As a student of modern Jewish history and anti-Semitism, I have always tried to refrain from using the term “Holocaust” for rhetorical purposes. But this time, Holocaust Memorial Day is different, so it seems, from its predecessors. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, since October 2005, has repeatedly called for Israel to be wiped off the map and has denied, in tandem, the existence of the Holocaust. Meanwhile, his country has been marching feverishly towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

More than 20 years ago I wrote a book called Hitler’s Apocalypse which, inter alia, warned that the Islamic republic of the Ayatollah Khomeini and fundamentalist Islam were the true successors of the Nazis. I recently served as the historical adviser for a new film called “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” which graphically presents the logic of genocide as it is pre sented in political Islam today.

Now, more than ever, it seems that the chances of a new type of Holocaust, in the framework of which the Jews and humanity as we know it will be destroyed, is a palpable possibility. The threats made by Ahmadinejad, the jihad against the West and the fanatical anti-Semitism that permeates radical Islam are palpable examples of this threat. To them we need to add the hatred and violence that swept the Muslim world a month ago in response to a few satiric cartoons from Denmark, the sadistic murder that was motivated by anti-Semitism of Ilan Halimi in France by a gang of “Barbarians” headed by an African Muslim, and the “democratic” victory of Hamas in what is left of the Palestinian Authority. The ideological tenets maintained by Hamas are based clearly on the destruction of Israel, on jihad and on venomous anti-Semitism.

Radical Muslims have the incentive, the reasons, the desire and, yes, if they persevere with their efforts, they will also have the means as well as the opportunity to carry out a “final solution” of their own to what they refer to as the “Zionist cancer” in the Middle East. In this context we need to examine the denial of the Nazi Holocaust, which is prevalent nowadays not only in Iran but throughout the Arab world, including the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. A denial of this sort is the necessary preface to the planned destruction of Israel. When President Ahmadinejad said to the leaders of Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad and other “holy warriors,” who convened in Tehran last week, that “the land of Palestine will be liberated shortly,” he did not forget to mock the “myth of the Holocaust” with which the Zionists have allegedly bribed the governments of the West for the last 60 years.

We ought to bear in mind that 40 years ago the Egyptian dictator, Gamal

Abdel Nasser, also denied the Zionists’ “great lie” as if 6,000,000 Jews had

been put to death, in an interview to a neo-Nazi German reporter. A short while later Nasser launched his megalomaniac initiative to destroy Israel, which had well-known, devastating results for the Arab world.

Iran’s Self-Confidence

Now, once again, Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism are linked to the policy of the government of a Middle Eastern country that is determined to wipe Israel off the face of the map in the name of “the Palestinians’ rights.”

In Iran’s case, the inclination is to move in the direction of reconciliation, “constructive intervention” and “critical dialogue,” particularly in Europe-for the usual reasons. The profits from natural gas and petrol in Iran are rising, it has close commercial ties with Europe (particularly with Germany), it also signed a natural gas and petrol deal with China worth billions of dollars, and Putin’s Russia is a significant economic partner and an important strategic ally. Furthermore, Iran has close allies among the terrorists-controlled by Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad, bankrolling Hamas and close ties with al-Qaida. Syria nowadays is hardly mor e than a serf in the hands of the Iranians, while the Shiite majority in Iraq is gradually placing itself more and more under the patronage of the Iranians. In this context, it is illogical to hope that the UN, international diplomacy or even economic sanctions will deter the leaders of Iran. The miserable misadventure of the United States in Iraq and the ineffective leadership in Washington in the past three years have bolstered Iran’s self-confidence. The mounting voices from the choir of reconciliation (including far too many Jews in the Diaspora), demonstrates just how little has been learned from the history of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

In 1936 Adolf Hitler could have been stopped with relative ease. His impassioned speeches about the Sudeten Germans’ “self-determination” (compare that with the Palestinians today) prepared the ground in a Europe, drunk with reconciliation, for the destruction of Czechoslovakia by Naz i Germany. Then, like today with Iran, Russia was prepared to sign a pact with the devil for which it later would pay a very heavy price. Then, like today, radical anti-Semitism was generally viewed as a marginal subject by the Western democracies (including the United States), instead of it being treated as the most salient indicator of the looming totalitarian threat. How seriously did the West treat Hitler’s speech in the Reichstag from January 30, 1939, when he threatened to destroy completely all the Jews of Europe? Is the West troubled today by the fact that three of the leading Iranian leaders in the past number of years-Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, Ali Khomeini and President Ahmadinejad openly talk about a real (nuclear) Holocaust against the Jewish state?

To Defend Values

The naked truth is that we cannot expect any country (not even the United States) to defend either Israel or the Jewish people from those who wish to annihilate them. That is the lesson of Holocaust Memorial Day, of Judaism, of Zionism, World War II and the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Therefore, it is of vital, existential importance that we understand the full gravity of the threat posed by Iran and radical Islam in the form of Hizbullah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, which exist on our northern, southern and western border, including in the West Bank. The danger of an Iranian nuclear bomb or a large-scale al-Qaida-styled attack inside Israel is the most grave security issue there is. But the spread of the Islamic-Nazi culture that feeds and motivates these models is no less frightening. Today we face enemies even more determined than the Nazis were in term s of their devotion to destroying the State of Israel, Zionism and the Jews. Indeed, they threaten before all and sundry, America and the Western world as a whole.

Without a doubt, now is the time in which Israel needs to show moral leadership and to raise the banner of condemnation of this type of irrepressible rhetoric that calls for mass murder. History has proven that when political leaders openly threaten to annihilate their enemies, they generally mean what they say. At the closing ceremony of the conference in Tehran this month, the Iranian president could not have been more candid. He referred to Israel with disdain as a “rotten and dried out tree that will be destroyed in a single storm.”

It is clear that we cannot afford to repeat the awful mistake that was made by the Western democracies in the 1930s when facing the blunt threats made by Hitler, a mistake whose result was the mass-murder of European Je wry.

Holocaust Memorial Day this time needs to be the beginning of an Israeli campaign that is more forceful and stronger in defense of basic Jewish and human values against the enemies of freedom-an enlistment that will oblige us to convince the West that the future of humanity is at risk.

The author is the director of the International Vidal Sassoon Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

This article courtesy the Israel Resource News Agency.