State built on suffering breathes a collective sigh of satisfaction

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The Independent Culture

Israel followed the David Irving libel trial as closely as Britain, and reacted with satisfaction and relief yesterday.

Almost no subject is as sensitive in the Jewish state - whose creation owes much to the appalling events that Mr Irving has questioned - as the efforts by the far right to deny that the Holocaust happened. Throughout the trial, the Israeli media carried regular reports on the case, including the occasional ranting and eccentric interview with the man himself. Israelis were awaiting the outcome with intense interest, seeing it as a measure of the advances - or otherwise - made by those seeking to rewrite their history.

In a country whose elders know only too painfully that Auschwitz was not, as Mr Irving has contended, little more than a "Disneyland for tourists" built after the war, the issue has long been a source of deep concern. It was revived anew by Jewish anger over the proliferation of neo-Nazi claptrap on the internet. Mr Irving pushed it to the top of the headlines - and, in doing so, did a favour to the cause of those who want to ensure that the Nazi terror is never forgotten.

A measure of Israel's interest came in February when the state archives released the 40-year-old prison memoirs of Adolf Eichmann, chief transport officer for the Nazi death machine, so that they could be used by the defendant, Professor Deborah Lipstadt.

The fact that yesterday's verdict was no surprise did not dampen the Israeli response. "I am very pleased," said Dr Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi-hunter with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem. "But, given the anti-Semitic and racist statements made by Irving during the trial, I would have been very surprised if the result had been different. It would have been a disaster if he had won because it would have increased the willingness of other people to listen to this drivel. The verdict won't stop the deniers, as they are inveterate anti-Semites, but I think it will lessen the willingness of others to listen to them."

Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial - which has 55 million pages of documents detailing the Holocaust and was built on the ashes of Jews slain by the Nazis - described the verdict as "gratifying" and of "great significance to those involved in the fight against neo-Nazism and neo-fascism, and who strive to teach the true events of history".