Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

REPORTERS

Halal tourism on the rise

Read more

ENCORE!

Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday : The Best of the Bard

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

The Tour de France, a PR machine

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the third plane crash in one week - from France, Algeria and Burkina Faso

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the plane crash that took 116 lives - almost half of them French

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

ENCORE!

Bartabas : Mixing Christ with Spanish music and dancing horses

Read more

  • Live: ‘No survivors’ from Algerian plane crash, says Hollande

    Read more

  • French families grieve for Algerian plane crash victims

    Read more

  • Protest against Gaza offensive turns deadly in West Bank

    Read more

  • LA Times wipes France off the map in air crash infographic

    Read more

  • Tour de France fans bring the ambience to the Pyrenees

    Read more

  • Ukraine names acting PM after Yatseniuk's shock resignation

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Wreckage of Algeria plane found in Mali

    Read more

  • BNP to pay $80 million for defrauding Dept of Agriculture

    Read more

  • Pope meets Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

Asia-pacific

Could Iran change its position on Israel?

Text by HAARETZ

Latest update : 2013-05-02

As Iran’s presidential campaign heats up, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has come under fire from other candidates for his denial of the Holocaust, raising speculation that the country’s attitude towards Israel may be open to change.

Iran's 11th presidential election campaign is heating up, and Israel is becoming an inseparable part of the political debate. The prospective candidates, who will register in less than two weeks for the June 14 election, are busy not only with the "Little Satan" that threatens their country – they are also firing away at Ahmadinejad's campaign of Holocaust denial.

Last week Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf – a regular candidate in Iran's presidential elections – claimed that Iran and the revolution were being harmed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declarations about the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust "a myth" and claimed that Jews are exaggerating Nazi atrocities to extort sympathy for Israel.

“We were never against Judaism; it’s a religion. What we opposed was Zionism," Ghalibaf said in an interview with the Iranian Tasnim news agency. "We’ve been the major supporters of Palestine for 30 years, but with the wisdom of ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei, no one could accuse us of being anti-Semitic. Suddenly, however, without consideration for the results and implications, the issue of the Holocaust was raised. How did this benefit the revolution or the Palestinians?"

"It became an excuse for our biggest enemies, the Zionists, and affected the goals of the Palestinians," Ghalibaf continued. "Defending the goals of the Palestinians is part of the principles of our foreign policy. Denying the Holocaust is not part of our foreign policy.”

Prospective candidate Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel – the former chairman of the Majlis, the Iranian parliament – has also criticized Ahmadinejad's statements about the Holocaust as unnecessarily provocative.

"There was no need for these statements," he said. "I did not support denial of the Holocaust in the way Ahmadinejad did. We have not have benefited by the denial of the Holocaust."

The Holocaust, he added, is a matter for historians, "and I cannot rule on the matter."

Last month it was Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, who publicly attacked Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad's term was rife, he said, with needless tension over issues that are sensitive to Europeans, the American public and the United Nations.

"We paid for it without having gained anything,” Boroujerdi said. "Why must the Security Council admonish us? Why must all European countries condemn us? What need was there for that?"

"I think this was a mistake. … The policy both at the time of Imam Khomeini and the Supreme Leader has been to maintain good relations with all countries," Boroujerdi said. But he added, "The United States is an exception to the rule because we do not have relations with them and they are hostile toward us. Of course the Zionist regime is another story since we even do not recognize it as a country."

These Iranian debate over Holocaust denial comes at a time when the presidential candidates are being careful not to offend Khamenei, whose endorsement they will be seeking. This indicates that Khamenei may actually be allowing the attacks on Ahmadinejad to continue, and that he is open to changing the public discourse in Iran regarding the Holocaust.

This may be more significant than just a matter of Holocaust denial becoming politically incorrect in Iranian politics. The attitude toward Israel may also change. Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjan - who still has not announced whether he will be running in the coming elections - has said that Iran is "not at war with Israel." But while Iran would not initiate a war with Israel, he said, "If Arab nations wage a war, then we would help."

Date created : 2013-05-02

  • HAARETZ EDITORIAL

    What Iran has learned from the Korean crisis

    Read more

COMMENT(S)