President Obama may have extended an olive branch to Iran when he spoke to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the phone on Friday, but there are still significant differences between the United States and Iran. Not least among these is Iran’s history of Holocaust denial.
George Stephanopoulos broached this topic on Sunday’s This Week in a conversation with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif. “The website of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei” Stephanopolous said, “on his website right now, in English, he refers to ‘the myth of the massacre of the Jews known as the Holocaust. Do you endorse or reject the Ayatollah’s belief that the Holocaust is a myth?”:
ZARIF: I have spoken to the leader on this issue. he rejects and condemns the killing of innocent people–
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the Holocaust a myth?
ZARIF: The Holocaust is not a myth.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It said it right there.
ZAIRF: If it said it, it’s a bad translation, and it translated out of context. He was talking about the reaction to somebody talking about the historical incident, and requiring research about that historical incident and said, ‘what is it that people are so upset that somebody is simply asking that we should do some studies of that?’
STEPHANOPOULOS: The word “myth” upset people.
ZARIF: This is is the problem when you translate something from Persian to English, you may lose something — as the film goes, Lost In Translation — you may lose some of the meaning. It has been unfortunately the case several times over. The point is, we condemn the killing of innocent people. Whether it happened in Nazi Germany or whether it’s happening in Palestine.
Zarif also added that the “Holocaust was a heinous crime, it was a genocide, it must never be allowed to be repeated.” Stephanopoulos followed up by asking, “will the translation be changed?” to which Zarif replied, “I’ll talk to them.”
Earlier this week, Rouhani called the Holocaust “a massacre that cannot be denied,” though there are questions about that translation and, when asked if he knew how many were killed by the Nazis, he said, “let’s leave that to historians.” Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was blunt in his denial of the Holocaust, and deemed it, simply, a “fairy tale.”