Iran, Holocaust Denial, and Israel Bashing: Don't Take Ahmadinejad's Bait

11/24/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Iran's President spoke at the U.N. yesterday. He has made a lot of news recently, largely because of his continual outlandish and condemnable remarks denying the Holocaust and his Israel bashing. These are bizarre, yet well calculated statements. While we have grown accustomed to such statements from the Iranian leader, we would be well served to remember that he is doing this for a reason. What we should not do is take the bait.

I remember visiting the Nazi concentration camp of Majdanek in Poland in the early 1990s. I'll never forget our tour guide telling us that thousands of Jews, Poles, Roma, political prisoners, homosexuals, and others were killed there by firing squads, their bodies then tossed into mass graves. I remember the bumpiness of the ground where those graves were located. And I remember praying at the mountain of human ash at the Majdanek mausoleum, unable to comprehend the enormity of the evil that was done there.

It is because of this that I will not allow Ahmadinejad to cheapen the memory of the Holocaust nor bash Israel for his own cynical, political purposes.

Ahmadinejad is a master of distraction. He knows that he has no credibility at home, having stolen an election in a coup d'état and then having proceeded to violate the human rights of his own citizens. As NIAC's Trita Parsi recently pointed out, Ahmadinejad is attempting to change the conversation about what's going wrong inside of Iran by using the Holocaust and Israel-bashing as bait. He doesn't want to be questioned about his government's behavior surrounding the June 12th elections, or about the show trials of political opponents underway in Tehran. And he certainly doesn't want to answer the hard questions being posed by the international community about his country's nuclear intentions.

Yet there is too much at stake right now for us to allow him to use the Holocaust and Israel bashing as a distraction. President Obama's consistent policy of engaging the Iranians is gaining momentum, as the P5+1 will meet with the Iranians on October 1st. This meeting should include discussions not only about Iran's nuclear program, but also about broader issues related to our relationship, including human rights and democracy. Ahmadinejad should not be allowed to avoid this scrutiny, and the Iranian people should know that we are on their side.

Ahmedinejad's rants about the Holocaust and Israel should be ignored, precisely because ignoring them will weaken his position. A continual focus on these comments by us only serves to strengthen his hand internally, helping him to make the case to Iranians that the international community is against Iran. We should instead move right past these comments and demand that he answer the tough questions that the P5+1 discussion will bring.

As one of the 99.99% of humanity that knows that the Holocaust occurred, I believe that we have a responsibility to both remember and speak out about this horrific event. As a lifelong supporter of Israel, I also believe that we must take the Iranian challenge both seriously and urgently. Yet it is also our responsibility to ensure that we are forcefully and directly resolving the problems of today. That is not what Ahmadinejad wants us to think about. It is our choice on what we want to focus on and how we want to react. We should not take the bait.