While the world awaits Hassan Rouhani’s coming-out address at the UN General Assembly on September 24, the media has been eating up every word he’s uttered. But it hasn’t necessarily emphasized all of it.
So far we’ve heard (ad nauseum) that Rouhani’s for talks and against wars. Aren’t we all. He also insists on uranium enrichment and opposes sanctions – understandable from his standpoint. But what does he think about the other dark components of regime ideology – like Holocaust denial?
A few days ago NBC’s Ann Curry grabbed the first western interview with him. In a questionable editorial decision, it’s headline dealt with peace and Israel – this is what he said about the Holocaust:
Unlike his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani struck a moderate tone on many issues, but he deflected a question from NBC News’ Ann Curry about whether he believed that the Holocaust was “a myth.”
“I’m not a historian. I’m a politician,” he replied. “What is important for us is that the countries of the region and the people grow closer to each other, and that they are able to prevent aggression and injustice.”
So change is a matter of selectivity?
It’s true that with Ahmadinejad there was no ambiguity as to the regime’s policy toward the Holocaust. But when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif used tweeter to indicate that his country did not deny the Holocaust – and also conveyed a Jewish new year greeting – the media, at least, became convinced matters had changed.
Never mind that Rouhani himself did not back up Zarif on the issue.
Never mind that Iran’s deputy culture minister for press, Mohammad Ali Ramin, was clear in saying that Zarif actually contradicted Ali Khamenei’s doubts that the Holocaust took place – indicating a split on the issue among Iran’s most powerful.
Such is life in the new/old Iran.
So, will Rouhani accept that six million Jews died in the Holocaust and were specifically targeted by the Nazis for genocide – or will he follow his country’s deniers? This is not an issue belonging to any particular religion or organization, but rather a genuine litmus test as to whether a change in norms is underway in Iran. (Even Tehran’s close pals Venezuela and Cuba consistently distanced themselves from Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial.)
The media (indeed, the world) is waiting for his answer – and we’re waiting to see how the media sugar-coats the event.