I hate to rain on everybody’s good time, but Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani is getting a lot more credit than he deserves for supposedly condemning the Holocaust.
First of all, Middle Eastern politics are in awfully bad shape if uttering something so basic and obvious will earn a man plaudits all over the world.
Second, he may not have said what everyone thinks he said.
Here is the full text of Christian Amanpour’s interview with Rouhani at CNN.
Here is some criticism from Fars News agency, an official propaganda organ of the Iranian government, which insists CNN got the translation wrong and that Rouhani didn’t actually say what Western media are reporting.
And here’s a third piece in the Wall Street Journal:
Our independent translation of Mr. Rouhani’s comments,» the Journal writes, «confirms that Fars, not CNN, got the Farsi right.
So what did Mr. Rouhani really say? After offering a vague indictment of «the crime committed by the Nazis both against the Jews and the non-Jews,» he insisted that «I am not a history scholar,» and that «the aspects that you talk about, clarification of these aspects is a duty of the historians and researchers.»
I don’t speak or write Farsi, so I’m not going to weigh in on which translation is best.
For a second, though, let’s assume, for the sake of discussion, that CNN’s more benign translation of Rouhani’s remarks is the most accurate, that Fars is trying to take back what the president said.
Even according to CNN, Rouhani said this: «I have said before that I am not a historian personally and that when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust as such, it is the historians that should reflect on it.»
Holocaust revisionists have been peddling this line for years. They acknowledge that a few Jews were killed by the Nazis while arguing that the «dimensions» of 6 million dead is an exagerration or lie.
I’m not a historian either, but I’ve known about the Holocaust since 7th grade. Denying it happened is a crime in Germany, the country actually responsible for the Holocaust. Suggesting that maybe it happened and maybe it didn’t, that maybe it was big but perhaps it was small, may not be denial, per se, but it smells like denial and, either way, shouldn’t earn anyone any points, not even when grading on a curve for the Middle East.
But Washington will continue pretending Rouhani is Mr. Reasonable anyway like it used to do with Bashar al-Assad. The truth doesn’t matter.