On July 10, 2013, the Iranian reformist daily Shargh published an article by Jewish Central Committee of Tehran head Haroun Yeshaya, focusing mainly on criticism of the most recent instance of Holocaust denial by Iran's outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad had made the statements in his July 7, 2013 farewell speech in Tehran, in which he set out in detail the achievements of his government and policy.
In that speech, Ahmadinejad said: "I raised the topic of the Holocaust from a humane stance, and I said: Let's assume that it happened; why should the Palestinians be punished because of it?'... "[My] raising of the topic of the Holocaust shattered the spinal column of the capitalist order, because this [topic] is the only element that remains sacred to this order... The only focus that they [i.e. the capitalist order] were all fanatical about, and that no one could touch, was the topic of the Holocaust. But I spoke of it as a member of the Basij [i.e. as a fighter], unrestrainedly."
In his criticism of this Holocaust denial statement by Ahmadinejad, Yeshaya does not refer to the numerous other such statements by Ahmadinejad, or by other regime officials, but treats this single instance as a one-off occurrence and as reflecting only Ahmadinejad's personal view. By doing so, he exonerates the Iranian regime of maintaining a policy of exporting antisemitism globally.
It is our assessment that the regime approved this atypical article for publication in the Iranian media at this time – that is, at the close of the Ahmadinejad era and by a member of the Jewish community – due to the regime's wish to distance itself from Ahmadinejad after his term is over, and its desire to seem moderate and to appear unconnected to the its own dissemination of antisemitism. This, in turn, is against the backdrop of president-elect Hassan Rohani's more moderate approach to the international community, and his intention to reap benefits from it.
Following are excerpts from the article by Jewish Central Committee of Tehran head Haroun Yeshaya:
"Mr. Ahmadinejad... is ending his eight-year presidency, and I hope that he continues to serve the Iranian nation and state in the future [as well]. However, the fact is that in his last days in office, the president denied the Holocaust, called it a myth, insisted on it... and said, '[My] raising of the topic of the Holocaust shattered the spinal column of the capitalist order' – and I perceive his statements as [a manifestation] of] his view of political and self-aggrandizement.
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"[Even] before Ahmadinejad, many others worldwide, including [French Holocaust denier] Roger Garaudy, wrote and spoke at length about the Holocaust, how it was exaggerated, and how it has been exploited by political Zionist streams.
"[But] as many have said, the Holocaust is not a script penned by Zionist gangs or by the Jewish lobby in Europe and America. It was an organized move by Hitler's fascists, carried out by Nazi death troops, aimed at slaughtering the Jews – and, in the words of the Nazis themselves, at purging Europe of the Jews' existence.
"Some [of the Jews killed] had abandoned their Judaism several generations prior [to the Holocaust], converting to Christianity, marrying according to the Christian religion, and attending church. But Hitler's emissaries arrested them and sent them to death camps for [belonging to the] Jewish race.
"Jews' homes in Berlin and Munich were looted simply because their owners were Jews, and their residents were sent to forced labor camps... The SS 'brownshirts' torched the Jews' Great Synagogue on Kristallnacht, because it was a meeting place for the Jews. [The SS men] danced on its rubble, and photos of them doing so were published by all the Third Reich publications at that time.
"Why must we Iranians, with our glorious cultural past, pour pure water on the desiccated corpse of fascism and its racist thought? Wasn't it the Iranian culture that has never accepted and will never accept racist, nationalist, or religious fanaticism – while Europe is still attempting, unsuccessfully, to cleanse its brow of the filthy wound of racism...
"Why should we depict this obvious crime [i.e. the Holocaust] as unimportant or unreal?..."