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Why Syria Welcomed David Duke

Dr. Rafael Medoff- Saturday 3rd Dec 2005

David Duke, perhaps America's most notorious racist and Holocaust-denier,
has finally found a country that welcomes him: Syria.

The Syrian government last week rolled out the red carpet for Duke, the
former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, one-time Louisiana State
Representative, and author of a vicious screed called Jewish Supremacism: My
Awakening to the Jewish Question.

Duke addressed a rally that was broadcast on Syrian government television
(he told the crowd that New York and Washington, DC are "occupied by the
Zionists"), held a press conference alongside members of the Syrian
parliament, and basked in the lavish praise of the Grand Mufti of Syria, the
country's top Islamic religious leader, who praised Duke's "courage" and his
"message of peace.” A photo of a beaming Duke with two Syrian officials now
headlines his web site.

It's not hard to see why Duke was pleased to be in Syria. Pariahs crave
legitimacy. The fact that a government, any government, is willing to
befriend him is welcome news to the former Klansman. It's the same reason
that Kurt Waldheim, when he was declared persona non grata by the United
States in 1987 because of the revelations about his Nazi past, desperately
sought countries that would invite him to visit (Egypt, Jordan and the
Vatican were the only ones to do so).

So, it's not hard to understand why Duke eagerly embraced Syria. But why did
Syria embrace Duke?

I posed that question to a colleague of mine, an academic who enjoys close
relations with various Arab officials and who himself visited Syria not long
ago. I found his explanation less than persuasive.

"The United States has pushed the Syrians into a corner," he said. "This is
their way of responding." He was referring to the Bush administration's
strong criticism of Syria for its role in the assassination of former
Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and for its reported sheltering of
Iraqi terrorists and Iraqis who took part in Saddam Hussein's war crimes.

But is it really fair to blame President George Bush for Syria's invitation
to David Duke?

The fact is that Syria's soft spot for Nazis, neo-Nazis and
Holocaust-deniers long predates the current policies of the Bush

More than fifty years before Syria began sheltering Iraqi war criminals, it
was sheltering Nazi war criminals. Israeli military intelligence reports
during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war were filled with references to the presence
of Nazis among the Syrian forces attacking northern Israel. Some of them
served as commanding officers.

The names of prominent Nazis living in Syria began to surface during the
1950s and 1960s. One was SS Captain Theodor Dannecker, who helped Adolf
Eichmann implement Hitler's genocide policy in France, Bulgaria and Hungary.
Another was Karl Rademacher, a senior Eichmann aide who had been involved in
the mass murder of Jews from Belgium, Holland, Croatia and elsewhere. After
World War II, Rademacher escaped Allied capture by fleeing to Syria, where
he became an official in the Syrian Secret Service.

The most notorious of the Nazis granted asylum in Syria was another top
Eichmann aide, SS Lieutenant Alois Brunner. After being convicted in France
in 1954 of responsibility for the murders of more than 100,000 Jews, Brunner
disappeared. Two decades later, the famed French Nazi-hunters Serge and
Beate Klarsfeld tracked down Brunner in Damascus, where he was making a
comfortable living as an adviser to the Syrian intelligence services. And he
is apparently still there.

Not that sheltering the perpetrators of the Holocaust has stopped the
Syrians from denying that the Holocaust took place. Indeed, the Syrian
government-controlled media's take on the Holocaust sounds like it could
have been scripted by David Duke. The daily newspaper Tishrin has described
the Holocaust as "a Jewish lie," while the Syria Times has called the gas
chambers "a myth." Damascus Radio has accused world Jewry of spreading "the
myth of the Nazi ovens" in order to extort reparations money from Germany
and Switzerland.

Why, then, did Syria invite David Duke? Perhaps the answer is not to be
found in sophisticated analyses of international diplomatic developments,
nor in partisan assumptions that somehow it must be President Bush's fault.
Perhaps the answer is to be found simply by glancing at Syria's
sixty-year-old record of hostility toward Jews and Israel, and affection for
those who share that hostility.



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