The West, Rouhani, and Iran’s anti-Semitism

If Iran won't admit to its own deep-seated, virulent anti-Semitism, it can't be trusted to tell the truth about anything

The western media is all abuzz about what the New York Times (at least in its print edition lead headline), described on Thursday as a “tangle” over the Holocaust. The tangle-ee is Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, fresh from a media dog-and-pony show and snub of President Obama.

Did he or did he not say there was a Holocaust? And why do we care?

The general sentiment seems to be that if Rouhani acknowledges what happened to the Jews of Europe during World War II, it represents a kind of baby step towards…. well, what exactly? I’m not sure. Surely not a more conciliatory policy toward the West, and definitely not toward what the Iranian regime calls the “Zionist entity.”

The Times today said “The dispute over his comments reflects the extreme delicacy of the Holocaust as an issue in Iranian-American relations.” Uh, no, that’s not what it reflects. It reflects that Iran is unwilling to come clean about the character of the regime. It’s not Rouhani vs. the “hardliners.” It’s Iran vs. the truth.

What western commentators seem to be overlooking is that the Iranian regime, no matter what it says for public consumption, is a practitioner of the crudest forms of anti-Semitism. Holocaust denial is an essential part of the mix, as yeast is to bread.

As the Washington Post’s Pulitzer prize winning columnist Colbert I. King pointed out last year, Iran hosts “the most virulent form of state-sponsored anti-Semitism since Nazi Germany.” He gave a few examples, which I won’t bother repeating here. If you want to learn more about the regime’s Jew-baiting, just Google “anti-Semitism” and “Iran” and be prepared to spend a few hours reading the creepiest kind of filth.

Sure, you’ll never hear the regime admit to this – in the English language. An Iranian parliamentarian had the audacity to tell in 2010 that “there is no anti-Semitic sentiment in Iran.” In other words, Iranian officials are as willing to lie about their own Jew-hatred as they are about the Nazis’.

The world community has no reason to doubt that Rouhani’s “charm offensive” and his Holocaust obfuscations are little more than an effort to paint lipstick on a pig. The West needs to accept that the Iranian regime is anti-Semitic, and use its statements on the subject, especially in Persian, as a litmus test of the depths of its extremism as well as its sincerity.

We need to recognize that because the Rouhani Holocaust “tangle” is yet another indication of the Iranian regime’s utter lack of trustworthiness as it seeks to convince the West to lift sanctions over its nuclear program.

If Iran won’t admit to its own anti-Semitism, a philosophy embedded in the soul of the regime, how can it be trusted to tell the truth about anything? Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was a bigot, but at least he didn’t insult the world’s intelligence by claiming that he was anything other than a bigot.


Gary Weiss’s most recent book is Ayn Rand Nation, published by St. Martin’s Press. Follow him on Twitter @gary_weiss

About the Author
Gary Weiss, is a veteran journalist and author. He is a longtime investigative reporter who was a senior writer for BusinessWeek magazine and a contributing editor at Condé Nast Portfolio. At BusinessWeek, his articles on Wall Street, focusing on stock fraud and organized crime in the markets, won widespread acclaim and numerous awards, as well as a rare commendation from the director of the FBI, Louis Freeh. He was a regular weekly columnist for Salon and, and has taught at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in Parade, The Daily Beast, The New York Times and many other publications. His latest book is Ayn Rand Nation (St. Martin's Press, 2012). His previous books were Born to Steal (Grand Central, 2003) and Wall Street Versus America (Portfolio, 2006).