The U.S. State Department says it believes Iran’s people will reject their Islamist rulers’ use of anti-Israel rhetoric deemed anti-Semitic by U.S. and U.N. officials for echoing a Nazi call for the destruction of Jews.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office provoked outrage from Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, from Israel’s key ally, the U.S., and from the United Nations this week for publishing an illustration on his website portraying a supposed Iranian-backed Palestinian takeover of Jerusalem, which Israel claims as its capital with U.S. backing. Palestinians claim eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The illustration published Tuesday and apparently later deleted from Khamenei's website was accompanied by English text that said, “Palestine Will Be Free. The final solution: Resistance until referendum.”
Nazi Germany used the term “final solution” as a euphemism for its plan to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust.
A day after the illustration emerged, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Khamenei that acting on such rhetoric would imperil Islamist rule over Iran.
“Khamenei's threats to carry out "The Final Solution" against Israel bring to mind the Nazi "Final Solution" plan to annihilate the Jewish People. He should know that any regime that threatens the destruction of the State of Israel faces a similar danger.”
Khamenei also has used his English Twitter account since Monday to post daily streams of verbal assaults on Israel as part of his lead up to Friday’s Quds Day, Iran’s annual government-sponsored expression of hostility toward Israel and support for the Palestinians. Quds Day, which Iran marks on the last Friday of Ramadan, usually sees the government stage nationwide rallies, but such gatherings were scrapped this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Iranian supreme leader long has called for Israel’s destruction, but his decision to escalate the rhetoric with Nazi-like language this week drew a strong rebuke from U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.
In an exclusive Thursday interview with VOA Persian, Ortagus said Iran has chosen to focus on promoting “racist, anti-Semitic language” at a time when its people are furious with government mismanagement of the nation’s coronavirus outbreak, the largest and deadliest in the Middle East.
“The ayatollah in his twilight years is trying to get the people on his side through hateful and racist language. We don't think that the Iranian people are going to buy this,” Ortagus said. “We know that the Iranian people are sophisticated, have a long and diverse culture and history and are a very proud people. We think that they are going to see past what the ayatollah is trying to do. And I hope [racism and hatred] is something that the Iranian people will never stand for.”
Khamenei tried to deflect accusations of anti-Semitism for his illustration by posting a tweet Wednesday asserting that he was not seeking to eliminate Jews but rather to eliminate Israel, founded in 1948 in the Jewish people’s ancestral homeland. He long has called for Israel’s fate to be decided in a “referendum” in which the only voters would be Palestinian Muslims, Christians and the relatively few Jewish Israelis with pre-1948 roots in the land.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defended Khamenei’s illustration in a Thursday tweet, reposting the image and accusing the West of hypocrisy for espousing democracy while not endorsing Khamenei’s “referendum” solution to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced Zarif’s comments in a Friday tweet.
“Incredible that @JZarif and Iran’s Supreme Leader are echoing Hitler’s call for genocide. This depravity should dispel any notion the regime belongs in the community of nations. We stand with Germany and Israel against this oldest & most vile form of hatred, and say #NeverAgain”
Later Friday, U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov issued his own condemnation of the anti-Israel rhetoric used by Khamenei and Zarif.
“Dangerous calls for the destruction of #Israel should be condemned by all. Such rhetoric is a modern form of #antisemitism. The #UN will continue to stand against all forms of #racism, #hatred, and strive for #peace and stability in the #MiddleEast.”
This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service.