August 26, 2008
During his presidency, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speeches and statements have contributed to increased tensions between Iran and Israel, and between Iran and a few Western nations.
On October 26, 2005, IRIB News, an English-language subsidiary of the state-controlled Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, filed a story on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent speech to the "World Without Zionism" conference in Asia. The story was entitled: Ahmadinejad: Israel must be wiped off the map. The story was picked up by Western news agencies and quickly made headlines around the world. On October 30, The New York Times published a full transcript of the speech in which Ahmadinejad was quoted in part as follows:
Our dear Imam (referring to Ayatollah Khomeini) said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement. We cannot compromise over the issue of Palestine. Is it possible to create a new front in the heart of an old front. This would be a defeat and whoever accepts the legitimacy of this regime has in fact, signed the defeat of the Islamic world. Our dear Imam targeted the heart of the world oppressor in his struggle, meaning the occupying regime. I have no doubt that the new wave that has started in Palestine, and we witness it in the Islamic world too, will eliminate this disgraceful stain from the Islamic world.
Ahmadinejad also claimed in the speech that the issue with Palestine would be over "the day that all refugees return to their homes [and] a democratic government elected by the people comes to power", and denounced attempts to normalise relations with Israel, condemning all Muslim leaders who accept the existence of Israel as "acknowledging a surrender and defeat of the Islamic world."
The speech also indicated that the Iranian President considered Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip to be a trick, designed to gain acknowledgement from Islamic states. In a rally held two days later, Ahmadinejad declared that his words reflected the views of the Iranian people, adding that Westerners are free to comment, but their reactions are invalid.
Many news sources have presented one of Ahmadinejad's phrases in Persian as a statement that "Israel must be wiped off the map", an English idiom which means to "cause a place to stop existing", or to "obliterate totally", or "destroy completely".
Ahmadinejad's phrase was " بايد از صفحه روزگار محو شود " according to the text published on the President's Office's website.
The translation presented by IRIB has been challenged by Mr. Arash Norouzi, who proposes that the statement "wiped off the map" was never made and that Ahmadinejad did not refer to the nation or land mass of Israel, but to the "regime occupying Jerusalem". He says that the Iranian government News Agency IRIB/IRNA translation is the source of the confusion:
One may wonder: where did this false interpretation originate? Who is responsible for the translation that has sparked such worldwide controversy? The answer is surprising. The inflammatory 'wiped off the map' quote was first disseminated not by Iran's enemies, but by Iran itself. The Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran's official propaganda arm, used this phrasing in the English version of some of their news releases covering the World Without Zionism conference. International media including the BBC, Al Jazeera, Time magazine and countless others picked up the IRNA quote and made headlines out of it without verifying its accuracy, and rarely referring to the source. Iran's Foreign Minister soon attempted to clarify the statement, but the quote had a life of its own. Though the IRNA wording was inaccurate and misleading, the media assumed it was true, and besides, it made great copy.
The phrase 'wiped away' can still be seen on Mr Ahmadinejad's Presidential website:
He further expressed his firm belief that the new wave of confrontations generated in Palestine and the growing turmoil in the Islamic world would in no time wipe Israel away.
According to Juan Cole, a University of Michigan Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History, Ahmadinejad's statement should be translated as:
The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e eshghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad).
Norouzi's translation is identical. According to Cole, "Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to 'wipe Israel off the map' because no such idiom exists in Persian". Instead, "He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse."
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translates the phrase similarly. On June 2, 2006 The Guardian columnist and foreign correspondent Jonathan Steele published an article based on this reasoning.
Sources within the Iranian government have also denied that Ahmadinejad issued any sort of threat. On 20 February 2006, Iran's foreign minister denied that Tehran wanted to see Israel "wiped off the map," saying Ahmadinejad had been misunderstood. "Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned," Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference, speaking in English, after addressing the European Parliament. "How is it possible to remove a country from the map? He is talking about the regime. We do not recognise legally this regime," he said.
In a June 11, 2006 analysis of the translation controversy, New York Times deputy foreign editor Ethan Bronner stated that Ahmadinejad had said that Israel was to be wiped off the map. After noting the objections of critics such as Cole and Steele, Bronner said: "But translators in Tehran who work for the president's office and the foreign ministry disagree with them. All official translations of Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement, including a description of it on his website, refer to wiping Israel away. Bronner stated: "..it is hard to argue that, from Israel's point of view, Mr. Ahmadinejad poses no threat. Still, it is true that he has never specifically threatened war against Israel. So did Iran's president call for Israel to be 'wiped off the map'? It certainly seems so. Did that amount to a call for war? That remains an open question." This elicited a further response from Jonathan Steele.
The same idiom in his speech on December 13, 2006 was translated as "wiped out" by Reuters:
Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out.
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, rather than being "wiped out" by another force. Shiraz Dossa, a professor of Political Science at St. Francis University in Nova Scotia, Canada who presented a paper at a conference in Iran, defended Ahmadinejad:
Ahmadinejad was quoting the Ayatollah Khomeini in the specific speech under discussion: what he said was that "the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time." No state action is envisaged in this lament; it denotes a spiritual wish, whereas the erroneous translation—"wipe Israel off the map"—suggests a military threat. There is a huge chasm between the correct and the incorrect translations. The notion that Iran can "wipe out" U.S.-backed, nuclear-armed Israel is ludicrous.
President Ahmadinejad has been asked to explain his comments at subsequent press conferences. At a later news conference on January 14, 2006, Ahmadinejad stated his speech had been exaggerated and misinterpreted. "There is no new policy, they created a lot of hue and cry over that. It is clear what we say: Let the Palestinians participate in free elections and they will say what they want."
Speaking at a D-8 summit meeting in July 2008, when asked to comment on whether he has called for the destruction of Israel he denied that his country would ever instigate military action, there being "no need for any measures by the Iranian people". Instead he claimed that "the Zionist regime" in Israel would eventually collapse on its own. "I assure you... there won't be any war in the future," both the BBC and AP quoted him as saying.
And asked if he objected to the government of Israel or Jewish people, he said that "creating an objection against the Zionists doesn't mean that there are objections against the Jewish". He added that Jews lived in Iran and were represented in the country's parliament.
The speech was interpreted by some as a call for genocide. For example, Canada's then Prime Minister Paul Martin said, "this threat to Israel's existence, this call for genocide coupled with Iran's obvious nuclear ambitions is a matter that the world cannot ignore."
In 2007, more than one hundred members of the United States House of Representatives co-sponsored a bill, "Calling on the United Nations Security Council to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the United Nations Charter because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel."
Cole interprets the speech as a call for the end of Jewish rule of Israel, but not necessarily for the removal of Jewish people:
His statements were morally outrageous and historically ignorant, but he did not actually call for mass murder (Ariel Sharon made the "occupation regime" in Gaza "vanish" last summer [sic]) or for the expulsion of the Israeli Jews to Europe.
However, the Iranian government IRIB News in English published a story reporting on the Ahmadinejad speech on 'Qods Day' on Oct 5 2007, stating that the president 'repeated an earlier suggestion to Europe on settlement of the Zionists in Europe or big lands such as Canada and Alaska so they would be able to own their own land.'
Gawdat Bahgat, Director of Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, commenting on this saying of Ahmadinejad and Iran's nuclear program states: "The fiery calls to destroy Israel are meant to mobilize domestic and regional constituencies. Iran has no plan to attack Israel with its nuclear arsenal and powerful conventional military capabilities. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni summed up his country’s stand on the Arab-Israeli conflict by stressing, '[The] Palestine issue is not Iran’s jihad.'" In fact, Bahgat says that according to most analysts a military confrontation between Iran and Israel is unlikely.
In the speech, Ahmadinejad gave the examples of Iran under the Shah, the Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq as examples of apparently invincible regimes that ceased to exist. Ahmadinejad used these examples to justify his belief that the United States and the State of Israel can also be defeated claiming, "they say it is not possible to have a world without the United States and Zionism. But you know that this is a possible goal and slogan."
In April 2006, Iran's ambassador was asked directly about Ahmadinejad's position towards Israel by CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: But should there be a state of Israel?
SOLTANIEH: I think I've already answered to you. If Israel is a synonym and will give the indication of Zionism mentality, no. But if you are going to conclude that we have said the people there have to be removed or they have to be massacred or so, this is fabricated, unfortunate selective approach to what the mentality and policy of Islamic Republic of Iran is. I have to correct, and I did so.
Iran's stated policy on Israel is to urge a one-state solution through a countrywide referendum. Juan Cole and others interpret Ahmadinejad's statements to be an endorsement of the one-state solution, in which a government would be elected that all Palestinians and all Israelis would jointly vote for; which would normally be an end to the "Zionist state".
In November 2005 Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, rejecting any attack on Israel, called for a referendum in Palestine:
We hold a fair and logical stance on the issue of Palestine. Several decades ago, Egyptian statesman Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was the most popular Arab personality, stated in his slogans that the Egyptians would throw the Jewish usurpers of Palestine into the sea. Some years later, Saddam Hussein, the most hated Arab figure, said that he would put half of the Palestinian land on fire. But we would not approve of either of these two remarks. We believe, according to our Islamic principles, that neither throwing the Jews into the sea nor putting the Palestinian land on fire is logical and reasonable. Our position is that the Palestinian people should regain their rights. Palestine belongs to Palestinians, and the fate of Palestine should also be determined by the Palestinian people. The issue of Palestine is a criterion for judging how truthful those claiming to support democracy and human rights are in their claims. The Islamic Republic of Iran has presented a fair and logical solution to this issue. We have suggested that all native Palestinians, whether they are Muslims, Christians or Jews, should be allowed to take part in a general referendum before the eyes of the world and decide on a Palestinian government. Any government that is the result of this referendum will be a legitimate government.
Ahmadinejad himself has also repeatedly called for such solution. Most recently in an interview with Time magazine:
TIME: You have been quoted as saying Israel should be wiped off the map. Was that merely rhetoric, or do you mean it?
Ahmadinejad: [...] Our suggestion is that the 5 million Palestinian refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government. This is a democratic and popular way.
The day immediately following Ahmadinejad's statements, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called for Iran to be expelled from the United Nations and Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. In that meeting, all fifteen members condemned Ahmadinejad's remarks.
On May 8 2006, Israel's Second Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres said in an interview with Reuters that "the president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map," Army Radio reported. In 1981, Israeli fighter jets bombed Osirak, Iraq’s nuclear reactor, severely damaging that country's nuclear weapons program. Today, however, experts state that a similar attack on Iran's nuclear facilities is unlikely, given that Iran's nuclear program is spread out across numerous locations, including some sites that are buried deep enough underground that they are thought to be safe from aerial strikes. Israel is within range of Iran's ballistic missiles[dubious ] but Israel is believed to possess the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East. Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, drew unusually stiff criticism from an analyst on Israel's state television, Yoav Limor, for talking of destroying another country. "There is a broad consensus that it would have been better if Peres had not said this, especially now," Limor said. "I'm quite sure Israel does not want to find itself in the same insane asylum as (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad."
Ahmadinejad's remark found support among Anti-Zionism Jewish groups. A spokesperson for one such organisation argued a distinction, saying Iran's leader had not called for the elimination of Jews but rather the illegal and illegitimate Zionist movement.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, stated: "Palestinians recognise the right of the state of Israel to exist and I reject his comments. What we need to be talking about is adding the state of Palestine to the map, and not wiping Israel from the map."
Khaled Meshaal, the Damascus-based political leader of ruling Hamas party, has supported Ahmadinejad's stance towards Israel calling Ahmadinejad's remarks "courageous". He has said that "Just as Islamic Iran defends the rights of the Palestinians, we defend the rights of Islamic Iran. We are part of a united front against the enemies of Islam."
The White House stated that Ahmadinejad's rhetoric showed that it was correct in trying to halt Iran's nuclear programme. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was dismayed by the comments, and reiterated Iran's obligations and Israel's right of existence under the UN Charter.
EU leaders issued a strong condemnation of the Iranian President's remarks, stating that "[c]alls for violence, and for the destruction of any state, are manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community." On November 17, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning Ahmadinejad's remarks and called on him to retract his bellicose comments in their entirety and to recognise the state of Israel and its right to live in peace and safety. Then Prime Minister of Canada Paul Martin also condemned the comments on several occasions.
On June 20, 2007 the United States House of Representatives passed Resolution 21, a resolution that pressures the United Nations Security Council to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on Genocide and the United Nations Charter because of his alleged call for Israel to be "wiped off the map". Congressman Dennis Kucinich attempted to include in the Congressional record independent translations of the speech from The New York Times and the Middle East Media Research Institute that translated the phrase as "the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time" saying "The resolution passed by the House today sets a dangerous precedent in foreign affairs. A mistranslation could become a cause of war. The United States House may unwittingly be setting the stage for a war with Iran". Members of the House objected and inclusion of the independent translations were blocked.
In July 2008 the United Kingdom Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, repeated the controversial remarks to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. "To those who believe that threatening statements fall upon indifferent ears we say in one voice - it is totally abhorrent for the president of Iran to call for Israel to be wiped from the map of the world." 
The Iranian Ambassador to the European Union, Ali Ahani, called the tough political reactions in Europe against Ahmadinejad "unrealistic and premature," complaining about the discriminatory treatment of the international community, which Iran feels has continued to ignore the threats of Israel and its "organized campaign to provoke others into attacking Iran's facilities and infrastructure". Referring to Israel's support of an American attack on Iran. Hassan Hanizadeh, an editorialist for the Tehran Times, claimed that the criticism of Ahmadinejad's statement by the United States and other Western countries is an attempt to divert attention from "the ever-increasing crimes the Zionists are committing against the innocent Palestinians."
Former president Khatami stated "those words have created hundreds of political and economic problems for us in the world." Khatami has also recently accused Ahmadinejad and his supporters of being an Iranian "Taliban" and giving the enemies of Iran "... the best excuse to attack Islam and Iran." Others in Iran have said that there is nothing new about his statements and that the West has overreacted in order to try to smear Iran's international image.
In 2005 Khamenei responded to President Ahmadinejad's alleged remark that Israel should be "wiped of the map" by saying that "the Islamic Republic has never threatened and will never threaten any country." Moreover Khamenei's main advisor in foreign policy, Ali Akbar Velayati, refused to take part in Holocaust conference. In contrast to Ahmadinejad's remarks, Velayati said that Holocaust was a genocide and a historical reality.
On December 8, 2005, Ahmadinejad gave an interview with Iran's Arabic channel 'Al-Alam' during a summit of Muslim nations in Islam's holy city of Mecca. The interview contained remarks that were widely condemned as Holocaust denial:
Some European countries insist on saying that during World War II, Hitler burned millions of Jews and put them in concentration camps... Any historian, commentator or scientist who doubts that is taken to prison or gets condemned. Although we don't accept this claim, if we suppose it is true, if the Europeans are honest they should give some of their provinces in Europe — like in Germany, Austria or other countries — to the Zionists and the Zionists can establish their state in Europe. You offer part of Europe and we will support it.
The remarks were condemned by Israeli, European and American politicians, Kofi Annan "was shocked," and Saudi, Turkish, and Iranian officials sharply criticized his speech because it "marred a Mecca summit dedicated to showing Islam's moderate face."
Shortly after these remarks were made, Iran's Interior Minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, claimed Ahmadinejad's remarks had been misunderstood:
Actually the case has been misunderstood. (Ahmadinejad) did not mean to raise this matter. [He] wanted to say that if others harmed the Jewish community and created problems for the Jewish community, they have to pay the price themselves. People like the Palestinian people or other nations should not pay the price (for it).
On Israel's 60th birthday, Ahmadinejad gave a speech, in which, according to the official IRNA news agency, he stated
Those who think they can revive the stinking corpse of the usurping and fake Israeli regime by throwing a birthday party are seriously mistaken. Today the reason for the Zionist regime's existence is questioned, and this regime is on its way to annihilation."
Ahmadinejad also stated that Israel "has reached the end like a dead rat after being slapped by the Lebanese", which is presumably a reference to the July-August 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
In a subsequent speech, Ahmadinejad stated "The Zionist regime is dying," and that "The criminals imagine that by holding celebrations (...) they can save the Zionist regime from death." Ahmadinejad also stated that "They should know that regional nations hate this fake and criminal regime and if the smallest and briefest chance is given to regional nations they will destroy (it)".
While speaking at a gathering of foreign guests marking this week's 19th anniversary of the death of Iran's late revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as stating that
"You should know that the criminal and terrorist Zionist regime which has 60 years of plundering, aggression and crimes in its file has reached the end of its work and will soon disappear off the geographical scene."
While visiting Rome, Italy for the United Nations summit on global food security, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, in June of 2008, Ahmadinejad stated, through a translator, that
"People like my comments, because people will save themselves from the imposition of the Zionists. European peoples have suffered the greatest damage from Zionists and today the costs of this false regime, be they political or economic costs, are on Europe's shoulders."
Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, complained to the United Nations and the Italian government about Ahmadinejad's presence at the conference, stating that "It is deplorable that a leader like him, who is failing both his own people and the international community, is allowed to hijack the agenda of this important FAO conference."
In a public address, which aired on the Iranian News Channel IRINN TV on June 2, 2008, Ahmadinejad stated:
The Zionist regime has lost its raison d'être. Today, the Palestinians identify with your name [Khomeini], your memory, and in your path. They are walking in your illuminated path and the Zionist regime has reached a total dead end. Thanks to God, your wish will soon be realized, and this germ of corruption will be wiped off.
In a speech given on 14 December 2005 in the city of Zahedan, and carried live on Iranian television, Ahmadinejad made the following comments:
Why have they come to the very heart of the Islamic world and are committing crimes against the dear Palestine using their bombs, rockets, missiles and sanctions. [...] The same European countries have imposed the illegally-established Zionist regime on the oppressed nation of Palestine. If you have committed the crimes so give a piece of your land somewhere in Europe or America and Canada or Alaska to them to set up their own state there. Then the Iranian nation will have no objections, will stage no rallies on the Qods Day and will support your decision.
They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets. The West has given more significance to the myth of the genocide of the Jews, even more significant than God, religion, and the prophets, (it) deals very severely with those who deny this myth but does not do anything to those who deny God, religion, and the prophet. If you have burned the Jews, why don't you give a piece of Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska to Israel? Our question is, if you have committed this huge crime, why should the innocent nation of Palestine pay for this crime?
The remarks were condemned immediately by the Israeli government. Mark Regev, spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry stated:
The combination of a regime with a radical agenda, together with a distorted sense of reality that is clearly indicated by the statements we heard today, put together with nuclear weapons — I think that's a dangerous combination that no one in the international community can accept.
What the Iranian president has shown us today is that he is clearly outside the international consensus, he is clearly outside international norms and international legitimacy, and in so doing he has shown the Iranian government for what it is — a rogue regime opposed to peace and stability and a threat to all its neighboring countries.
Many other foreign governments also issued condemnations, including those of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
In an interview on January 14, 2006, Ahmadinejad said "I've just asked two questions. But I have not received any clear answers." referring to his previous statements on Holocaust. He added "I will not make any historical argument. European scientists are in a position to answer these questions". Referring to Europeans, Ahmadinejad added "I want them to offer a clear answer to these questions... what ever they say I would agree".
According to Aftab News, Mohammad-Ali Ramin, a political analyst and an advisor to Ahmadinejad, was the one who initiated the idea of relocation of Israel and also the idea that holocaust is a myth. He himself accepted the full responsibility of this action, as Aftab News reported. In an interview with Financial Times, Mohammad-Ali Ramin stated that he has also initiated Holocaust commission in Iran and he is the founder of the Conference on Holocaust in Tehran. Ramin praised Ahmadinejad for having voiced his doubts over the Holocaust and the need for relocating the Jews to Europe if Europeans really did the massacre during the Second World War.
In February 2006, Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying: "Now, in the West, insulting the prophet is allowed, but questioning the Holocaust is considered a crime. We ask, why do you insult the prophet? The response is that it is a matter of freedom, while in fact, they are hostages of the Zionists." In the same month, Poland banned visas to Iranian researchers who were planning to visit Auschwitz.
In a press conference in Tehran on April 24, 2006 Ahmadinejad declared that "Israel can ultimately not continue its existence" and said:
Anti-Semitism in Europe has forced Jews to leave their countries of origin, but what they did instead was occupy a country which is not theirs but that of Palestinians
We are sorry for any human being killed in the two world wars. We respect Moses as we respect Jesus, but it is just unacceptable that the Palestinians should suffer from the aftermath
He stated his belief that the Middle East conflict could be settled only within a "just peace plan," but reaffirmed that this must be preceded by the return of all Palestinians to their homelands.
In a May 30 interview with Der Spiegel Ahmadinejad again questioned the Holocaust several times, insisting there were "two opinions" on this. When asked if the Holocaust was a myth, he responded "I will only accept something as truth if I am actually convinced of it", and further stated:
We are saying that if the Holocaust occurred, then Europe must draw the consequences and that it is not Palestine that should pay the price for it. If it did not occur, then the Jews have to go back to where they came from.
On August 15 2006 a contest for best Holocaust caricatures was officially opened in Tehran. This was Ahmadinejad's "retaliation" for the Danish Paper Muhammad caricatures. 204 Holocaust denial caricatures were presented.
In a September 2006 with NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams, Ahmadinejad further clarified his remarks, elaborating upon his position with three main points, the first of which the fact that not only Jews were killed:
In the second World War, over 60 million people lost their lives. They were all human beings. Why is it that only a select group of those who were killed have become so prominent and important? Do you think that the 60 million who lost their lives were all at the result of warfare alone? There were two million that were part of the military at the time, perhaps altogether, 50 million civilians with no roles in the war — Christians, Muslims. They were all killed.
Ahmadinejad then addressed the issue in terms of whether the Holocaust, as a historical event, could be "subject to revisions":
The second and more important question that I raised was, if this event happened, and if it is a historical event, then we should allow everyone to research it and study it. The more research and studies are done, the more we can become aware of the realities that happened. We still leave open to further studies absolute knowledge of science or math. Historical events are always subject to revisions, and reviews and studies. We're still revising our thoughts about what happened over thousands of years ago. Why is it that those who ask questions are persecuted? Why is every word so sensitivity or such prohibition on further studies on the subject? Where as we can openly question God, the prophet, concepts such as freedom and democracy?
Lastly, he repeated his comparison between the Holocaust and the Palestinians:
And the third question that I raised in this regard: if this happened, where did it happen? Did the Palestinian people have anything to do with it? Why should the Palestinians pay for it now? Five million displaced Palestinian people is what I'm talking about. Over 60 years of living under threat. Losing the lives of thousands of dear ones. And homes that are destroyed on a daily basis over people's heads. You might argue that the Jews have the right to have a government. We're not against that. But where? At a place where their people were — several people will vote for them, and where they can govern.
In March 4, 2006, Iran's parliament speaker, Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, said "the Western media empire is trying to portray Iran as an anti-Semitic country. However, our support for Palestinians should not be interpreted as anti-Semitism". He added "If our president questions Holocaust, It does not mean that Iran believes in anti-Semitism. In our history, there were no anti-Semitism and genocide". Iran parliament speaker said according to ISNA.
Regarding Ahmadinejad's position on the Holocaust, sole Jewish Majlis MP Maurice Motamed has expressed some concerns, noting that "Denial of such a great historical tragedy that is connected to the Jewish community can only be considered an insult to all the world's Jewish communities." He also criticised Iranian television for broadcasting anti-Semitic programmes.
Also, the head of Iran's Jewish community, Haroun Yashayaei, sent a letter to Ahmadinejad in early 2006 that read, in part, "How is it possible to ignore all of the undeniable evidence existing for the exile and massacre of the Jews in Europe during World War Two? Challenging one of the most obvious and saddening events of 20th-century humanity has created astonishment among the people of the world and spread fear and anxiety among the small Jewish community of Iran."
In February 2006, former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami made remarks affirming the Holocaust but decrying what he described as the connection between the Holocaust and present-day persecution in Palestine "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." "[Israel has] made a bad use of this historic fact with the persecution of the Palestinian people."
In 2007 Iranian state TV played Zero Degree Turn, the moxt expensive show it ever aired. It centers on a love story between an Iranian-Palestinian Muslim man and a French Jewish woman and shows how he and Iranian diplomats save her and other Jews from the Holocaust. It became wildly popular and is widely seen as a challenge to Ahmadinejad's views on the Holocaust. MP Motamed comments "It's captivating. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, on Monday nights I find a television set and watch the show. So does every Jewish person I know here."
In December 2005 Ahmadinejad made several controversial statements regarding the Holocaust and the State of Israel, at one point supposedly referring to the Holocaust as a "myth" and criticizing European laws against Holocaust denial. According to a report on Wednesday December 14, 2005 from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Ahmadinejad said, "They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets." He said that although he does not know whether or not nor to what extent the Holocaust occurred, if it had in fact occurred, European countries should make amends to the Jewish people by giving them land to establish a state in "Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska" instead of making "the innocent nation of Palestine pay for this crime." The statements were condemned by many world leaders.
The head of Iran's Jewish community, Haroun Yashayaei, sent a letter to Ahmadinejad in early 2006 that read, in part, "How is it possible to ignore all of the undeniable evidence existing for the exile and massacre of the Jews in Europe during World War Two? Challenging one of the most obvious and saddening events of 20th-century humanity has created astonishment among the people of the world and spread fear and anxiety among the small Jewish community of Iran."
In February 2006, Former President Mohammad Khatami clearly rejected Ahmadinejad's remarks by calling the Holocaust a "historic fact".
In a September 2006 with NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams, Ahmadinejad clarified his remarks, saying that when he called the Holocaust a myth he was merely trying to communicate that it was not just Jews that died, but millions of people and he wants to know why it is the Palestinian people that have to pay for the Nazis' slaughter of the Jewish people.
In the second World War, over 60 million people lost their lives. They were all human beings. Why is it that only a select group of those who were killed have become so prominent and important? Do you think that the 60 million who lost their lives were all at the result of warfare alone? There were two million that were part of the military at the time, perhaps altogether, 50 million civilians with no roles in the war — Christians, Muslims. They were all killed. The second and more important question that I raised was, if this event happened, and if it is a historical event, then we should allow everyone to research it and study it. The more research and studies are done, the more we can become aware of the realities that happened. We still leave open to further studies absolute knowledge of science or math. Historical events are always subject to revisions, and reviews and studies. We're still revising our thoughts about what happened over thousands of years ago. Why is it that those who ask questions are persecuted? Why is every word so sensitivity or such prohibition on further studies on the subject? Where as we can openly question God, the prophet, concepts such as freedom and democracy? And the third question that I raised in this regard: if this happened, where did it happen? Did the Palestinian people have anything to do with it? Why should the Palestinians pay for it now? Five million displaced Palestinian people is what I'm talking about. Over 60 years of living under threat. Losing the lives of thousands of dear ones. And homes that are destroyed on a daily basis over people's heads. You might argue that the Jews have the right to have a government. We're not against that. But where? At a place where their people were — several people will vote for them, and where they can govern.
On December 11, 2006 the "International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust" opened, to widespread condemnation. The conference, called for by and held at the behest of Ahmadinejad, was widely described as a "Holocaust denial conference" or a "meeting of Holocaust deniers", though Iran insists it is not a Holocaust denial conference.
Criticism of Ahmadinejad's comments denying the Holocaust and calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map" has come from the U.S. Senate, which passed a unanimous resolution condemning his "harmful, destructive, and anti-semitic statements." Identification of Ahmadinejad with anti-semitism has come from a variety of sources.
The Iranian government has responded that "the Western media empire is trying to portray Iran as an anti-semitic country" and alternate translations have been cited to contradict the accusations. Currently, 40,000 Jews live in Iran and have representation in the Iranian parliament in the form of a Jewish MP, Maurice Mohtamed. Their treatment is a matter of great debate, some stating that the Jews are treated better than other religious minorities in Iran.
In addition Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated that "Jews are respected by everyone, by all human beings ... some people think if they accuse me of being anti-Jew they can solve the problem. No, I am not anti-Jew ... I respect them very much ... We love everyone in the world — Jews, Christians, Muslims, non-Muslims, non-Jews, non-Christians".
Regarding Ahmadinejad's statements on Israel and the Holocaust, Shiraz Dossa, a tenured professor at St. Francis Xavier University, in Nova Scotia, Canada, wrote in June of 2007 that "Ahmadinejad has not denied the Holocaust or proposed Israel’s liquidation; he has never done so in any of his speeches on the subject (all delivered in Farsi/Persian). As an Iran specialist, I can attest that both accusations are false... What Ahmadinejad has questioned is the mythologizing, the sacralization, of the Holocaust and the “Zionist regime’s” continued killing of Palestinians and Muslims. He has even raised doubts about the scale of the Holocaust. His rhetoric has been excessive and provocative. And he does not really care what we in the West think about Iran or Muslims; he does not kowtow to western or Israeli diktat."
On January 4, 2006, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive haemorrhagic stroke and was widely reported to be dead or near death. The next day President Ahmadinejad spoke to Shi'a clerics in the city of Qom. Speaking of Sharon he said:
Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Shatila has joined his ancestors is final.
The United States quickly condemned Ahmadinejad's comment as "hateful and disgusting" and U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called Ahmadinejad's remarks "part of a continuing stream of hateful invective that has come from this president."
See also: 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict
On July 15 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad compared the actions of Israel in launching an offensive against Lebanon to that of Nazi Germany. "Hitler sought pretexts to attack other nations," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the ISNA students news agency at the inauguration of a Tehran road tunnel. "The Zionist regime is seeking baseless pretexts to invade Islamic countries and right now it is justifying its attacks with groundless excuses," he added.
On Aug 3rd, 2006, in a speech during an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders, Ahmadinejad called for "the elimination of the Zionist regime". While some media outlets immediately interpreted his words as another threat to "destroy Israel", such interpretations have again been challenged. In the speech, Ahmadinejad said, "although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented". He stated that the Middle East would be better off "without the existence of the Zionist regime". He called Israel an "illegitimate regime" with "no legal basis for its existence" and accused the United States of using Israel as a proxy to control the region and its oil resources; "The Zionist regime is used to reach this objective. The sole existence of this regime is for invasion and attack."
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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israel
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2006 International Qods Conference address
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