Former KKK National Director David Duke at a conference in Tehran

An American who once led the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has joined his voice with others at a conference in Iran in condemning the influence of “Zionists” on the United States, blaming them for the deaths of Americans in Iraq and the threats to “free speech” worldwide.

David Duke appeared this week at a conference that was arranged by and appeared to be a pep rally for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose stated goals include erasing Israel from the map and playing a role in the return of an imam Shiites believe would reign on earth before triggering the end of the world.

Duke, who was the national director of the KKK during the 1970s and was key to the group’s resurgence then, had been invited to the conference by Ahmadinejad, who has called the Holocaust a “myth” invented to justify the occupation of Palestinian lands.

In a later address to the same conference, Ahmadinejad told audience members that soon Israel “will crash” and then “humanity will be free.”

According to a transcript of Duke’s speech Duke’s own website provided, the former Louisiana state lawmaker is placing blame for the war in Iraq on those he calls Zionists, who he believes have controlling influence over the U.S. media and government.

“I love my country and my people, but I know that the Zionist extremists lead my country to catastrophe in the Mideast and elsewhere around the world,” he said. “I know that the Palestinian people, the Lebanese people, even the American people have been sacrificed on the altar of the Holocaust. It is the chronic media and government playing of the Holocaust that has blinded our eyes to new holocausts and new outrages.”

“As a truly patriotic American I oppose Americans being killed or maimed by the thousands in Iraq in a war not for America, but for Israel,” he said.

News reports said the conference was primarily a gathering of those who reject the tragedy of the Holocaust and deny that Jews were targeted by the Nazi regime.

Duke, who’s known more for his racial perspectives, once said on his website: “What we really want to do is to be left alone. We don’t want Negroes around. We don’t need Negroes around. We’re not asking, you know, we don’t want to have them, you know, for our culture. We simply want our own country and our own society. That’s in no way exploitive at all. We want our own society, our own nation….”

But Duke, who previously pleaded guilty to tax evasion and fraud and served a prison term, also is commenting on “Zionists” at the conference he said focused on the “vital human right of freedom of speech.” However, he quickly focused on those whose argument is that the Holocaust simply didn’t happen as history has recorded.

The real tragedy, Duke said, is the “shameful imprisonment of European scholars and academics who simply dare to state their opinions of historical events that occurred over 60 years ago.”

He said those people – David Irving, Ernst Zundel and Gemar Rudolf – are not simply Holocaust-deniers, as court cases would indicate. They simply “question” what happened during the Holocaust and want to have an “open” debate over such questions.

He said they, and others, are in prison now “for expressing the world’s most forbidden opinion, the idea that the historical event trademarked as the Holocaust as it is popularly presented, is not an accurate historical portrayal, that it needs like all other events to be questioned, researched freely and constantly revised.”

“In Europe you can freely question, ridicule, and deny Jesus Christ. The same is true for the prophet Muhammed (sic), and nothing will happen to you, heck you might even get to star in your own weekly TV show, but offer a single question of the smallest part of the Holocaust and you face prison!” he said.

Ahmadinejad, like Duke, holds opinions about the Holocaust that do not align with historical documentation. He also has expressed his belief that he will have a personal role in ushering in the age of the Mahdi, the imam Shiites believe will herald, and bring about, the end of the world.

He has urged Iranians to prepare by turning their country into an advanced Islamic society, and his dedication to bringing about that expected global battle between good and evil is part of what has world leaders concerned over his dedication to obtaining nuclear weapons.

White House Tony Snow this week told WND that the United States continues to work within the United Nations to apply pressure for Iran to halt its development of nuclear weapons, especially since it already has long-range missiles that possibly could be used to deliver them to a target.

While Duke said “free speech” was the focal point, the Iranian government didn’t agree. A report in the Boston Globe noted that Khaled Mahameed, an Arab citizen of Israel, had wanted to attend to debate Ahmadinejad over his documentation of the Holocaust, but he was denied an Iranian visa at the last minute.

And Raul Hilberg, author of “The Destruction of the European Jews,” said the Holocaust documentation comes from the Germans, who perpetrated the destruction of the Jews, “therefore any denial of these figures is absolutely senseless.’

“Obviously, Jews, as well as other nationalities suffered great losses during the Second World War. Repression, dispossession or murder against any group is wrong. Revisionists don’t deny that many Jews died and suffered greatly in the war, they condemn any and all injustices done to Jews in that period,” Duke said.

But he said “some” crimes have been exaggerated for political agendas.

“An example is the contrast between the crimes of National Socialist Germany and that of Soviet Communism. Most researchers readily acknowledge that Bolshevism imprisoned, tortured and slaughtered many times more people in Russia and in Eastern Europe than even the high numbers alleged in the Holocaust. Yet, the Soviet Holocaust receives not one-hundredth of the attention of the Jewish Holocaust,” he said.

The conference was going on even as dozens of Iranian students burned photographs of Ahmadinejad and chanted in a demonstration at a Tehran university for his death.

One student in the protest at Amir Rabir University, said the conference “Brought to our country Nazis and racists from around the world.”

In a report in The Australian, Iranian foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki described the purpose of the conference as creating a place “for thinkers who cannot express their views freely in Europe.”

One such man is French writer George Thiel, who has been convicted of violating France’s laws against denying the Holocaust. He has called it “an enormous lie.”

While not addressing the issue of the Holocaust or Iran’s plans for the world, former President Jimmy Carter recently has been making statements that align with some of the feelings expressed at the conference.

He told “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” audience members this week there is “horrible persecution” of Palestinians at the hands of Israelis.

“A minority of Israelis want to have the land instead of peace. The majority of Israelis for the last 30 years have always said [they] will exchange their own land in exchange for peace. But a minority disagrees and they have occupied the land, they have confiscated it, they have colonized it, and they forced Palestinians away from their homes, away from their pastures, away from their fields, cut down the olive trees and severely persecuted the Palestinians,” he said.

The 82-year-old Carter was on Leno’s show to promote his new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.”

When Leno noted that when Israel gives back territory, “it doesn’t seem like they get anything for it. It seems like it just moves some angry people closer to them,” Carter responded:

“No, that’s not true at all,” Carter said. “Israel hasn’t really tried to give ‘Palestine’ back to the Palestinians. They did give up some of Gaza. And then they moved out, and the Palestinians captured one soldier and tried to swap [him] for 300 children – some as young as 12 years old – and 94 women, but the Israelis wouldn’t swap. So then Israel reinvaded Gaza. But if Israel ever wants peace – and they do want peace – a majority of Israelis have always said, ‘Let’s get rid of the land, and let’s have peace.’ That’s what we need to have.”

Carter didn’t mention the recent attacks on Israel by Palestinian terrorists.

And as WND reported last month, the Palestinian terror group Hamas announced the only way to stop its regular rocket fire on Sderot, an Israeli city of about 20,000 nearly three miles from the Gaza Strip border, is for the Jewish state to evacuate the entire city.

A longtime aide to Carter also recently announced his resignation over what he characterized as falsifications in Carter’s new book.

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