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Iran: President's Anti-Israel Statements Reflect The Official Line

President Ahmadinejad speaking in Zahedan on 14 December (Fars) Many explanations have been offered to explain Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's numerous anti-Israeli statements in recent weeks. Although these speculations may be accurate, Ahmadinejad is by no means the first Iranian official to engage in Holocaust denial or to make statements denying the legitimacy of Israel. The visit of Hamas leader Khalid Mish'al to Tehran this week demonstrated again that the Iranian leadership believes Israel is not a legitimate state.

Iranian commentators have tried to explain Ahmadinejad's recent anti-Israel statements by saying that they reflect an effort at self-promotion or stem from his personal beliefs. There have also been suggestions that Ahmadinejad's views may stem from an effort to connect with the least sophisticated constituencies in the country.

Denying The Holocaust

In a 14 December speech in the city of Zahedan in southeastern Sistan va Baluchistan Province, Ahmadinejad said that if the Holocaust took place in Europe and Europeans feel so guilty about it, then that is where Israel should be located, state television reported. "They have created a myth today and they call it the massacre of the Jews [the Holocaust]," he added. This speech comes on the heels of his comments on 8 December, when he said, according to Al-Alam television, on the sidelines of an Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Saudi Arabia that "if the Europeans claim that the Zionists were suppressed during the Second World War, they can place a part of Europe at their disposal."

The international community has widely condemned Ahmadinejad's views, but they have been defended by Iranian government officials either directly or by inference. Parliament speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel on 11 December defended French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, according to state television. "If hypothetically it is true that the Jews were oppressed in Germany, why should Islamic nations pay the price of the oppression which was committed in another continent by another country?" Haddad-Adel said.

Roger Garaudy (Left) in Jordan in 2000 (AFP)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei defended Garaudy's right to disseminate his views in a 12 May 2000 speech, according to state radio. "If a person is not affiliated to the capitalists and if one is not part of the capitalists power centers, he will not be able to speak, no one will hear his voice and he will be deprived of freedom of speech," Khamenei said.

"There are documents showing close collaboration of the Zionists with the Nazi Germany, and exaggerated numbers relating to the Jewish Holocaust were fabricated to solicit the sympathy of world public opinion, lay the ground for the occupation of Palestine, and to justify the atrocities of the Zionists," Khamenei said in a 24 April 2001 speech, state television and IRNA reported.

Expediency Council chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani in a 27 October 2000 sermon cited Garaudy as a source on alleged Israeli violations of UN resolutions, state radio reported.

Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi said on 16 December 1999 that "Roger Garaudy was tried for carrying out a scientific research work," state radio reported. "They did so because his actions contradicted the interests of Zionism and exposed their lies."

The Hamas Line

This week, Hamas head Khalid Mish'al visited Tehran. Designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, Hamas advocates the destruction of Israel. "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it," the Hamas covenant of 18 August 1988 asserts. It goes on to say that jihad is the only solution to the Palestinian issue, and "initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

The covenant warns that after conquering Palestine "the Zionists" will expand to a region from the Nile to the Euphrates. "Their plan is embodied in the 'Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion,' and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."

Mish'al met with Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, Expediency Council Chairman Hashemi-Rafsanjani, and others during his stay in Tehran.

"Continuation of the resistance is the only way that guarantees the liberation of Palestine," Khamenei told Mish'al, state television reported on 13 December. His other comments resembled the views expressed in the Hamas covenant. "Compromise with the Zionist occupiers and negotiations with them will not improve the situation," Khamenei said. "On the contrary, any compromise will increase the pressure [on the Palestinian people]. We therefore conclude that victory will be achieved through resistance only."

"We will not be satisfied with anything less than the liberation of all the occupied territories, the return of all Palestinian refugees and the withdrawal of the occupiers," Mish'al replied. "And as Imam Khomeini said, Israel is a cancerous tumor, and we shall never put up with it."

Mish'al told Ahmadinejad on 12 December that Hamas appreciates Iran's stance against Israel generally and the president's "insistence on the illegitimate nature of Israel," IRNA reported. Interior Minister Mustafa Pur-Mohammadi told Mashaal that Palestine is the Iranian government's top foreign policy priority, the official "Iran" newspaper reported on 13 December.

Iranian Anti-Zionism

Iranian Anti-Zionism

President Ahmadinejad visiting the tomb of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in October (Fars)


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INTERVIEW: On December 22, 2005, RFE/RL's Radio Farda spoke with FRED ZEIDMAN, director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Zeidman commented on Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's anti-Israeli comments.


Hear the complete interview (about nine minutes):
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ARCHIVE: For an archive of RFE/RL's coverage of Iran, click here.