National Journal: First published 09/06/2011
Retired college professor takes on faculty who smeared him for "Holocaust denial"
Michael Hoffman's Note (revisionistreview.blogspot.com, Monday, May 23, 2011): Daniel McGowan, PhD. is Professor Emeritus of Economics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) in Geneva, New York. He is one of the most astute supporters of the human rights of the Palestinian people, having created a memorial statue to the holocaust of Palestinians at his lakefront home, and founded Deir Yassin Remembered, the association dedicated to commemorating the more than 100 Palestinians murdered in the village of Deir Yassin April 9, 1948, perpetrated by the Israeli Irgun and Stern gangs at a time when Elie Wiesel was working as a propagandist for the Irgun.
Here below is a dossier which concludes with McGowan’s rejoinder to a letter by members of the faculty of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in which they sought to deny him the right to call himself "Professor Emeritus," after he published an article in a local newspaper which they stigmatize as "hate speech." Here’s a sample of the faculty’s classic Stalinism: "Freedom of speech is a right for citizens in a democracy ... Hate speech, on the other hand, is a trickier issue for campuses to wrestle with because while free speech has a special value, we have a duty to protect members of our diverse community from unsupported vitriol..."
According to Prof. McGowan, the text of the faculty’s 2009 letter was withheld from him for 20 months. He did not obtain a copy until this month; hence his rejoinder now.
Part 1: Op-Ed by Prof. McGowan published in the Finger Lakes Times, Sept. 27, 2009
What Does Holocaust Denial Really Mean?
In April 2007 the European Union agreed to set jail sentences up to three years for those who deny or trivialize the Holocaust. More recently, in response to the remarks of Bishop Richard Williamson, the Pope has proclaimed that Holocaust denial is "intolerable and altogether unacceptable."
But what does Holocaust denial really mean? Begin with the word Holocaust. The Holocaust (spelled with a capital H) refers to the killing of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War II. It is supposed to be the German's "Final Solution" to the Jewish problem. Much of the systematic extermination was to have taken place in concentration camps by shooting, gassing, and burning alive innocent Jewish victims of the Third Reich.
People like Germar Rudolf, Ernst Zundel, and Bishop Williamson who do not believe this account and who dare to say so in public are reviled as bigots, anti-Semites, racists, and worse. Their alternate historical scenarios are not termed simply revisionist, but are demeaned as Holocaust denial. Rudolf and Zundel were shipped to Germany where they were tried, convicted, and sentenced to three and five years, respectively.
Politicians deride Holocaust revisionist papers and conferences as "beyond the pale of international discourse and acceptable behavior." Non-Zionist Jews who participate in such revisionism, like Rabbi Dovid Weiss of the Neturei Karta, are denounced as "self-haters" and are shunned and spat upon. Even Professor Norman Finkelstein, whose parents were both Holocaust survivors and who wrote the book, The Holocaust Industry, has been branded a Holocaust denier.
But putting aside the virile hate directed against those who question the veracity of the typical Holocaust narrative, what is it that these people believe and say at the risk of imprisonment and bodily harm? For most Holocaust revisionists or deniers if you prefer, their arguments boil down to three simple contentions:
1. Hitler's "Final Solution" was intended to be ethnic cleansing, not extermination.
2. There were no homicidal gas chambers used by the Third Reich.
3. There were fewer than 6 million Jews killed of the 55 million who died in WWII.
Are these revisionist contentions so odious as to cause those who believe them to be reviled, beaten, and imprisoned? More importantly, is it possible that revisionist contentions are true, or even partially true, and that they are despised because they contradict the story of the Holocaust, a story which has been elevated to the level of a religion in hundreds of films, memorials, museums, and docu-dramas?
Is it sacrilegious to ask, "If Hitler was intent on extermination, how did Elie Wiesel, his father, and two of his sisters survive the worst period of incarceration at Auschwitz?" Wiesel claims that people were thrown alive into burning pits, yet even the Israeli-trained guides at Auschwitz refute this claim.
Is it really "beyond international discourse" to question the efficacy and the forensic evidence of homicidal gas chambers? If other myths, like making soap from human fat, have been dismissed as Allied war propaganda, why is it "unacceptable behavior" to ask if the gas chamber at Dachau was not reconstructed by the Americans because no other homicidal gas chamber could be found and used as evidence at the Nuremburg trials?
For more than fifty years Jewish scholars have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to document each Jewish victim of the Nazi Holocaust. The Nazis were German, obsessed with paperwork and recordkeeping. Yet only 3 million names have been collected and many of them died of natural causes. So why is it heresy to doubt that fewer than 6 million Jews were murdered in the Second World War?
"Holocaust Denial" might be no more eccentric or no more criminal than claiming the earth is flat, except that the Holocaust itself has been used as the sword and shield in the quest to build a Jewish state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, where even today over half the population is not Jewish.
The Holocaust narrative allows Yad Vashem, the finest Holocaust museum in the world, to repeat the mantra of "Never Forget" while it sits on Arab lands stolen from Ein Karem and overlooking the unmarked graves of Palestinians massacred by Jewish terrorists at Deir Yassin. It allows Elie Wiesel to boast of having worked for these same terrorists (as a journalist, not a fighter) while refusing to acknowledge, let alone apologize for, the war crimes his employer committed. It makes Jews the ultimate victim no matter how they dispossess or dehumanize or ethnically cleanse indigenous Palestinian people.
The Holocaust story eliminates any comparison of Ketziot or Gaza to the concentration camps they indeed are. It memorializes the resistance of Jews in the ghettos of Europe while steadfastly denying any comparison with the resistance of Palestinians in Hebron and throughout the West Bank. It allows claims that this year’s Hanukah Massacre in Gaza, with a kill ratio of 100 to one, was a "proportionate response" to Palestinian resistance to unending occupation.
The Holocaust is used to silence critics of Israel in what the Jewish scholar, Marc Ellis, has called the ecumenical deal: you Christians look the other way while we bludgeon the Palestinians and build our Jewish state and we won't remind you that Hitler was a good Catholic, a confirmed "soldier of Christ," long before he was a bad Nazi.
The Holocaust narrative of systematic, industrialized extermination was an important neo-conservative tool to drive the United States into Iraq. The same neo-con ideologues, like Norman Podoretz, routinely compare Ahmadinejad to Hitler and Nazism with Islamofascism with the intent of driving us into Iran. The title of the Israeli conference at Yad Vashem made this crystal clear: "Holocaust Denial: Paving the Way to Genocide."
"Remember the Holocaust" will be the battle cry of the next great clash of good (Judeo/Christian values) and evil (radical Islamic aggression) and those who question it must be demonized if not burned at the stake.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva, NY 14456
Part 2: Letter of Six Hobart and William Smith Colleges Professors
"We...request the removal of Professor McGowan’s honorary title of "Emeritus Professor."
October 3, 2009
This letter is a response to Daniel McGowan's defense of Holocaust deniers published in the "Finger Lakes Times" on September 27. The content of the essay and its publication on the eve of Yom Kippur was appalling. We are writing to you because of the disgrace to Hobart and William Smith caused by McGowan’s continued use of the institutional imprimatur and his honorary title of "Emeritus Professor" to lend credence in disseminating his personal beliefs. He has every right as a private citizen to hold and spew forth whatever beliefs he may happen to have, but we ask you to prevent the use of his title and the name of Hobart and William Smith from contributing to its effects in the future.
It should be clear that while McGowan is claiming to raise legitimate historical and free speech issues, Holocaust denial has a history of being no more than thinly veiled anti-Semitism. When historians talk about the Holocaust what they mean is that approximately six million Jews and several millions of others were killed in an intentional and systematic fashion by the Nazis using a number of different means, including death by shooting and in gas chambers. This is the position held universally by scholars. The Holocaust deniers reject the historicity of the Holocaust based on three types of assertions. They reject the number of 6 million, the existence of killing camps, and the element of intentionality.
Professor McGowan’s article is an example of denying the reality of the most studied and documented event in history. Holocaust denial carries absolutely no weight among academic scholars in any field whatsoever. Additionally, denying the undisputed facts of the holocaust is not a way to show support for the Palestinians. For example, his argument denying the intentionality of the Nazi’s execution of Jews is that there is not sufficient proof that it was designed to exterminate the Jewish population. Rather, he asserts, it may have been merely a program of "ethnic cleansing." The suggestion that this somehow makes it less morally reprehensible speaks for itself, as we all know that the term "ethnic cleansing" was introduced to make genocide sound more palatable.
Professor McGowan’s position is a classic case of blaming the victims for their own victimization. Promo Levi wrote in The Drowned and the Saved that what he most feared was echoed in a remark by one of his SS guards: That if he somehow managed to live through this hell no one would believe his descriptions of Auschwitz. Sadly, for some, that day has arrived.
Freedom of speech is a right for citizens in a democracy that should be vigorously protected, especially when we find the content of that speech to be abhorrent. Colleges and universities have an educational obligation to encourage scholarship that reflectsperspectives outside the mainstream of public political discourse, and we encourage that.
Hate speech, on the other hand, is a trickier issue for campuses to wrestle with because while free speech has a special value, we have a duty to protect members of our diverse community from unsupported vitriol being espoused under the name of our colleges and its professors. We faculty of all persuasions, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and atheists, are deeply offended and also share a special concern about the impact of such hateful messages (and its association with us) upon our Jewish students, staff, and faculty.
Professor McGowan’s actions do not meet our expectation of minimally rational and minimally humane discourse. As human beings who see the transparent motivation and effects of such writing, we are deeply disturbed and saddened to see a Hobart and William Smith title attached to it. We therefore request the removal of Professor McGowan’s honorary title of "Emeritus Professor."
Sincerely, Scott Brophy, Professor of Philosophy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Michael Dobkowski, Professor of Religious Studies (email@example.com)
Khuram Hussain, Assistant Professor of Education (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Steven Lee, Professor of Philosophy (email@example.com)
James McKinster, Associate Professor of Education (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lilian Sherman, Assistant Professor of Education (email@example.com)
Part 3: Prof McGowan's rejoinder
From: Daniel McGowan, May 22, 2011 - firstname.lastname@example.org
To: Faculty at Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Subject: McKinster smear letter sent to you on October 3, 2009
This is an attempt, admittedly futile, to remove some of the slime thrown at me in a letter addressed to President Gearan and circulated to over 250 people on October 3, 2009. It was written by Jim McKinster and five other faculty members and allegedly signed by 32 people in all. I heard about it by happenstance soon after it was circulated, but neither the President nor any of the six who circulated it was willing to provide me with a copy. That is a typical cowardly response employed by those who use this smear method to accuse, try, and censure someone who dares to speak truth to power. (I finally got a copy last week, hence the 20-month delay in my response.)
Their letter and with a copy of the op-ed I wrote in the Finger Lakes Times are attached.
Allow me to refute the lies and innuendos that these "colleagues" have levied against me, behind my back. Since each of you received the detractors’ letter, I am sending you this rebuttal.
1. The purpose of my op-ed was to define Holocaust denial. That should be clear from the byline "What do deniers really mean?" It was submitted in response to the media frenzy and demonization of President Ahmadinejad who addressed the UN General Assembly and whose picture was shown above my guest appearance piece. Instead of acknowledging this, my faculty detractors feigned outrage that it appeared on the eve of Yom Kippur. I had nothing to do with the timing of the article and make no apology for when it appeared vis-à-vis a Jewish holiday.
2. More egregiously these faculty detractors claimed to know my "personal beliefs" and claimed that I mis-used my title of professor emeritus at Hobart and William Smith Colleges to lend them credence. That is simply a lie. Nowhere are my personal beliefs stated. Moreover my op-ed included an exceptionally long disclaimer showing The Colleges neither condone nor condemn what I had written.
3. The faculty detractors claim that "Holocaust denial carries absolutely no weight among academic scholars in any field whatsoever." That is simply not true. There are a number of scholars who write about the typical Holocaust narrative and are willing to fight the slime hurled at them by ardent Zionists and by others who feel it their duty to protect the narrative which serves as the sword and shield of apartheid Israel. (BTW, our former provost and former William Smith Dean both demanded that I not use the word "apartheid" in connection with Israel; granted the term was used in the Israeli press and later by President Carter, but it was not "suitable discourse" on our campus where we routinely claim to support free speech and diversity of opinion.)
4. The faculty detractors write that "denying undisputed facts of the holocaust (sic) is not a way to show support for the Palestinians." First, the three tenets of Holocaust revisionism are clearly not "undisputed. To the contrary, they are hotly and passionately disputed; people’s lives are ruined when they even question these "facts." In fourteen countries you can get jail time for disputing "facts" surrounding the Holocaust.
Second, disputing "facts" is what science and historical analysis is all about. We academics have no problem discussing and disputing whether or not Jesus Christ is truly the son of God, or if President Obama’s birth certificate is real, or if President Roosevelt knew a Japanese attack on Hawaii was imminent, but we are not allowed to discuss or dispute the six-million figure.
Third, what gives these detractors the credentials to pontificate on what supports or hurts Palestinians? Some of them have been responsible for feting at Hobart and William Smith Colleges anti-Palestinian demagogues including Wiesel and even Netanyahu. They helped give Madeleine Albright our highest humanitarian award, which is a disgrace in light of her statement that the death of over 500,000 Iraqi children was "worth it." Was I the only one to protest that award?
I have team-taught a senior course on the Palestinians. I have published books and articles on the Palestinian Naqba and the massacre of Arab civilians by Jewish terrorists at Deir Yassin. I have built the only United States memorial to their dispossession and ethnic cleansing. I don’t need, nor accept, biased comments on how to support Palestinians.
5. Calling Holocaust historical revisionism "Holocaust denial" is unnecessarily pejorative. It might be fine for Fox News, but it is not conducive to academic discourse. To call Holocaust revisionism "thinly veiled anti-Semitism" is simply untrue and it demeans scholars and others, including Jews, who question the Holocaust doctrine as we are fed it in hundreds of films, books, articles, and commentaries. Terms like Holocaust Industry, Holocaust Fatigue, Holocaust professional, Holocaust wannabes, and Holocaust High Priest were not coined by "deniers" or anti-Semites; they were coined by Jews. (The High Priest quip is an obvious reference to Wiesel; it was made by Tova Reich in her book My Holocaust. Tova’s husband, Walter Reich, was the former director of the US Holocaust Museum in Washington.)
In 1946 the US government told us that over 20 million people were murdered by Hitler. Now that figure is said to be 11 million; it is literally carved in stone at the US Holocaust Memorial. For years we were told that over 4 million were killed at Auschwitz, but by the early 1990s that figure was reduced to 1.5 million. Wiesel tells us that people were thrown alive onto pyres; he claims to have seen it with his own eyes; today Yad Vashem trained guides at Auschwitz say that is not true. These are examples of historical revisionism and they are not inherently anti-Semitic.
6. It is most interesting to see academic colleagues say, "(a)s we all know ... the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ was introduced to make genocide sound more palatable." That means they either deny that Palestinians have been (and continue to be) ethnically cleansed or they agree that Israel is performing genocide of the Palestinian people.
7. While the faculty detractors found my speech to be "abhorrent," they seemed unable to find fault with a single fact I presented. So they resorted to name-calling and labeled the piece "hate speech" and "unsupported vitriol" and smeared my name to hundreds of people. I am surprised that Abe Foxman or the Mossad did not come calling.
8. The detractors genuinely were concerned about the op-ed’s impact on our Jewish students, staff, and faculty. But maybe it is time for all members of the community to see the Holocaust for what it really was and not the unquestionable, unimpeachable, doctrine that makes Jewish suffering superior to that of other people. Maybe it is time to recognize that Zionism as a political movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine began long before the Holocaust and that Zionist discrimination, dehumanization, and dispossession of the Palestinian people should not be excused by it. Maybe it is time to see that since over half the population (within the borders controlled by Israel) is not Jewish, the dream of creating a Jewish state has failed. Walling in the non-Jews or putting them in Bantustans or driving them into Jordan will not make it a purely Jewish state. The nationalist allegiance to "blood and soil" has been a failure and that should be the real lesson of the Holocaust.
9. To say that my op-ed "does not meet our expectation of minimally rational and minimally humane discourse’ is nonsense. The piece is well written, well substantiated, and quite humane.
10. But the faculty detractors are quite right about one thing; they were deeply disturbed and saddened to see a Hobart and William Smith title attached to it. Diversity and perspectives outside the mainstream are to be encouraged, but not if they question Jewish power, Israel, or Holocaust doctrine. Apparently that is beyond the pale.
11. The demand to President Gearan to remove my title of Professor Emeritus is both classic and stupid. Consider how little it would accomplish. I would be supposedly ashamed and I would have to buy a walking pass at the gym that would cost me $40 a year. Would it save HWS from being associated with my writings? Of course not; I would simply use the title of "Former Professor Emeritus at Hobart and William Smith Colleges" with no disclaimer.
But what it would really do is to cast me into the briar bush with Norm Finkelstein, Marc Ellis, Paul Eisen, Henry Herskovitz, Gilad Atzmon, Rich Siegel, and Hedy Epstein (a Holocaust survivor), all friends of mine and all anti-Zionists. Professors Ost, Linton, and Mertens apparently saw this and I credit (or blame) them for my still having the emeritus title.
Lest I seem irreverent or unscathed by this widely-circulated smear letter from my detractors, allow me to admit that I have been hurt by it. Many faculty and other HWS folks now shun me as a persona non grata largely because they only read the slime and never a rebuttal. Of course until now there could be no rebuttal because the smear letter was withheld from me. (Even the Provost’s request to send me a copy was refused.)
My former student and long-time friend, David Deming, who is now the Chair of the HWS Board does not answer my letters. President Gearan does not answer them either. Board member, Roy Dexheimer, disparages me and wonders if I fell "off my meds." Another Board member, Stuart Pilch, took it a step further and made a threatening phone call to my home and a promise "to hunt me down."
But the biggest disappointment is with those faculty detractors who never came to discuss or complain about what I had written, but instead chose to spin their own interpretation, which was full of lies and half truths, and then disseminate their smear as widely as possible. Should any of you be one of the signatories, my door is open for further discussion. And if you know the names of the other signatories, I would appreciate your sharing that information with me.