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JEFF JACOBY

Obsessive anti-Semitism

ONCE AGAIN, the president of Iran repeated his foul lie.

On Wednesday, in a speech broadcast live on Iranian state television, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a crowd of thousands that the Nazi destruction of European Jewry never happened. ''They have created a myth with the name of 'Holocaust' and consider it to be above God, religion, and the prophets," he said. It was the second time in a week that Ahmadinejad had dismissed the most infamous genocide of the 20th century as a fairy tale. ''Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces," he snorted in Mecca on Dec. 8, when he addressed an international summit of nearly 50 Muslim heads of state. ''We don't accept this claim."

Even if there were a Holocaust, Ahmadinejad demanded, why should Muslims be stuck living next to a Jewish state?

''If European countries claim that they have killed Jews in World War II, why don't they provide the Zionist regime with a piece of Europe? Germany and Austria can provide . . . two or three provinces for this regime to establish itself, and the issue will be resolved. You offer part of Europe, and we will support it." Or, he said, the Jews could be dispatched to the United States, Canada, ''or Alaska."

But whether Europe and North America take his advice or not, Ahmadinejad's bottom line doesn't change. As he put it in October, Israel must be ''wiped off the map." And, vowed the president of the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism, ''a new wave in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world."

Thus Ahmadinejad promises a second Holocaust even as he denies the first one, and because his manner is so bellicose and crude, his words make news. But there is nothing new about them. Iran's theocratic thugs have been threatening the Jewish state with genocide ever since Ayatollah Khomeini seized power in Tehran 26 years ago.

When it comes to Jews and Israel, Iran's fanatic rulers speak with one voice. ''We have repeatedly said that this cancerous tumor of a state should be removed from the region," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current supreme leader, remarked in December 2000. Former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whom Western journalists strangely describe as a ''moderate," explained in 2001 how a nuclear weapon would settle Israel's hash once and for all: ''The use of a nuclear bomb against Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it would only damage the world of Islam." The same Rafsanjani once took to the airwaves to explain that ''Hitler had only killed 20,000 Jews and not 6 million." Holocaust denial and calls for a new Holocaust are two sides of the same coin.

That coin -- virulent anti-Semitism -- circulates throughout the Muslim Middle East, not just in Iran. Ahmadinejad's ugly outpourings were condemned in the West, but they provoked almost no protest in Arab and Muslim countries, where Jews are routinely portrayed as evil subhumans fit only for extermination. In much of the Islamic world, Jew-hatred saturates the airwaves, spills from the mosques, fills the classrooms, permeates the press. Jews are represented as pigs and monkeys, as liars and connivers, as vile, hook-nosed scum who deliberately infect children with AIDS and poison Palestinian water. In their quest for power and world domination, they are said to be ruthless and devious. They were behind the 9/11 attacks, for example, and tipped off 4,000 Jews to stay home from the World Trade Center. And, of course, they concocted the ''hoax" of the Holocaust, as part of an elaborate plot to establish a beachhead in the Middle East and extort money from the world.

Outsiders are rarely aware of how intense the Muslim world's Jew-hatred is. ''What has surprised me is the virulence of this new anti-Semitism throughout all the Muslim countries," the distinguished journalist and editor Harold Evans wrote in 2002. ''It is frenzied, vociferous, paranoid, vicious, and prolific, and is only incidentally connected to the Palestinian conflict." Obsessive anti-Semitism almost always characterizes the most dangerous threats to America and the West. Nazism, Communism, Islamofascism -- all have been intensely anti-Semitic. Which is why Ahmadinejad's strident rhetoric should be setting off urgent alarms. Dictators who talk about wiping nations from the face of the earth generally mean what they say. We should know by now that it isn't only Jews who are endangered by the mullahs and their threats. All of us are. And time is wasting.

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is jacoby@globe.com.

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