Rouhani statement on the Holocaust should lead to reconsideration of Ahmadinejad’s similar message

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Christiane Amanpour and Hassan Rouhani (Photo: CNN)
Christiane Amanpour and Hassan Rouhani (Photo: CNN)

While interviewing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Christiane Amanpour declared, “One of the things your predecessor used to do from this very platform was deny the Holocaust and pretend that it was a myth,” before asking his his thoughts on the Holocaust.

Rouhani replied, though hedging a bit, “I can say that any crime that is committed in history against humanity, such as the crimes committed by the Nazis, whether against Jews or non-Jews, from our viewpoint is completely condemned. Just as if today a crime is committed against any nation, religion, ethnicity or belief, we condemn that crime or genocide.”

He continued:

Therefore, what the Nazis did is condemnable. The dimensions of it which you say, is the responsibility of historians and researchers to make those dimensions clear. I am not a historian myself.
However, this point should be clear: If a crime took place, that crime should not be a cover for a nation or group to justify their crimes or oppression against others. Therefore, if the Nazis committed a crime, and however much it was, we condemn that, because genocide or mass murder is condemned.
From our viewpoint, it doesn’t matter if the person killed is Jewish, Christian or Muslim. From our viewpoint, [it] does not make difference. Killing an innocent human is rejected and condemned. But this cannot be a reason for 60 years to displace a people from their land and say that the Nazis committed crimes. That crime [too] is condemned; occupying the land of others is also condemned from our viewpoint.

When you hear all this hoopla about how an Iranian official FINALLY admitted the historical reality of the Holocaust, remember this —

During his now-infamous appearance at Columbia University in September 2007, Ahmadinejad referred to the Holocaust as “a present reality of our time, a history that occurred” and continued rhetorically:

“…given this historical event, if it is a reality, we need to still question whether the Palestinian people should be paying for it or not. After all, it happened in Europe. The Palestinian people had no role to play in it. So why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price of an event they had nothing to do with?

The Palestinian people didn’t commit any crime. They had no role to play in World War II. They were living with the Jewish communities and the Christian communities in peace at the time. They didn’t have any problems.

And today, too, Jews, Christians and Muslims live in brotherhood all over the world in many parts of the world. They don’t have any serious problems.

But why is it that the Palestinians should pay a price, innocent Palestinians, for 5 million people to remain displaced or refugees abroad for 60 years. Is this not a crime?”

He summed up his perspective this way: “I am not saying that it [the Holocaust] didn’t happen at all. This is not that judgment that I am passing here. I said…granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?”

Such comments echoed Ahmadinejad’s earlier statements.  In mid-December 2005, early in his tenure as president, Ahmadinejad was already employing the rhetorical device of asking a question in order to prove a point.  “If the killing of Jews in Europe is true,” he said at a conference in Tehran, “and the Zionists are being supported because of this excuse, why should the Palestinian nation pay the price?”  He repeated this question a few days later at a rally in southern Iran, and reiterated his position in early 2006.

In comments reported by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Ahmadinejad asked rhetorically, “Don’t you think that continuation of genocide by expelling Jews from Europe was one of their [the Europeans’] aims in creating a regime of occupiers of Al-Quds [Jerusalem]?”  Here, Ahmadinejad is clearly affirming the Nazi “genocide” – which he called a “human tragedy” – and noting that the subsequent European endorsement of Zionism – which he called a “Western ideology and imperialistic idea” – and encouragement of Jewish emigration from Europe to Palestine constituted another form of ethnic cleansing.

“Why don’t the Europeans who perpetrated the crime pay the price themselves?” the Iranian president asked, adding, “In fact, the Europeans have practiced ethnic cleansing against the Jews in Europe by expelling the Jews from all the European states.”

In a letter sent to German leader Angela Merkel in September 2006, Ahmadinejad noted, “Using the excuse for the settlement of the survivors of the Holocaust, they encouraged the Jews worldwide to migrate and today a large part of the inhabitants of the occupied territories are non-European Jews. If tyranny and killing is condemned in one part of the world, can we acquiesce and go along with tyranny, killing, occupation and assassinations in another part of the world simply in order to redress the past wrongs?”

This acknowledgement of past wrongs and questioning their exploitation and the legitimacy of their consequences was echoed in February 2007 by Ali Akbar Velayati, a close advisor to Iranian leader Ali Khamenei.  Speaking with European journalist Bernard Guetta about the claims of Iranian Holocaust denial, he stated, “One may wonder about that genocide’s number of victims without denying that it took place, and, may I remind you on this topic, that it was committed by Europeans, Nazis, and that the way to that massacre had been prepared by all the European persecutions of the preceding centuries, beginning with those organized by Spain?”

When asked directly whether he believes “the [Nazi Holocaust] genocide is a historical reality,” Velayati was clear: “Yes,” he said, “but we do not agree that this reality should be used to justify the oppression of the Palestinians.”

With this in mind, consider this statement from 1956:

“If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country… There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their [the Palestinians’] fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance.”

Who could have possibly said that?

David Ben-Gurion.


In response to this post, the purpose of which is to demonstrate a certain consistency in official Iranian statements over the years that is often ignored by the mainstream press, longtime Mondoweiss critic Armin Rosen tweeted this:

Condemning Mondoweiss or myself as trafficking in Holocaust revisionism is absurd.  Nowhere in the above post are any of the comments made by Iranian officials endorsed or justified.  Furthermore, the attention paid to what Iranians say about the horrifying and undeniable systematic extermination of millions of Jews by the Nazis – something no Iranian had anything to do with – is, in itself, curious.

Furthermore, there is no doubt that, in addition to the quotes listed above, Ahmadinejad has said a number of more inflammatory comments regarding the Holocaust, often questioning the scope of the genocide and insisting that more research be conducted.  Holocaust skepticism – and appealing to historians over politicians to seek answers – is surely one aspect of (if not tantamount to) Holocaust denial.  While Ahmadinejad has said,  “I believe the Holocaust from what we’ve read happened during World War II, after 1930, in the 1940s,” he has also been quoted as calling the Holocaust a “big lie.”

It should also be noted that, in official Iranian discourse, no mention of the Holocaust goes without an attendant reference to the occupation and oppression of Palestinians.  The purpose of doing so, it would appear, is not necessarily to even equate these two distinct tragedies, but rather to explicitly question and condemn the exploitation of the Holocaust in order to justify the subsequent ethnic cleansing and colonization of Palestine.  There is no doubt that the horror of the Holocaust is constantly used by Israeli leaders and their acolytes here in the United States to fear-monger, demonize and beat the drums of war against Iran.

Over the course of his public and private appearances this week, Rouhani’s repeated comments on the Holocaust continue to follow the official Iranian line, while, admittedly addressing the accusation of “denial” directly.

On Wednesday morning, he told a gathering of journalists and editors, “The Nazis committed a crime in World War II. As to the scale of the massacres, and the numbers that my predecessor mentioned, let’s leave that to the historians,” adding that the Nazis committed a “massacre that cannot be denied – especially against the Jewish people,” he said, calling it a “horrendous crime.”

At the Council on Foreign Relations Thursday night, Rouhani said:

I think that I have responded in one or two interviews in which I was asked about it and I explained that we condemn the crimes by Nazis in the World War II and regrettably those crimes were committed against many groups, many people, many people were killed including a group of Jewish people. And we condemn their crimes.

In general, we condemn the murder and killing of innocent people always. It makes no difference to us. When that person is innocent and is killed, whether he or she was Jewish, or Christian, or Muslim, there’s just no difference in our eyes. We condemn crimes as such.

But the argument here is that if the Nazis committed a crime, this does not mean that the price paid for it should be done by other people elsewhere. This should not serve as any justification to push out from their homes a group of people because of what Nazis did.

To claim that these comments are so divergent from repeated statements made by Ahmadinejad would be disingenuous. What is different with this new Iranian president, however, is an unwillingness – and hopefully no interest – in deliberately poking Western and Israeli taboos, something his predecessor clearly relished.  Gone are the days of Holocaust Conferences and nauseating cartoon contests.

There is no doubt that the horror of the Holocaust is constantly used by Israeli leaders and their acolytes here in the United States to fear-monger, demonize and beat the drums of war against Iran. In a recent column, M.J. Rosenberg deftly articulated very wise words about the issue of Iranian Holocaust comments:

I wish Rouhani would just drop the ugly and offensive quibbling about the Holocaust. All he needs to do is speak the truth: the Holocaust happened; 6,000,000 Jews were killed along with millions of others; and all the mass killing constituted a crime against humanity.

Period. End of controversy. Friend of both truth and peace celebrate: the war lobby weeps.
But Rouhani resists that kind of formulation, although he does condemn the Holocaust, albeit a little vaguely.

So what?

If Rouhani is prepared to negotiate over nuclear weapons, why do we care what he says about the Holocaust (it would be different if he acknowledged it and endorsed it). The government of Turkey, our NATO ally, denies the Armenian genocide and Turkey perpetrated it. Japan, our closest friend in Asia, still denies the Rape of Nanking and all the other war crimes Japan committed in China in the 1930’s. Congress forced the Smithsonian Institute to eviscerate its exhibit on the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for hinting that there might have been alternatives to using nuclear weapons. There are dozens of more examples, maybe even more than dozens.

But again, so what?

Denying the Holocaust is ugly and stupid but so is the “Holocaust denial industry,” by which I mean those who profit by saying the Holocaust didn’t happen and those who profit by obsessing over what they consider to be Holocaust denial. (In that later category, I include those who consider it Holocaust denial if one dares to say that people other than Jews were Holocaust victims every bit as much as Jews were.) All these people desecrate the memories of the victims, — all the victims but especially the 6,000,000 Jews who are being used to score political points.

Enough already.

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/He summed up his perspective this way: “I am not saying that it [the Holocaust] didn’t happen at all. This is not that judgment that I am passing here. I said…granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?”/ He is dancing around it without saying this and that way. If it happened and i am not saying that it didn’t, it’s for the historians , bla bla bla. Holocaust denial… Read more »

The term “the holocaust” is the name for a historical happening, subject as all historical happenings are to study, research, description, re-description, re-re-description, etc., as new factual aspects are discovered. Being part of history, “the holocaust” is meant to be researched and questioned, discussed, and disagreed on. Like any history. By contrast, the term “The Holocaust” is the name for a political manipulation, one or more descriptions of alleged historical happenings embedded in one or… Read more »

Mister Shirazi- I will read your article later and parse your article and possibly respond again later. For now: I think to deny that Ahmadinejad trafficked in Holocaust denial is absurd. He organized a conference and constantly started sentences: if this occurred. For a moment indulge an analogy. A president of the united states constantly refers to darwin’s theory of evolution as a theory. If this is true, then… Would we not call the guy… Read more »

For sanity’s sake, can you not give it a flaming rest? I’m fed up to the back teeth with all this Hobson-Jobson about the Holocaust. It just goes on and on and on, and we get bludgeoned by incessant films, stories, and TV shows about it. We get sick of it. Is it insensitive to say so? Maybe, but not half so insensitive as it is to keep pushing it at us. The Holocaust is… Read more »

Ridiculous article by a dishonest author. Lets look at the evidence Nima Shirazi (NS) brandishes for his claim that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (MA) had acknowledged Nazi genocide against Jews and was more or less saying the same thing that Rouhani’s administration is saying, and then look at the evidence he deliberately omits. First note that, contrary to his conventional practice of disputing translations of IRI statements and going to the original Persian source for accurate translation,… Read more »