Commentary Magazine


Topic: Holocaust denial

Will Obama Listen to What Iran is Saying?

Earlier this week, President Obama sent a celebratory message to the people and the leaders of Iran on the occasion of the Nowruz, the Persian New Year. The annual videotaped presidential missive was very much in the spirit of the administration’s policy toward Iran emphasizing not only holiday cheer but also a belief in the need for the U.S. and Iran to resolve their differences, especially with regard to the nuclear negotiations now going on. In doing so, the president went even further than previous statements about the talks in which he said he supported a peaceful Iranian nuclear program and predicted a deal that would strengthen the economy of the Islamist regime. Israeli President Shimon Peres also sent his own equally conciliatory message to Iran that emphasized peace.

But if either leader were expecting a friendly reply from Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, they were disappointed. Speaking earlier today to commemorate the holiday, Khamenei brushed off conciliation, attacking the idea of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, questioning the Holocaust and vowing to triumph over international sanctions.

Given Khamenei’s history of hate speech directed at both the “Great Satan” (the U.S.) and the “Little Satan” (Israel), none of this is particularly surprising. Khamenei is the embodiment of a regime saturated in hostility to the West and anti-Semitism and whose support of international terrorism and a nuclear weapon is closely tied to its ideological goals. The only mystery about this is why Americans refuse to take him seriously when he speaks in this manner.

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Earlier this week, President Obama sent a celebratory message to the people and the leaders of Iran on the occasion of the Nowruz, the Persian New Year. The annual videotaped presidential missive was very much in the spirit of the administration’s policy toward Iran emphasizing not only holiday cheer but also a belief in the need for the U.S. and Iran to resolve their differences, especially with regard to the nuclear negotiations now going on. In doing so, the president went even further than previous statements about the talks in which he said he supported a peaceful Iranian nuclear program and predicted a deal that would strengthen the economy of the Islamist regime. Israeli President Shimon Peres also sent his own equally conciliatory message to Iran that emphasized peace.

But if either leader were expecting a friendly reply from Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, they were disappointed. Speaking earlier today to commemorate the holiday, Khamenei brushed off conciliation, attacking the idea of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, questioning the Holocaust and vowing to triumph over international sanctions.

Given Khamenei’s history of hate speech directed at both the “Great Satan” (the U.S.) and the “Little Satan” (Israel), none of this is particularly surprising. Khamenei is the embodiment of a regime saturated in hostility to the West and anti-Semitism and whose support of international terrorism and a nuclear weapon is closely tied to its ideological goals. The only mystery about this is why Americans refuse to take him seriously when he speaks in this manner.

According to the Times of Israel, this is what Khamenei had to say about the Holocaust:

“The Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain and if it has happened, it’s uncertain how it has happened,” Khamenei said during his address, according to a Twitter account under his name thought to be run by his office.

“Expressing opinion about the Holocaust, or casting doubt on it, is one of the greatest sins in the West. They prevent this, arrest the doubters, try them while claiming to be a free country,” said Khamenei, who has repeatedly called the Holocaust a “myth.”

“They passionately defend their red lines … How do they expect us to overlook our red lines that are based on our revolutionary and religious beliefs.”

As much as the president insists that he has his eyes wide open when it comes to Iran, his policies toward it have always reflected a degree of naïveté about the nature of its government and an unwillingness to confront it. From his first attempts at “engagement” to his shameful silence during the 2009 repression of demonstrators in Tehran to the current interim nuclear deal that granted Iran significant concessions in return for nothing of substance from them, Obama has been consistent in his desire for a new détente with the regime.

The administration has disingenuously sought to use the victory of Hassan Rouhani in Iran’s faux presidential election last year to justify a belief in Iranian moderation but the end of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s term in office changed nothing. Holocaust denial is pervasive throughout the Iranian leadership not because they like to offend Jewish and Western sensibilities but because it is integral to their anti-Semitic worldview. Rouhani is no moderate but even if he were one, it is Khamenei who runs the country.

This week’s exchange of greetings proves again that Iran has always viewed Western efforts at appeasement with contempt. They have given every indication that they consider Obama weak and too irresolute to hold them accountable for terrorism, arms smuggling aimed at inciting Palestinian violence or their nuclear quest. Nothing Khamenei says will likely deter President Obama from pursuing a nuclear deal. But the administration must, above all, learn to take Iran at its word when it threatens genocide and or says it will never back down on the nuclear question. If not, this pointless back and forth will be merely the forerunner of even more dangerous dialogue that will be heard after the Iranians reach their nuclear goal.

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Rouhani’s Holocaust Weasel Words

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani may have snubbed President Obama yesterday but almost everyone is still giving him full credit for not being Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The West’s favorite “moderate” mullah met with a gaggle of liberal mainstream media types Wednesday morning for a mostly off-the-record gathering and, despite being unwilling to pander much to their sensibilities, still left them thinking, in the words of New Yorker editor David Remnick, “That at least on the surface this is somebody who above all is interested in reversing the really consequential damage to the economy that sanctions have wrought over time.”

I’ve no doubt that is true, as the conceit of Rouhani’s mission is apparently to persuade the West that because he isn’t a raving lunatic like his predecessor Ahmadinejad, that should be enough to earn Iran the world’s trust. And the chief proof of this is his willingness to say that it was a bad thing that the Nazis killed Jews. At Remnick’s prodding, Rouhani said as much today. As Politico reports:

Toward the end of the meeting, Remnick, who had sparred with Ahmadinejad in past meetings, demanded to know if Rouhani would unequivocally reject his predecessor’s denial of the Holocaust.

Through an interpreter, Rouhani told Remnick and the other journalists that he condemned the “massacre” of Jews that took place during World War II but would leave it to historians to decide how many Jews had been killed.

While stopping short of condemning the Holocaust outright, Rouhani left Remnick with the impression that he was serious about improving Iran’s relationship with the West.

That’s nice and no doubt Rouhani’s dignified manner and trademark white turban are a big improvement over Ahmadinejad’s MAD magazine style charm, but if we’re really interested in the question of repudiating Holocaust denial, Rouhani’s response doesn’t quite cut it. Nor does his equally cagey answer to a similar question posed by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in which he segued from a pro-forma condemnation of the “taking of human life, whether that life is Jewish life, Christian or Muslim” into saying his non-support of Nazi genocide shouldn’t be interpreted as being willing to recognize living Jews have rights, since that “does not mean that on the other hand you can say Nazis committed crimes against a group, now, therefore, they must usurp the land of another group and occupy it.” The point is, if you are agnostic about the scale of the Holocaust, you are, in effect, a denier. If you are against killing Jews but unwilling to grant that they may have rights to a country or the right to defend it, your supposedly moderate good intentions are meaningless.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani may have snubbed President Obama yesterday but almost everyone is still giving him full credit for not being Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The West’s favorite “moderate” mullah met with a gaggle of liberal mainstream media types Wednesday morning for a mostly off-the-record gathering and, despite being unwilling to pander much to their sensibilities, still left them thinking, in the words of New Yorker editor David Remnick, “That at least on the surface this is somebody who above all is interested in reversing the really consequential damage to the economy that sanctions have wrought over time.”

I’ve no doubt that is true, as the conceit of Rouhani’s mission is apparently to persuade the West that because he isn’t a raving lunatic like his predecessor Ahmadinejad, that should be enough to earn Iran the world’s trust. And the chief proof of this is his willingness to say that it was a bad thing that the Nazis killed Jews. At Remnick’s prodding, Rouhani said as much today. As Politico reports:

Toward the end of the meeting, Remnick, who had sparred with Ahmadinejad in past meetings, demanded to know if Rouhani would unequivocally reject his predecessor’s denial of the Holocaust.

Through an interpreter, Rouhani told Remnick and the other journalists that he condemned the “massacre” of Jews that took place during World War II but would leave it to historians to decide how many Jews had been killed.

While stopping short of condemning the Holocaust outright, Rouhani left Remnick with the impression that he was serious about improving Iran’s relationship with the West.

That’s nice and no doubt Rouhani’s dignified manner and trademark white turban are a big improvement over Ahmadinejad’s MAD magazine style charm, but if we’re really interested in the question of repudiating Holocaust denial, Rouhani’s response doesn’t quite cut it. Nor does his equally cagey answer to a similar question posed by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in which he segued from a pro-forma condemnation of the “taking of human life, whether that life is Jewish life, Christian or Muslim” into saying his non-support of Nazi genocide shouldn’t be interpreted as being willing to recognize living Jews have rights, since that “does not mean that on the other hand you can say Nazis committed crimes against a group, now, therefore, they must usurp the land of another group and occupy it.” The point is, if you are agnostic about the scale of the Holocaust, you are, in effect, a denier. If you are against killing Jews but unwilling to grant that they may have rights to a country or the right to defend it, your supposedly moderate good intentions are meaningless.

That these stands are calculated to convince Western elites that Rouhani is a decent person while still giving him cover at home is a tribute to the cleverness of the Iranian tactic. After all, contrary to some other statements uttered during the charm offensive, there is more to Iranian anti-Semitism than just Ahmadinejad’s personal obsessions. Iranian TV often broadcasts material that merges the two topics by claiming that Jews have exaggerated the extent of the Holocaust in order to “steal” Palestine from the Arabs and hoodwink the United States out of money. Rouhani’s mention of the doubts about how many Jews died is a signal to Iranians and other Islamists that he is very much on the same page as Ahmadinejad but knows how to talk to Westerners.

Seen in that context, far from Rouhani’s statements being a measure of his sanity or moderation, they are, in fact, an indicator that he is very much part of the same Islamist mentality that produced Ahmadinejad and his boss Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. What is going on here is a carefully calculated ruse that is, even after Rouhani’s snub of Obama, working well to disarm the West of any sense of outrage about Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear capability.

That the mainstream media is willing to go along with this game shows just how uncomfortable many of them are with the need to honestly confront the issue of Iran’s nuclear capability and the transparently dishonest manner in which it has negotiated with the West for over a decade. 

UPDATE:

It turns out that Rouhani’s so-called condemnation of the Holocaust is even flimsier than we thought. After CNN broadcast its interview with Rouhani conducted by Christiane Amanpour, the FARS News Agency condemned their translation of his remarks about the Holocaust as largely a fabrication. The official organ of the Iranian government provided an exact translation of what he said and matched it with what CNN broadcast and then published on their website. When the two are compared it is clear that the network expanded on what he said to help convey the impression that he was condemning Holocaust denial when it is clear that he did no such thing.

Here’s the CNN account:

CNN Question: “One of the things your predecessor (President Ahmadinejad) used to do from this very platform was deny(ing) the holocaust and pretend(ing) it was a myth, I want to know you, your position on the holocaust, do you accept what it was, and what was it?”

CNN’s Translation: “I’ve said before that I am not a historian and then, when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust, it is the historians that should reflect on it. But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime that Nazis committed towards the Jews as well as non-Jews is reprehensible and condemnable. Whatever criminality they committed against the Jews, we condemn, the taking of human life is contemptible, it makes no difference whether that life is Jewish life, Christian or Muslim, for us it is the same, but taking the human life is something our religion rejects but this doesn’t mean that on the other hand you can say Nazis committed crime against a group now therefore, they must usurp the land of another group and occupy it. This too is an act that should be condemned. There should be an even-handed discussion”.

Here’s what Rouhani actually said:

“I have said before that I am not a historian and historians should specify, state and explain the aspects of historical events, but generally we fully condemn any kind of crime committed against humanity throughout the history, including the crime committed by the Nazis both against the Jews and non-Jews, the same way that if today any crime is committed against any nation or any religion or any people or any belief, we condemn that crime and genocide. Therefore, what the Nazis did is condemned, but the aspects that you talk about, clarification of these aspects is a duty of the historians and researchers, I am not a history scholar.”

While the two have similarities, there is no doubt that the news outlet airbrushed Rouhani’s comments to the point where they are far more acceptable for a Western audience. The actual remarks make it clear that Rouhani is as much of an agnostic about the extent of the Holocaust as Ahmadinejad. After all, Rouhani’s predecessor never said that no Jews were killed but said it was vastly exaggerated, the false argument that all Holocaust deniers try to make.

It is up to CNN to explain this attempt to falsify the content of the interview that goes beyond the usual discrepancies that often pop up in translations and crosses over into editorial malfeasance.

Added together with the other remarks uttered by Rouhani, this makes the claims of those who say Rouhani represents a genuine change in Iran even less credible than before.

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U.S. Officials Stay Seated While Ahmadinejad Blasts Israel

The AP is reporting that the U.S. delegation stayed seated while Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waxed philosophical about the historical accuracy of the Holocaust and the illegitimacy of the “Zionist regime” yesterday, even as Israel’s ambassador to the UN walked out in protest. I don’t see Susan Rice on the Fox News video, but at least three U.S. officials remained in their chairs (one of whom seemed to be diligently taking notes).

A UN walkout can be an important symbol of rejection when done effectively, but the fact that Israel left alone, while the U.S. stayed to listen to Ahmadinejad’s eliminationist musings, sent another message. Taken with Obama’s refusal to meet with Netanyahu, and the recent dismissal of Israeli “noise,” there’s a growing sense that the administration is distancing itself from Israel because it wants nothing to do with a potential attack on Iran:

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The AP is reporting that the U.S. delegation stayed seated while Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waxed philosophical about the historical accuracy of the Holocaust and the illegitimacy of the “Zionist regime” yesterday, even as Israel’s ambassador to the UN walked out in protest. I don’t see Susan Rice on the Fox News video, but at least three U.S. officials remained in their chairs (one of whom seemed to be diligently taking notes).

A UN walkout can be an important symbol of rejection when done effectively, but the fact that Israel left alone, while the U.S. stayed to listen to Ahmadinejad’s eliminationist musings, sent another message. Taken with Obama’s refusal to meet with Netanyahu, and the recent dismissal of Israeli “noise,” there’s a growing sense that the administration is distancing itself from Israel because it wants nothing to do with a potential attack on Iran:

Iran’s president called Israel a nuclear-armed “fake regime” shielded by the United States, prompting Israel’s U.N. ambassador to walk out of a high-level U.N. meeting Monday promoting the rule of law.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also accused the U.S. and others of misusing freedom of speech and failing to speak out against the defamation of people’s beliefs and “divine prophets,” an apparent reference to the recently circulated amateur video made in the U.S. which attacks Islam and denigrates the Prophet Muhammad. ….

The U.S. delegation did not walk out of Monday’s meeting, as it has in the past when Iran attacked Israel directly.

Ahmadinejad did not name either Israel or the U.S. in his speech but his targets were clear when he said: “We have witnessed that some members of the Security Council with veto right have chosen silence with regard to the nuclear warheads of a fake regime while at the same time they impede scientific progress of other nations.”

This paragraph (via Breitbart) is also a clear allusion to Iran’s Holocaust denial conferences:

[Ahmadinejad] also bore down on those who have revolted at Holocaust revisionism. He did this by calling attention to those who “infringe upon other’s freedom and allow sacrilege to people’s beliefs and sanctities, while they criticize posing questions or investigating into historical issues.”

Keep in mind that yesterday’s speech was just a warmup for Ahmadinejad — he’s set to give his big UN address on Yom Kippur tomorrow. Unless he somehow manages to steal another term (not permitted under the Iranian constitution), this is his last hurrah at Turtle Bay. So we can expect plenty of insanity on Wednesday.

At the Washington Times, Kerry Picket flags a USA Today report that President Obama’s UN speech today will denounce, yet again, the anti-Islam film the administration has repeatedly blamed for provoking riots across the Middle East. The Obama administration gave a perfunctory condemnation of Ahmadinejad’s speech yesterday, but the big question is, will Obama’s speech address Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic vitriol, as well?

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Holocaust Denial Cartoons Undermine Confidence in Iran Talks

The fact that Iran’s leaders continue to threaten Israel with destruction and perhaps set in motion a second Holocaust while all the while denying the reality of the first one is a conundrum that observers of Tehran have never quite figured out. But even while their negotiators have been successfully stalling Western diplomatic efforts to force them to drop their nuclear ambitions, the Islamist state is still promoting Holocaust denial. Israel’s Channel 2 News reports (via the Times of Israel) that Iran’s state run television is honoring Yom HaShoah by broadcasting cartoons that depict the Holocaust as a fraud. The cartoons (which are available for viewing on memri.org) shows figures dressed as ultra-Orthodox Jews fabricating stories about the Holocaust in order to make money and to dispossess the Palestinians.

The cartoons are important not just because they are offensive, but because they reflect the mindset of the Iranian government. Anyone who thinks the ayatollahs can be trusted with a nuclear weapon or with even a peaceful nuclear energy program — which may be the “compromise” that Tehran will agree to in order to allow the West to back away from a confrontation over the issue — needs to understand that the hatred for Jews and Israel is integral to the ideology of the regime and its ultimate goals.

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The fact that Iran’s leaders continue to threaten Israel with destruction and perhaps set in motion a second Holocaust while all the while denying the reality of the first one is a conundrum that observers of Tehran have never quite figured out. But even while their negotiators have been successfully stalling Western diplomatic efforts to force them to drop their nuclear ambitions, the Islamist state is still promoting Holocaust denial. Israel’s Channel 2 News reports (via the Times of Israel) that Iran’s state run television is honoring Yom HaShoah by broadcasting cartoons that depict the Holocaust as a fraud. The cartoons (which are available for viewing on memri.org) shows figures dressed as ultra-Orthodox Jews fabricating stories about the Holocaust in order to make money and to dispossess the Palestinians.

The cartoons are important not just because they are offensive, but because they reflect the mindset of the Iranian government. Anyone who thinks the ayatollahs can be trusted with a nuclear weapon or with even a peaceful nuclear energy program — which may be the “compromise” that Tehran will agree to in order to allow the West to back away from a confrontation over the issue — needs to understand that the hatred for Jews and Israel is integral to the ideology of the regime and its ultimate goals.

The purpose of the cartoons and other forms of anti-Semitic propaganda promoted by Iran is to demonize Jews and to justify their destruction. Iran is not Nazi Germany, but Iran’s efforts to portray Jews as subhuman creatures who sucked money from Europe and land from the Arabs are strikingly similarly to the propaganda that was used to prepare the way for the Holocaust.

Iran’s defenders, such as German Nobel laureate and SS veteran Gunter Grass, depict it as an innocent victim of potential Israeli aggression. But he and other European detractors of Israel who pose as advocates of “human rights” seem remarkably indifferent to the fact that Tehran has become, along with other Muslim capitals, one of the leading exporters of vile anti-Semitic propaganda to the West. The more one learns about the way Iran’s government promotes Jew-hatred the less convincing arguments that claim the ayatollahs are not interested in a war of annihilation against Israel and the Jews sound.

The idea that Iran is a reasonable country that can be enticed by rational arguments to back away from the nuclear abyss is one that doesn’t take into account the ferocity of the regime’s Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. While one would hope that President Obama’s window of diplomacy would be used to force the ayatollahs to give up their weapons program, confidence in Tehran’s willingness to give up its hope for nukes is only possible so long as one ignores the essential nature of the regime.

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