Total Pageviews

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Iran’s President Said, Is Said to Have Said and Says He Said

Video of Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, discussing the Holocaust in an interview with Charlie Rose recorded on Wednesday in New York.

In an interview with Charlie Rose of CBS News broadcast on Thursday, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, rejected accusations that he had not clearly acknowledged the historical reality of the Holocaust in remarks to CNN earlier this week.

According to the simultaneous translation of Mr. Rouhani’s remarks from Persian into English, he replied:

In principle, we and I condemn the massacre carried out by the Nazis in World War II. I’ll also add that many groups were killed by the Nazis in the course of the war, Jews in specific, but there were also Christians, there were Muslims. So in principle, I’ll tell you that my government, I condemn massacre â€" the killing of people or any group. I’ll tell you that when an innocent person is killed, we never go about asking or inquiring whether they were Jewish or Christian or Muslim. That’s not our way or our creed. We simply say that we condemn any killing, any massacre, and therefore we condemn the massacre of the Jewish people by the Nazis, as we also condemn the other massacres that took place in the course of the war.

“Why would I want to deny it?” Mr. Rouhani asked rhetorically. “Given that we live in the Middle East,” he added, “we feel the impact of what took place in World War II today in our region.”

The president argued â€" as his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had in far more inflammatory language â€" that the Palestinian people had been forced to pay for the crimes of the Nazis when the state of Israel was established as a Jewish homeland in the Middle East after the German genocide in Europe. “We think that it’s time to really separate that event from what’s happening to a group of people now in the Middle East who’ve lost their homes, who have been discriminated against, who have gone through some of the worst kinds of torture that no one â€" even the Jewish people â€" would want to see.”

While Mr. Rouhani made broadly similar remarks in his response to a question about his predecessor’s Holocaust denial from CNN’s Christiane Amanpour a day earlier, a conservative Iranian news agency â€" known for its, at times, comically staunch support of Mr. Ahmadinejad â€" injected a note of uncertainty by pointing out that the simultaneous translation in that broadcast was inexact.

Video of President Hassan Rouhani of Iran answering a question on the Holocaust during an interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN recorded on Tuesday in New York.

The news agency, Fars, published a more literal translation of Mr. Rouhani’s response side by side with the CNN transcript and called this proof that the American network had “fabricated” the president’s acknowledgment of the Holocaust.

According to the Fars translation, which two Iranian-American journalists told The Lede is accurate, Mr. Rouhani did not actually use the word “Holocaust,” as CNN reported, but did invoke “genocide” in the following exchange with Ms. Amanpour:

Q. One of the things your predecessor used to do from this very platform was deny the Holocaust and pretend that it was a myth. I want to know you, your position on the Holocaust. Do you accept what it was? And what was it?

A. I have said before that I am not a historian and historians should specify, state and explain the aspects of historical events, but generally we fully condemn any kind of crime committed against humanity throughout the history, including the crime committed by the Nazis both against the Jews and non-Jews, the same way that if today any crime is committed against any nation or any religion or any people or any belief, we condemn that crime and genocide. Therefore, what the Nazis did is condemned, (but) the aspects that you talk about, clarification of these aspects is a duty of the historians and researchers, I am not a history scholar.

The editors at Fars, however, seemed unaware that the interpreter heard on the CNN broadcast rendering Mr. Rouhani’s Persian remarks into English on the fly, was not employed by the network but had been provided by the Iranian government.

In response to the accusation from Fars, which the Persian-speaking Ms. Amanpour dismissed as “ridiculous,” CNN posted raw footage of the entire interview online, and Mr. Rouhani’s office published a word-for-word transcript of what he said in Persian on a government Web site.

Arash Karami, a journalist who blogs about the Iranian media from Washington, reports that the transcript provided by the president’s office matches the video. He also explains that some parts of the translation released by CNN, of words Fars had claimed were never spoken, were in fact uttered just after the snippet from the interview that was initially broadcast.

Mr. Karami produced his own translation of the president’s complete answer to Ms. Amanpour’s question, which suggests that the interpreter mainly condensed rather than added to Mr. Rouhani’s remarks.

I have said before that I am not a historian and when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of historical events, historians should explain and discuss it.

But in general, I can say that any crime that is committed in history against humanity, such as the crimes committed by the Nazis, whether against Jews or non-Jews, from our viewpoint is completely condemned. Just as if today a crime is committed against any nation, religion, ethnicity or belief, we condemn that crime or genocide.

Therefore, what the Nazis did is condemnable. The dimensions of it which you say, is the responsibility of historians and researchers to make those dimensions clear. I am not a historian myself.

However, this point should be clear: If a crime took place, that crime should not be a cover for a nation or group to justify their crimes or oppression against others. Therefore, if the Nazis committed a crime, and however much it was, we condemn that, because genocide or mass murder is condemned.

From our viewpoint, it doesn’t matter if the person killed is Jewish, Christian or Muslim. From our viewpoint, [it] does not make difference. Killing an innocent human is rejected and condemned. But this cannot be a reason for 60 years to displace a people from their land and say that the Nazis committed crimes. That crime [too] is condemned; occupying the land of others is also condemned from our viewpoint.

The fallout from what Mr. Rouhani was reported to have said, however, was not limited to disputes about mistranslation. Even before the Fars report appeared, some supporters of Israel called the fact that Iran’s president had mentioned the suffering of the Palestinians in a reply about the Holocaust offensive. Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor who is the director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement:

It is about time an Iranian leader acknowledged the Holocaust as a tragic fact of history. But in practically the same breath President Rouhani engaged in the more subtle form of Holocaust revisionism, minimizing it by accusing the Jewish survivors of taking vengeance on the Palestinians in fulfilling their 2,000-year-old dream of returning to their homeland, Israel. This was a gratuitous swipe at the survivors.

For her part, Ms. Amanpour defended CNN’s reporting and expressed astonishment at the fact that The Wall Street Journal had published an editorial based on the incorrect assumption that the network had altered Mr. Rouhani’s words. As she noted on Twitter, that broadside concluded: “points for honesty go to the journalists at Fars, who for reasons that probably range from solidarity to self-preservation aren’t disposed to whitewash their President’s ideological predilections.”