Iran’s Holocaust denial is part of a malevolent strategy

tags: Holocaust, Holocaust denial

Reuel Marc Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Islamic Republic of Iran held another Holocaust cartoon festival this month, inviting the usual despicable cast of characters. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif assured the New Yorker that although the event would proceed, Iran would ensure that the “people who have preached racial hatred and violence will not be invited.” Evidently, Zarif believes there are Holocaust deniers who do not harbor “racial hatred.” 

As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani once remarked to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the Holocaust — the question of whether it happened and the dimensions of the slaughter — is really “a matter for historians and researchers to illuminate.” Crimes against humanity are bad, Rouhani averred, as he quickly glided over the Nazis’ anti-Jewish malevolence to similar crimes committed today, leaving no doubt for a Middle Eastern audience that he was talking about Israel. Among Iran’s ruling elite, Holocaust denial and the accompanying conspiracies about Jewish power are omnipresent and diverse, but they all have strategic intent. Anti-Semitism is not only central to the regime’s identity; it’s also inextricably tied to its soft-power propaganda aimed at the larger Muslim world, especially Arabs.

Anti-Semitism was part of Iran’s inception. The revolution’s father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spent much of his life indulging it. In Khomeini’s rendition, the Jews, always untrustworthy in Islamic history, are surrogates of Western imperialism who have displaced Palestinian Muslims and even distorted Islam’s scriptural texts. Khomeini’s hatred toward Israel exceeded even his disdain for America. The United States was a pernicious, seductive imperial power. But it was America’s conduct, not its existence, that the mullahs contested. Israel, on the other hand, was for Khomeini an unlawful entity, irrespective of its actual policies and behavior. No peace compact or negotiated settlement with the aggrieved Palestinians could ameliorate this essential illegitimacy. Israel must be wiped off the map. 

Since the ayatollah’s death, Tehran’s efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state have continued, no matter who among the ruling elite has had the upper hand. Whether it’s those aligned behind Ali Khamenei (Khomeini’s successor), the revolutionary pragmatists backing Rouhani or the Islamic leftists who once rallied behind the reforming president Mohammad Khatami, attitudes toward Israel and the Holocaust have remained constant. For them, Zionism is a racist, exclusionary ideology that should be opposed not just by Muslims but also by all who care about human rights. Iran’s propaganda insists that Zionism was imposed on the region by force of arms, sustained by bloodshed and perpetuated by craven U.S. politicians beholden to domestic Jewish groups. Khamenei has gone so far as to claim that to ensure the compliance of U.S. politicians, “these Zionist capitalists both bribe and threaten them.” Even more: These Jewish American overlords “have murdered some of their high-ranking and great officials.” Anti-Semitism in Iran is an Orwellian voyage of ideology, where fiery sermons and conferences calling for the annihilation of Israel and denying the Holocaust have become the sanctioned language of the Islamic republic. ...

Read entire article at The Washington Post

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