from the U.S. The Obama administration recently began shipping a foreign aid package to Egypt that includes 20 F-16 fighter jets and 200 Abrams tanks.
Zuroff said the sinister statements by a top Morsi aide should give other nations pause for thought in evaluating their relationships with the new government in Cairo.
“Government-sponsored Holocaust denial is the most dangerous...as opposed to attempts by individuals to convince people that the Holocaust did not take place," Zuroff said. "When it comes with a strict Islamic interpretation and one which is basically anti-Semitic, then it becomes much more dangerous.”
Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist who blogs at www.paulalster.com and can be followed on Twitter @paulalster