BUDAPEST — A leader of Egypt’s top secular party says the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were “made in the USA,” the Holocaust is “a lie” and Anne Frank’s memoir is “a fake” — comments sure to roil the post-revolution political debate in the Arab world’s most populous country.
Ahmed Ezz El-Arab, a vice chairman of Egypt’s Wafd Party, made the remarks in an exclusive interview with The Washington Times last week while in the Hungarian capital attending the Conference on Democracy and Human Rights.
He denied that the Nazis killed 6 million Jews during World War II.
“The Holocaust is a lie” Mr. Ezz El-Arab said. “The Jews under German occupation were 2.4 million. So if they were all exterminated, where does the remaining 3.6 million come from?”
Mr. Ezz El-Arab said he accepted that the Nazis killed “hundreds of thousands” of Jews. “But gas chambers and skinning them alive and all this? Fanciful stories,” he added. [AUDIO: On the Holocaust]
Mr. Ezz El-Arab also attacked the authenticity of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which he said he studied as a doctoral student in Stockholm. “I could swear to God it’s a fake,” the Wafd leader said. “The girl was there, but the memoirs are a fake.”
Established in 1919 and disbanded in 1952, the Wafd Party was refounded in 1983 under reforms instituted by then-President Hosni Mubarak to allow token opposition to his dominant National Democratic Party.
After Mr. Mubarak’s ouster in February, Wafd emerged as arguably the second-most powerful political party to the Muslim Brotherhood, a formerly banned Islamist group.
Last month, Wafd announced it would run jointly with the Brotherhood and 16 other blocs in September’s parliamentary elections to present a united front as Egypt forges a new government.
“For four years, in alliance, we can build a constitution based on certain principles that guarantee human rights, citizenship, no religious trend whatsoever,” Mr. Ezz El-Arab said. “Once this is established, everybody can go to the ballot box and try his luck.”
Many in Israel have expressed concern that a democratic Egypt might cancel its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
But Mr. Ezz El-Arab, who chairs Wafd’s foreign-relations committee, said there is “no chance at all” that would happen. “Egypt will not go to war unless it’s attacked,” he said.
As for Iran, with whom Egypt is normalizing relations, Mr. Ezz El-Arab assailed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who also has denied the Holocaust.
“He’s a hateful character, so whatever he says can be criticized,” the Wafd leader said. “What he says about the Holocaust is true, but he doesn’t say it because it’s true. He says it out of hatred to the Israeli state.”
Mr. Ahmadinejad hosted a Holocaust-denial conference in 2006 to protest the ban in many European countries on questioning the Nazi genocide — laws that Mr. Ezz El-Arab criticized.
“It’s a shame that the West — the cradle of liberalism — should have a criminal law incriminating any discussion of any historical fact,” Mr. Ezz El-Arab said. “It’s a sacred cow. The ‘6 million’ is a sacred cow.”
Amr Bargisi, a former Wafd youth leader, said that while Mr. Ezz El-Arab himself does not have a major constituency in Egypt or within the party itself, his views on the Holocaust do.
“The vast majority of Egyptians think the Holocaust never happened,” Mr. Bargisi told The Times. “The fact that his presence in the party hierarchy hasn’t caused any objections tells you something about the farcical nature of Egyptian politics.”
In the interview, Mr. Ezz El-Arab also said that Osama bin Laden was not behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“He could not have the know-how or the ability to do it,” he said, even though he called the dead al Qaeda leader “an American agent.”
“If he had the ability, one plane only landing on the Knesset would give more effect,” Mr. Ezz El-Arab said.
Asked who was responsible for the attacks, Mr. Ezz El-Arab identified the CIA, Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, and the “military-industrial complex.” [AUDIO: On 9/11]
Mr. Ezz El-Arab spoke of “the intelligent American elite that is ruling” and said it had responded to the “disaster” of President George W. Bush by electing Barack Obama president: “Obama is a nice face that has been brought up, the black rabbit taken out of the American hat when it was needed.” [AUDIO: On President Obama]
Mr. Ezz El-Arab also claimed that, during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, “American soldiers with double Israeli nationality and Jewish religion” stole Jewish antiquities from the Babylonian exile period and had them reburied in Jerusalem to cement the Jewish historical claim on the city.
“It’s not a kind of monument robbery for selling in the black market,” he said. “The things they took from Babel, they took with the intention — to my judgment — of digging it under the Aqsa mosque [site of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount] so that when it’s discovered, they say, ‘Here was the temple.’” [AUDIO: On ‘double Israeli nationality’]
Despite the claim, Mr. Ezz El-Arab said he thinks that there once was a Jewish temple in Jerusalem and that Israeli Jews deserve to stay put.
“The Jews are there,” he said. “Good or bad, they are there. You cannot as a human being think of exterminating 6 million or 5 million or whatever. That’s crazy.”