At the start of his monumental history of Nazi Germany, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer quotes a variant of the philosopher George Santayana's remark, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it."
It is a measure of the current global amnesia that Iranian state television seems more prepared to recall the Holocaust — albeit with a pernicious modern subtext — than the world body that is ostensibly committed to preventing its recurrence.
As first reported in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, Iranian TV is currently screening the most costly drama it has ever produced, "Zero Degree Turn," improbably centered on the romance between a French Jewess and the Iranian-Palestinian Muslim who saves her from the Nazis. The writer and director, Hassan Fatthi, has said that he was inspired by reading about the activities of Iran's World War II-era head of consular affairs in Paris, Abdol Hussein Sardari, who saved numerous European Jews from the death camps by issuing them Iranian passports.
Part of the drama's thrust is to distinguish between Jews, who are officially permitted to practice their faith in Iran, and their sovereign State of Israel, which official Iran reviles.
Thus, while humanizing Jews, the series subtly delegitimizes Israel and those who support it. In one scene described by the Journal, for instance, a rabbi opines that it is "a bad idea for Jews to resettle in Arab lands"; in another, the French Jewish heroine rejects an offer of marriage from a suitor-cousin who supports the establishment of Israel.
Meanwhile, writer Fatthi used the platform of an interview with the Journal to try to parallel genocidal Nazi behavior with Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. "The murder of innocent Jews during World War II is just as despicable, sad and shocking as the killing of innocent Palestinian women and children by racist Zionist soldiers," he said.
Nonetheless, the series stands strikingly at odds with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's position on the Holocaust.
While "Zero Degree Turn" makes role models out of Iranians saving Jews, Ahmadinejad would have his countryfolk — and the rest of the world — doubting that the Holocaust ever happened. Monday night after Monday night across Iran, Fatthi is broadcasting an unmistakable challenge to his own president's efforts at historical revisionism. State TV is essentially telling Ahmadinejad to shut up.
Contrast that 22-part act of subversion with the pusillanimous actions of the United Nations. Established in the bitter aftermath of World War II, the entity's prime stated aims include preventing war and safeguarding human rights, and its Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is binding on all ratifying countries, including Iran.
Yet the United Nations has not merely made no serious effort to punish Ahmadinejad for his strategic effort at rewriting the history of genocide against the Jews, it also determinedly refuses to use its own mechanisms to thwart his ongoing march toward a planned new genocide.
Week in, week out, the Holocaust-denying president of Iran stridently denounces Israel, predicts its destruction and urges accelerated progress toward the nuclear capability with which he'd hoped to achieve this ambition. And year after year, the United Nations cheerfully opens its doors to him and provides him with a stage.
As things stand, this year will be no different. Ahmadinejad is set to fly to New York later this month for the U.N.'s General Assembly session, as he did last year and the year before that. There will be no effort to begin the process of indicting him for conspiring to commit murder. And America has made no move to put his name on a watch list or taken any step toward denying him entrance.
Such global amnesia and disrespect for international law is certainly not confined to the United Nations and Ahmadinejad. After 12 years of foot-dragging and corruption in the investigation of the 1984 bombing of the AMIA Buenos Aires Jewish community offices, the Argentinean state prosecution formally determined that the bombing, in which 85 people were killed, was "organized by the highest leaders" of the Iranian government.
Last November, Argentina issued an arrest warrant for Hashemi Rafsanjani — Iran's former president, who was recently elected to head its powerful Assembly of Experts — for his involvement.
Argentina urged Interpol to issue an arrest warrant for him. The response of the international community? Silence.
David Horovitz is editor of The Jerusalem Post.