Commentary Magazine

Khamenei Bets on Anti-Semitism

Image by © Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua Press/Corbis

There’s a tendency among some agenda journalists to walk across a field, point out how wonderful the roses smell, and seemingly ignore that the rest of the field is covered in cow manure. Hence, it is often with regard to Iran and the tendency of so many journalists and officials to see a desire for peace and tolerance in a country where both are in incredibly short supply. Many proponents of rapprochement embraced President Hassan Rouhani’s tweet wishing Jews a good Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year. That was a rose, albeit one displayed with cynicism.

In the wake of the Iran deal, the Iranian government over which Rouhani theoretically presides announced a new cartoon contest to mock the Holocaust. That itself shouldn’t surprise. After all, long before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shocked diplomats with his blunt Holocaust denial, none other than the administration of Mohammad Khatami — a man often described as a reformist — was feting Holocaust deniers at an institute run by the Foreign Ministry. Regardless, after Rouhani’s tweet, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei mocked the Holocaust with a video released to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Now, the latest example of the Islamic Republic’s true colors comes again courtesy of the supreme leader. Middle East analyst Tom Gross points out:

In a Twitter post to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Monday tweeted that he particularly likes “The Merchant of Venice” as a play “being in accordance with Western values.” “The Merchant of Venice” is, of course, infamous for its portrayal of the greedy and scheming fictional Jewish character Shylock. Khamenei has a long record of making anti-Semitic statements.

Meanwhile, Kerry’s interlocutor cum handler, Mohammad Javad Zarif has argued that the Iranian government has no role in promoting the latest Holocaust cartoon conference, nevermind that the regime Zarif works for has repeatedly spoken about supporting it. Perhaps that should be chalked up as yet one more Zarif lie.

In 1993, Europe launched a “Critical Dialogue” in which they promised to tie trade and attempts at integrating Iran into the world community with serious attention to the Islamic Republic’s human rights record. Commercial temptation soon led European diplomats to cast any critical notion of the dialogue aside. More than two decades later, President Obama also promised not to ignore the negative aspects of Iran’s behavior in his pursuit of a nuclear deal. Obama even suggested that the deal might moderate Iran. That was wrong in every respect. Simply put, religious tolerance in general and anti-Semitism, in particular, are good barometers of the trajectory of any regime. Alas, with Khamenei doubling down on irrational, centuries-old bigotry, it’s time to recognize that Iran is not about roses; it is drowning in the manure of its leaders’ ideology.

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