Sunday, July 21st | 15 Tammuz 5784

April 14, 2023 11:26 am

Under Khamenei, Iran Remains Committed to Holocaust Denial

× [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

avatar by Meir Javedanfar


Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting via video conference with people from East Azarbaijan in Tehran, Iran, February 17, 2022. Photo: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

On April 18, the world will commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Individuals and leaders around the world will recall the monstrous crimes carried out by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime against the Jewish people and others across Europe, and reflect on the lives of the six million Jews who were lost. Many will commit themselves and their countries to the ideal of “Never Again.”

But don’t expect such commitments or statements to come from the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose regime and supporters in the academia and media continue to deny and distort the Holocaust. Last year, when the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against the denial and distortion of the Holocaust, Iran was the only country that condemned and rejected the resolution. Furthermore, as recently as last September, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi cast doubt on the Holocaust during an interview on “60 Minutes.”

Chief among Iran’s Holocaust deniers is the country’s most powerful man, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has publicly denied the Holocaust on numerous occasions. For example, in a speech on January 31, 2002, Khamenei described the Holocaust as a “myth,” and accused Israel of using the Holocaust to extract “endless” financial concessions from Europe.

Earlier this year, former Iranian diplomat Mohsen Pakaein echoed Khamenei in the Iran-based Khabar Online, and described the Holocaust as a “doubtful” event. Regime officials like Pakaein, and Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Mohammad Khatami, have also been vocal against the ban on Holocaust denial in Europe. Pakaein, for example, claims that the laws preventing investigations into the Holocaust had caused many European Christians to hate Zionists and made antisemitism an “inseparable part of Europe’s Christian culture.”

Media outlets affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps routinely amplify the Supreme Leader’s Holocaust denial narrative. This includes Mashreq News, an outlet reportedly close to the security and intelligence organizations, which published an article on March 28, 2014, referring to the Holocaust as an “Afsaneh Durughin,” meaning a “false myth.”

Mashreq News’s attempt to whitewash medical facilities in Nazi death camps, which were used to carry out horrific medical experiments on the camp’s Jewish inhabitants by the likes of SS physician Josef Mengele, is a particularly shameful spin. To make matters even worse, the piece places doubt on the existence of Nazi gas chambers, by stating that if the Nazis killed so many Jews and burned their bodies, the gas chambers should have produced vast quantities of smoke, which it claims is not present in any of the photos taken at these camps.

Iranian academic journals, including the peer-reviewed Politics Quarterly Journal, have likewise engaged in Holocaust denial. The journal, which is published by Tehran University’s Faculty of Law and Political Science, in 2022 printed an article by Ahmad Dust Mouhammadi, an associate professor of regional studies, titled, “A New Look at the Story of the Holocaust,” that is laced with vile antisemitic accusations.

Among other things, Mouhammadi accuses the Jewish people of seeing themselves as superior to others, and claims that throughout history, wherever the Jews lived, they were not satisfied with having a just and equal life, in contrast to the other non-Jewish inhabitants. Mouhammadi further argues that Jews have been “hated and despised” throughout history for their attempts to dominate others. Using a ploy many other antisemites also employ, the academic then tries to protect himself against accusations of antisemitism by stating in a footnote that he is only referring to Zionist Jews. Given that Mouhammadi’s accusations against Jews and Judaism date well before the establishment of Zionism or the state of Israel, his attempts to portray himself as targeting only Zionist Jews is futile.

More importantly, Hitler did not orchestrate the Holocaust because of an opposition to Zionism, but because he despised Jews and Judaism.

Mouhammadi, like Supreme Leader Khamenei, also accuses Jews of portraying themselves as victims in order to extract concessions from other nations. To back his various claims, he cites a host of well-known antisemitic Holocaust deniers such as David Irving, David Duke, and Roger Garaudy.

The Khamenei regime’s campaign against the Holocaust does not have many supporters among the people of Iran. Numerous visitors to Iran, and Iranian Jews who travel to the European Union or the United States, attest that they do not encounter such claims of Holocaust denial from the people of Iran. In the ADL’s Global 100 surveys in 2014 and 2015, the percentage of Iranians who agreed with the statement, “The Holocaust is a myth and did not happen,” was in single digits, the lowest amount among the countries surveyed in the Middle East and North Africa.

Despite the lack of support for Holocaust denial among the Iranian people, the regime is likely to insist on its Holocaust denial, especially because of the leadership’s subscription to antisemitic beliefs and conspiracies. While such antisemitic obsessions continue to distort the Islamic Republic’s policies and attitudes toward with the West and Israel, the global community must not only continue with its condemnation of the regime’s Holocaust denial, but also invest in efforts to provide Persian-language Holocaust education, a topic that remains absent in Iran’s schools to this day.

Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-Israeli lecturer, author, and commentator. He has been teaching Iranian politics at Reichman University in Israel since 2012 and is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)’s Iran consultant. Twitter: @MeirJa

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.