Iran: Khatami dissents from Holocaust revisionism

From AFP, March 1, via Middle East Times. A glimmer of hope, we suppose—but even Khatami equivocates on the numbers.

Iran’s former reformist president Mohammad Khatami has described the Holocaust as a “historical reality” – a stinging attack on his controversial and revisionist successor Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

“We should speak out if even a single Jew is killed. Don’t forget that one of the crimes of Hitler, Nazism and German national socialism was the massacre of innocent people, among them many Jews,” the cleric said in comments carried in the Iranian press on Wednesday.

The Holocaust, he asserted, should be recognized “even if this historical reality has been misused and there is enormous pressure on the Palestinian people”.

Ahmadinejad has caused international outrage by insisting that the Holocaust – the killing of an estimated 6 million Jews by the Nazis and their allies during World War II in death camps and elsewhere – was a myth used to justify the creation of Israel.

He has also said that the Jewish state “must be wiped off the map” or moved as far away as Alaska – comments that have provoked anger in the West and even condemnation from the UN Security Council.

Ahmadinejad’s violent rhetoric has also served to increase tensions over Iran’s atomic energy drive, seen in the West as a mask for weapons development.

Khatami served as Iran’s president from 1997 to 2005, and attempted to open up Iran to the West and initiate a “dialogue among civilizations” – in stark contrast to the ultraconservative agenda of Ahmadinejad.

The mild-mannered former president, who has shied away from the political limelight since leaving office, also asserted Muslims were not out to persecute Jews.

“The persecution of Jews, just like Nazism, is a Western phenomenon. In the east, we have always lived side by side with them. And we follow a religion that states that the death of an innocent person is the death of all of humanity,” Khatami said.

He also argued that it was of little importance “whether the number killed [during the Holocaust] was high or not” – but at the same time went on to accuse Israel’s leaders as being “victims of fascism and practicing fascist policies today”.

Ahmadinejad also came under attack from the prominent and centrist Shargh newspaper, which complained that “the Holocaust has, as wished for by the president, become a topic of our foreign policy”.

“The Jewish question was never a problem for Iran or Islam, and is a Christian-European problem,” the paper argued.

“Don’t we have enough with the nuclear question, human rights, free elections and political in-fighting, so do we need to add another problem to that?” it said, saying that Iran would be better off “thinking of the creation of a Palestinian state rather than the destruction of Israel”.

But an editorial in the ultra-hardline Kayhan newspaper, a firm supporter of Ahmadinejad, continued to champion Holocaust revisionism.

The president’s controversial remarks, the paper said, were “like a dagger in the side of the US and its allies”.

Iran’s top-selling daily, Hamshahri, is also running a contest for cartoons of the Holocaust in a tit-for-tat move over European newspaper publications of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that have angered Muslims worldwide.

And Iran’s foreign ministry is sticking by its plan to host a conference on the Holocaust – an idea that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has described as “shocking, ridiculous, stupid”.

Last month Iran’s Ambassador to Portugal Mohammed Taheri also questioned the Holocaust, telling Portuguese public radio that “to incinerate 6 million people, you’d need around 15 years”.

Iran has nevertheless offered to send a team of “independent investigators” to the former Nazi death camps.

See our last post on Iran.