An attempt by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to accuse Israel of conspiring against Iran spun out of control this week after hardliners summoned him to the Iranian parliament to grill him on his criticism of Holocaust denial.
In an open session of the Iranian parliament, Zarif had said claims the Iranian regime denied the Holocaust were merely a Zionist propaganda tool meant to demonize Iran. In fact, he said, Tehran does not deny the Holocaust at all (though Khamenei might disagree, says Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen).
But it wasn’t that big a story, really; Zarif had said in the past that he condemned the “horrifying” massacre of Jews by the Nazis.
What was really newsworthy about the foreign minister’s declaration was the Iranian parliament’s reaction to it: in a fit of outrage, lawmakers summoned him for a censure vote over the remarks. In a hearing broadcast on national radio, he was questioned by 75 hardline parliamentarians on “the lie of the Holocaust” and his position on “illegitimate” Israel.
Zarif responded by lambasting the Israeli leadership, and the house, “satisfied,” eventually voted against censuring him for “endorsing the Holocaust.”
In Islamist news outlets, such as Al-Manar, it was Zarif’s statements against Netanyahu that were vocally reported. Western outlets, such as Reuters and AP, placed more emphasis on the hearing and its aftermath. The pan-Arab Al-Sharq Al-Awsat also highlighted the questioning, describing it as an attempt to pressure Rouhani’s government ahead of more nuclear talks with the West, but calling Zarif’s remarks against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial “controversial.”
Unlike four other members of President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet, who were given warnings by the country’s parliament this year, Zarif’s been spared – for now. What’s for certain is that in 2014, as in the Ahmadinejad years, “Holocaust endorsement” in Iran is still not politically correct.