Iranian President Rouhani acknowledges Holocaust as Crime against Jewish People

The speech of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to the UNGA pledged that Iran has no nuclear weapons program and said that Iran never would. The new Iranian president said he was committed to a time-bound set of negotiations over the country’s nuclear enrichment program. His remarks were encouraging, but unspecific about the ways he could provide more transparency to UN inspectors so as to convince his critics in the West. Those specifics may be delivered by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who may meet with Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday.

But Rouhani made his real news on Tuesday in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, which will be aired on Weds. Amanpour revealed that he acknowledged the Nazi holocaust against the Jews, saying

“”I am not a historian and when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust it is the historians that should reflect . . . But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis created towards the 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 if that life is Jewish life, Christian or Muslim. For us it is the same.”

Rouhani’s remarks won’t entirely mollify his critics, who will point out that he doesn’t seem sure of the “dimensions” of the Nazi slaughter of Jewry. We historians estimate that some 6 million were gassed or killed by other means. But anyway the preoccupation with Iranian views of European crimes against humanity is a little weird. Iran served as a key escape route for European Jews during the 1930s and 1940a. Former President Mohammad Khatami forthrightly admitted and condemned the genocide against European Jews. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, when asked why the Iranian government denies the Holocaust, recently replied that it never had, and only one man had, and he isn’t there any more (a reference to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.)

Holocaust denial in the Middle East is condemnable as it is anywhere, but it results in part from the way in which Israelis deploy the event to justify their usurpation of Palestinian property and ongoing imposition of statelessness on the Palestinians. An immature response to such apologetics is to cast doubt on the premise. Rouhani took a different path. He told Amanpour, “This 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 . . . This too is an act that should be condemned. There should be an evenhanded discussion.”

Rouhani in any case shows more sense in his remarks on these issues than Ahmadinejad ever did.

RT carries Iranian President Rouhani’s whole speech at the UN General Assembly:

The full English text can be found here [pdf]

37 Responses

  1. “critics, who will point out that he doesn’t seem sure of the “dimensions” of the Nazi slaughter of Jewry”

    According to the experts at Wikipedia, in Germany, belittling the Holocaust is a crime punishable by 3 months to 5 years in jail.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    • I’m assuming here that the critics refer to some hawkish politicians who seem bent on sanctioning Iran. But it seems to me that Dr Rouhani is aware, at least, about the Holocaust. I’d doubt that those politicians would gain ground if they were to use the holocaust issue to criticize him, since not only has he acknowledged the holocaust, but he has also condemned the severity of the crimes.

  2. Holocaust denial by Muslims is ignorant and is based on emotional resentment of the way Zionists use the holocaust to justify their own crimes.

    Instead of denying the holocaust, Muslims should simply say “Palestinians shouldn’t do the time when Germans did the crime.”

  3. What a gullible bunch we are. So the guy made a speech at the UN. It’s not like nobody else has ever done that, and lied through their carefully polished teeth with just about every word they uttered. This is the UN, fer crissake! Don’t you know what a den of snakes that is? We should have gotten out decades ago (though you have to acknowledge that if managed properly, it does provide some cheap convenient moral cover and pseudo-legality for stuff we really want to do.)

    As should be obvious from millennia of statecraft, lying Big for some supposed advantage or devious goal or profitable plan or idiotic plot or just out of languid invulnerable habit is nothing new under the TV lights… link to fair.org

    • Julian Borger of the Guardian recognizes the problems inherent in the United Nations but still make a good argument for its existence:

      “The UN general assembly has many detractors, who point to the millions of dollars spent on indulging the vanity of the planet’s leaders and their tendency to declaim at much length. But, sometimes, like this year, it serves as a reminder that the world needs somewhere to meet, and when they have something new to say to each other, it can make for powerful drama.” link to theguardian.com

    • If we leave the UN, then it means there is no international law, there is no hope for international law, and we’re exactly back where we were in 1938. There were no “rogue states” in 1938 because there was no framework to categorize the evil of Germany, Italy and Japan. You’re pissed off because international law is not enforced against the people you dislike, but because the US failed to join the League of Nations, ordinary people did not take seriously the idea that nations had rights at all. Even the term “human rights” did not exist. Fascism was a popular movement, spreading across Europe and into Latin America. The fascists could point to the colonial empires of the “have” nations as an excuse that anyone could do anything to anyone that they could get away with. The end of those empires, the end of WW2, and the creation of the UN are intertwined.

      I’m more afraid of what the US might do once its citizens are certain that they can truly do anything they can get away with to hold onto their goodies, than I am of all the other UN members put together.

      • (Must start adding snark tag to sarcastic comments). I personally think the UN has a chance at becoming the Hope of Nations, and maybe even the skeleton of a newer and healthier human body politic. That of course would mean a bunch of mean, selfish, violent, sneaky SOBs abandoning all the skulduggery and hypocrisy and rent- and advantage-seeking that characterizes the Crapola mess that the “Realists” have wrought, so exceedingly finely detailed and vicious.

        One sort of has to admire the tenacity of the Apologists and Anonymous Apparent Insiders Ashamed To State Their Resumes who post here so persistently, in favor of More Of The Same and with a heavy message that the way it’s being done is the best we can do. They and their subtle and overbearing efforts show how strong is the seductive power of adherence to the idiotic, planet-burning Empire-After-Empire, with its inherent short-term and long-term and short-sighted advantages and benefits for the Krupps and Kochs and Adelsons and Netanyahoos and McChrystals and suchlike and a death watch for the rest of us.

        But of course the US uses the UN like Kleenex ™ and toilet tissue… link to shine.yahoo.com

    • The US government has been in business for over 200 years and it is still deeply flawed. It isn’t as bad as anarchy, but it is down there somewhere.

    • “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.” (Churchill)
      That makes me a supporter of the UN.

      Also, the impossibility of getting UN approval of a US attack on Syria is one factor in holding off that disaster.

  4. I’ve visited Yad Vashem.
    It’s beautiful, moving.
    The slaughter was horrific.

    “We historians estimate that some 6 million were gassed or killed by other means.”

    At one particular display in the memorial, it suggests that 6 million is no more than an educated guess. The number is for people who need such specifics to put some kind of comprehensible limit on the devastation.

    The actual number might be as small as 2 million and as high as 12 million. The lack of specificity is due to the dearth of census data on the thousands of small communities, Jewish and otherwise, that dotted Prussia-Russia-Poland-Byelorus- and that region more generally, where IIRC most of the victims came from.

    6 million is not, as some presume, an upper limit.

    • Saying it was likely as small as 2 million, and that it was not intentional but functional (as does Princeton historian Arno Mayer in his book Why Did The Heavens Not Darken) might well be enough to get you jailed in “free” Germany.

      • I suppose that makes me an anti-semite ?
        Of course, I didn’t say what you attribute to me, but so what ?

        I suggest you visit the new part of the city of Jerusalaam, swing by the Memorial, and stroll through.

        If the folks who curate the displays are willing to say that they really don’t know how may perished, why aren’t you ?

    • There were 18 million Jews before 1940 by our best demographic projections.

      There were 12 million after World War II.

      Hmmm.

  5. Are there any new developments in the AMIA bombing case in Buenos Aries? Argentina accused Iran of planning this attack and Hezbollah or carrying it out. The current Pope Francis signed a petition, “85 victims, 85 signatures” calling for justice but nothing seems to have happened.

    • Things have happened in the legal arena – but nothing connecting Iran to the incident.

      Argentina had an Interpol arrest warrant out for the individual who had served as Iranian ambassador to Argentina in 1994. He was arrested in Britain but the case fell apart when the government could not even make out any prima facie case against him at a hearing.

  6. A rather remarkable speech, eloquence personified. Certainly as worthy as anything Obama has uttered (more so in sincerity, IMO).
    And far more conciliatory.
    Here is a statesman worthy of being listened to and respected.
    He hit all of the important “high” points, which leave the U.S. and Israel severely lacking in their faux attempts at diplomacy (I’m being kind).
    When all is said and done, Iran has weathered the most severe and dishonest misinformation campaign in human history.

    • “A rather remarkable speech, eloquence personified. Certainly as worthy as anything Obama has uttered (more so in sincerity, IMO).”

      David Swanson concludes the Obama fog machine was going full blast at the UN. link to counterpunch.org

  7. The interesting thing for me is the consistency of Iran’s message; no interest in nuclear weapons. Anti-Islamist.
    But most importantly; build it; use it; and be obliterated?
    There s no future in that course, obviously.
    Iran (Persia) is one of the great civilizations in the history of the planet; so, are they suicidal? Hardly; just not to be dismissed as irrelevant.

    • The anti-Israel message is not consistent either.

      The British newspaper The Observer estimated that beginning in 1981 and throughout the Iran-Iraq War, Israel sold Iran an average of $500,000,000 per annum in weaponry, including sophisticated missiles and F-4 Phantom aircraft.

      During Iran-Contra hearings the arms pipeline from Israel to Iran was publicly revealed.

  8. As a naturalized Iranian American I was happy to see a person speak for Iran who is more direct and does not spend 80% of their time on meaningless analogies. I listened to the speech once in English and once in Farsi. The speech sounded a lot more confrontational in English. I do not know why they did not ask an American to read the English translation. The guy was not Iranian so he had no feel for the flow of the speech and was struggling with his reading and sounded angry. I knew he was reading it when he said camel flagged when he came across the word “camelflage”.
    Rouhani sounded confident. You will have to excuse him for the morality lessons but that is very typical Farsi speech to espouse to what humans should aspire to be. I mean there is like 3,000 years of poetry about this stuff. Anyway, Mr. US President who believes Americans are exceptional meet the Iranian President who believes Iranian are exceptional.

    I was also caught up in the hype of seeing the handshake (also hyped up by the Iranian side) and was wondering why it did not happen. There must have been something in the Obama speech that came as a surprise to them. The best explanation that I have heard is that the President declaring resolving the Iranian Nuclear issue as his top priority even more urgent than solving the Israel Palestinian conflict must have come across as unexpected. First it sounds like something the Israeli prime minster would have written. And second, it is a juxtaposition of who gets credit. I think the Iranians would prefer to treat this as not the #1 international crisis on the planet, and they certainly do not want it to be on the fast track.

    Hey, it is good that they are talking. Maybe fewer people get killed in their proxy wars.

    • ” I listened to the speech once in English and once in Farsi. The speech sounded a lot more confrontational in English.”

      Thank you for this point, Ahmad. Too often we get flawed and dishonest translations to English. Ahmadinejad was accused of saying he wanted Israel wiped off the map when other responsible sources were reporting he said that he wanted the Israeli regime wiped off the map. Big difference.

      • A French version of what was originally really said but badly translated (by Iran’s own Islamic Republic Information Agency; I’ve been a translator for 30 years and can vouch for having seen very serious errors in translations, particularly by people whose target language is not their mother tongue) and then immediately published by the international news media, including the BBC and the Time Magazine, and kept as is even after Iran read the English version and issued an immediate correction. The October 25, 2005 declaration by Ahmadinejad was referring to Khomeiny’s declaration in the ’70s:

        “Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shaved”.

        Imam (religious name for Khomeiny) ghoft (a dit) een (ce) rezhim-e (régime) ishghalgar-e (occupant) qods (Jérusalem) bayad (doit) az safheh-ye ruzfgar (de la page du temps) mahv shavad (disparaître de).

        “The Imam has said that this regime occupying Jerusalem must disappear from the page of time.”

  9. The day any mollah or President or any of the Arab leaders can add atheist, Buddhist etc. into those remarks about killing of any human I will start taking them seriously.

    The New Pope is a step ahead of all these folks.

    Let’s hope we get some leaders who represent individual rights in the ME as well.

    • Christianity has a very sorry elements to its history when it comes to violence from the Crusades to the present. Europe was in an almost constant state of barbaric wars between different sects of Christianity for centuries. Some of the more fundamentalists preaching today are nothing to be proud of, especially those who are praying for Armageddon.

      There’s more here: “Christianity’s contradictions on war: Though based on the pacifist teachings of Jesus, Christianity has been an accomplice to more wars and genocides than any other religion, a paradox reflected in the contradictory views of 16th Century protestant reformer Martin Luther and 20th Century civil rights martyr Martin Luther King Jr.,” as Gary G. Kohls explains. – link to consortiumnews.com

      • The Crusades, the Inquisitions, the burnings at the stakes… I might have forgotten some other wrongdoings, executed in the name of Christianity, whose first motto might have been: “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” We’ve veered from that course nearly 2,000 years ago and have the guts to lecture the rest of the world…

  10. More important to me than handshakes and Holocaust semiotics is substantive diplomacy.

    Will the Kerry/Zarif meeting be the first face-to-face meeting between an American Secretary of State and an Iranian Foreign Minister since the revolution?

    • no, according to
      link to sentinelsource.com

      in 2001 Powell met and shook the hands Iranian FM Kharrazi
      in 2007 Rice and Iranian FM Mottaki were in the same conference

      Kerry/Zarif is probably the first time there was significant direct negotiations

  11. Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran,opinion essay titled, “Why Iran seeks constructive engagement” was posted in the on-line Washington Post on 9-19-13.

    In one paragraph he said, “At their core, the vicious battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are over the nature of those countries’ identities and their consequent roles in our region and the world. The centrality of identity extends to the case of our peaceful nuclear energy program. To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world. Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved.”

    To me, this is a very clear reason WHY Iran has a nuclear energy program. I wish President Obama would make equally clear statement why he supports the trade and economic sanctions on Iran.

    • The US has a nuclear WEAPONS program, an enormous one, and “leads” (very, very sic) the world in arms sales and military expenditures. And exports “race to the bottom, steal all you can” corporate behaviors, and “world economic collapse” financial-industry moral-risk-rich “technology.”

      What does that say about OUR identity, and the incredible haughty disingenuous arrogance of dictating to others, by blockade, stealth, skulduggery, and threats and actual kinetic applications of violence, what their identities are supposed to look like?

  12. This extra scrutiny and scepticism on Iran’s attitude to Holocaust is driven by a fear of the Israeli lobby about cozying up to Iran. Netanyahu and AIPAC are besides themselves that Israel will become more isolated than it already is.

    • I thought the same about Professor Cole’s knowledge of Persian (Farsi?) when I added the comment at:

      09/26/2013 at 2:55 pm

      About Ahmadinejad’s reference to Khomeiny’s declaration in the ’70s:

      “Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shaved”.

  13. It seems to be a sign of just how low we have set the bar when we’re apparently expected to jump up and down in excitement because Rouhani acknowledged a fact of history.

    Perhaps Rouhani can next give a speech in which he acknowledges that the theory of evolution–which is at the core of biological science–has some merit. I’m not holding my breath, however: rejection of evolution and embrace of creationism is widespread in the Islamic world.

  14. “It seems to be a sign of just how low we have set the bar when we’re apparently expected to jump up and down in excitement because Rouhani acknowledged a fact of history.”

    At least it is one step forward on a long path. If only more Americans could acknowledge some facts of history other than Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” and who won the world series or the superbowl a few years ago. A great place to start might be the Nuremberg Trials after World War II that defined waging an unprovoked war against another nation was one of the greatest crimes. If more Americans had given thought to that we might not have had around 70 percent of the people support the disastrous war on Iraq. But, I presume, being exceptional means not have to say , “Sorry.”

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