More evidence the Guardian got it wrong on Rouhani’s “Holocaust” remarks

rouhaniOn Oct. 1 we posted about a classic Guardian whitewash in a report about a CNN interview with the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.  We noted that the Guardian’s characterization of Rouhani’s response to Christiane Amanpour’s question about the Holocaust was at best completely misleading, if not flat-out wrong.  

We argued that even if you were to believe the extremely suspect CNN translation of the Sept. 25 interview (the content of which was contradicted by other sources) the Guardian, in a report titled ‘Iranian president Hassan Rouhani recognises ‘reprehensible’ Holocaust‘ (and accompanying video), failed to provide their readers with important context.  This includes their failure to explain how Rouhani’s reply, which questioned the “scope” of Nazi crimes, was clearly consistent with Holocaust revisionism, and didn’t represent, as the paper reported, a clean break with the explicit Holocaust denials of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Additionally, more evidence has now emerged on the inaccuracy of the CNN translation, supporting claims made by the Wall St. Journal and Al Monitor that Rouhani never in fact used the term ‘Holocaust’.  First, here’s the Guardian quote in their Sept. 25 story, culled from the CNN translation, of Rouhani’s answer to Amanpour on the question of the Holocaust:

I’ve said before that I am not a historian, and when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust, it is the historians that should reflect,” 

However, the Wall St. Journal’s Persian commentator noted that Rouhani never uses the word “Holocaust”, but merely spoke euphemistically of “historical events.” Now, here’s a specific translation of the line in question from Arash Karami at Al Monitor’s Iran Pulse‘:

Rouhani: 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.

On Oct. 5, CAMERA noted the following:

We already know that Sohrab Ahmari, the Wall Street Journal, Arash Karami, Ali Alfoneh, two journalists who spoke with the New York Times blog The Lede, and Fars News Agency all concur that Rouhani did not use the word “Holocaust” in his interview with CNN and Christiane Amanpour. We already know, in other words, that CNN mistranslated him. And CNN also already knows.

Now, just to make matters more clear, Rouhani’s own translator has weighed in. “No, he did not use the word ‘Holocaust,'” Banafsheh Keynoush told NBC’s Robert Windrem.

Here’s the relevant video clip of the interview with Keynoush:

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The Guardian’s reliance on an evidently faulty translation is more than simply an innocent error, but is part of a larger pattern – which we’ve commented on previously – of engaging in selective reporting and omissions in order to advance the desired narrative of a new “moderate” Iranian president. 

Evidence which makes a mockery of this narrative abound, and include Rouhani’s involvement in several deadly Iranian sponsored terrorist attacks against Jewish and American targets abroad, as well as his role in crushing pro-democracy movements at home.

These latest faux Holocaust comments represents just one example of what will no doubt be a continuous drumbeat of pro-Rouhani propaganda by Guardian commentators and reporters.

Guardian engages in Rouhani Revisionism in report on “Holocaust” remarks

Suppose you were taking a college class on the history of the 20th century and during one lecture the topic of the Holocaust was introduced. Then, in the middle of a class discussion, one student explained to the lecturer that, in his view, though some crimes were committed against Jews (and other groups) by the Nazis, the scope of the killings is still unclear and needs further research by historians and scholars.  Suppose that this student further opined that such crimes committed by the Nazis (whatever the scope) shouldn’t be exploited by Jews today to justify sixty years of usurping the land of another group and committing murderous crimes against them.

What kind of reaction would you expect from the lecturer and the students upon hearing such views?  The chances seem high that the student would be condemned for lending credibility to Holocaust revisionism and evoking the Holocaust in the context of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians – remarks which would arguably fall within the EU Working Definition of Antisemitism.  As the Wall St. Journal noted recently, responding to reports of comments made by Iran’s new president in an interview with CNN that included questions about the Holocaust:

Pretending that the facts of the Holocaust are a matter of serious historical dispute is a classic rhetorical evasion. Holocaust deniers commonly acknowledge that Jews were killed by the Nazis while insisting that the number of Jewish victims was relatively small and that there was no systematic effort to wipe them out.

Whilst CNN’s translation of Hassan Rouhani’s much publicized remarks during his interview with Christiane Amanpour on Sept. 24 has been challenged by the Wall St. Journal and Al Monitor - both of which insisted that, contrary to the CNN translation which relied on an Iranian government interpreter, Rouhani never used the word “Holocaust” – opting instead for the more euphemistic term “historical events” –  here are the relevant remarks by Iran’s president based on CNN’s Sept. 25 transcript:

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.

But in general, I can tell you that any crime or – that happens in history against humanity, including the crime that the Nazis committed towards the Jews, as well as non-Jewish people, is reprehensible and condemnable, as far as we are concerned.

And just as even such crimes are – if they are to happen today against any creed or belief system or human being as such, we shall again condemn it.

So what the Nazis did is condemnable. The dimensions of whatever it is, the historians have to understand what it is. I am not a historian myself, but we – it must be clear here, is that when there is an atrocity, a crime that happens, it should not become a cover to work against the interests or – or justify the crimes against another nation or another group of people.

So if the Nazis, however criminal they were, we condemn them, whatever criminality they committed against the Jews, we condemn, because genocide, the taking of the human life, is condemnable and it makes no difference whether that life is a Jewish life, a Christian or a Muslim or what.

For us, it’s the same. It’s the taking of a human life and an innocent human life is (INAUDIBLE) in Islam. It’s actually something that we condemn and our religion also rejects.

But this does not mean that, on the other hand, you can say, well, the Nazis committed crimes against, you know, a certain group, now, therefore, they must usurp the land of another group and occupy it. This, too, is an act that should be condemned, in our view.

So there should be an even-handed discussion of this.

Here is the Sept. 25 Guardian report on Rouhani’s remarks:

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The Guardian celebration of Rouhani’s faux ‘acknowledgement’ relied entirely on quotes from the CNN transcript, and characteristically hasn’t been updated or revised to note to their readers the major dispute over the translation which came to light the day after their Sept. 25 story.  Interestingly, however, their story, written by , did include one observation by an Iranian-born Israeli named Meir Javedanfar which helps to explain how the remarks have been contextualized by media outlets friendly to the Iranian regime.

Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian politics lecturer at Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel, interpreted Rouhani’s remarks as the limit he could go within the political and cultural constraints placed upon him.

Rouhani pushed the envelope as far as it could go, Javedanfar said, without infuriating the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other conservatives back home.

And, that’s really the point:  Holocaust deniers and revisionists typically understand that their animosity towards Jews and Israel can be seen more as more credible, and less morally suspect, if the historical understanding of the Nazi Holocaust – which serves to evoke sympathy for Jews – can be undermined.  Frankly acknowledging the systematic, and historically exceptional, attempt to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Europe would necessarily draw unwanted focus on the extreme antisemitism permeating Iranian life which has inspired their leadership to call for the annihilation of the Jewish state, and would provide credibility to those insisting that a nuclear armed Iran represents an existential threat to six million Jews, and must therefore be resisted at all costs.

‘Counter-revolutionary’ rhetoric which serves to evoke sympathy for the Jewish state, no matter how obliquely, would indeed, as Javedanfar argued, “infuriate” the supreme leader, and so any pronouncements by Rouhani which touch upon the politically inconvenient topic of the Holocaust must invariably include questions about the “scope” of the Nazi crimes, and further be contextualized with the Jewish state’s ‘comparable’ “crimes” against the Palestinians. 

Rouhani’s political dilemma in allowing Iran to achieve its nuclear ambitions with minimum Western resistance is to steer a careful course which avoids offending Khamenei while simultaneously staying in the good graces of the sympathetic Western liberal media. 

The Guardian’s fawning coverage of the “moderate”, “dovish” Iranian president thus far indicates that he has passed the latter challenge with flying colors.

Genocide Abuse Day at the IHRC

Cross posted by Mark Gardner at the blog of the CST

With Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January) fast approaching, so does its annual bastardisation by our local pro-Iranian and pro-Hizbollah fans, the Islamic Human Rights Commission.

(See previous CST blog for IHRC’s role in London’s annual version of the Iranian-inspired anti-Israel hate festival, Quds Day, replete with Hizbollah assault rifle flags.)

Unlike the Iranian regime and its Press TV outlet, the Islamic Human Rights Commission is not so stupid or crass as to engage in outright denial that the Holocaust ever happened, but the group is still stuck between a rock and a hard place: how to acknowledge the reality of the Holocaust, without lending legitimacy to the most basic and blatant of arguments in favour of Zionism?

The far left have tackled this problem by keeping Jewish victimhood centre stage, whilst alleging that Zionists wanted the Holocaust and/or actually colluded with the Nazis to bring it about. They turn the moral tables on Zionism, by claiming that Zionists needed and desired and worked towards dead Jews in order to gain global sympathy for their enterprise.

The pro-Iranian IHRC, however, prefer the tactic of declaring a Genocide Memorial Day. This year it is subtitled  “Remembering Man’s Inhumanity to Man” and will be held on 20th January. The day’s title enables the IHRC to gently subsume the genocide of European Jewry under the sheer scale of man’s inhumanity to man. Challenge this as sophistry and you are forced into a somewhat nauseating comparative study in human suffering.

As a bonus ball, IHRC also get to define and blur the meanings of the word “genocide” and the phrase “man’s inhumanity to man”. So, they include Palestinian suffering and seamlessly move Palestinians and Israelis onto the same moral planes as Jews and Nazis.

In 2011, CST blog detailed that year’s IHRC Genocide Memorial Day calendar. For brevity, here are four of the entries:

January – Gaza: During the Israeli assault on Gaza during the 22 Day war (2008 – 09), 1,434 Palestinians were killed of which 288 were children and 181 were women. A further 5,303 Palestinians were injured in the assault, including 1,606 children and 828 women.

April – Auschwitz: Estimates of numbers of Roma and Sinti people killed by the Nazis in the second world war range from 200,000 to 500,000.

October – Treblinka: The Treblinka concentration camp was set up by the Nazis in Occupied Poland. Between July 1942 and October 1943, 800,000 people were killed there, the majority of whom were Jewish, and a substantial number of whom were Roma.

November – Palestine: The Nakba (The Catastrophe) refers to the events of 1948 when Israel was created. That year saw the mass deportation of a million Palestinians from their cities and villages, massacres of civilians, and the razing to the ground of hundreds of Palestinian villages.

Note how the Gaza and Palestine entries balance those of Treblinka and Auschwitz. Note how Treblinka mentions Jews and Roma, whilst Auschwitz mentions Roma and not Jews. Note how Treblinka seeks to play up the Roma element, despite the overwhelming majority of its victims having been Jewish. (I write this to show the IHRC’s underhand ghastliness, not to diminish the dreadful suffering of Roma and Sinti.) Note how there is no actual mention of the Holocaust, nor of gas chambers. The spin is both subtle and repugnant.

This year, to mark Genocide Memorial Week 2013, we have a cutesy little animation video on the IHRC website. (It can be viewed here, but does not need to be.)

The animation shows an adorable child holding a red balloon. The child’s ethnicity and religion gradually changes (including Jewish and Muslim). The child is simply drawn in a charming and naive style, walking along without a care in the world to the tune of a happy background jingle. At the foot of the animation runs a series of children’s names that begins with “Ann Frank (Germany)”. This is followed by “Renate Wolff (Germany)” and “Agnes Ringwald (Hungary)”, before listing one Kurd, two Guatemalans, two Japanese and two Australians, then ending with “Mu’tassim – Muhammad Ali Samour (Gaza)”.

The name “Ann Frank (Germany)” (sic) is, of course, very well-known. It immediately establishes for the viewer what the other names are all about. Unavoidably, your awareness is heightened that you do not actually recognise most, or perhaps any, of the other names scrolling along the screen. This causes you to pay greater attention to them. You cannot help asking yourself, ‘why don’t I know these other names and what tragedies have they suffered?’. (In actuality, not all of those listed were actually murdered in genocides and some of them are still alive. Again, this is to be forced into a comparative study of human suffering.)

The names change as the animated child also changes. As the words “Muhammad Ali Samour (Gaza)” appear, so the screen explodes blood-red and the music changes to gunfire. The words “Sabra & Shatilla” are now stamped on the blood-red background, with the figure 3,500. Next, there is “Srebrenica 8,000”, then “Nazi Holocaust 11,000,000”.

So this year, the IHRC did actually mention three Jewish child victims of the Holocaust by name and they did draw a sweet picture of a boy in a kippah. The Nazis’ six million Jewish victims are, however, conveniently subsumed within the larger figure of eleven million victims. Why commemorate the ethnocentric six million total, when you can commemorate the universalist eleven million total? (Whether this eleven million figure is even accurate is another, not unrelated, matter. See for example here.)

In all, 16 events and death tolls appear. Having begun with “Sabra & Shatilla 3,500″, the list ends with “Gaza 2009 over 1,000”. The opening and closing sections are the only ones that relate to Palestinians. It is their victimhood that literally brackets all of the other entries: this is subtle stuff, but it is highly effective and, as with the 2011 calendar, it moves Palestinian suffering centre stage and places it on an equal, or even higher plane, than that of Jewish suffering. The message is as subtle as it is unmistakable; and the IHRC’s motivations for Genocide Memorial Day are shown up for being not quite as universalist as they would have you believe.       

The Iranian regime (and indeed the far left) could learn a great deal from this sleight of hand. Will the IHRC advise them to follow suit?

Finally, it should be noted that when searching “Genocide Memorial Day” on Google,the top result is a Wikipedia entry saying that this is a national holiday in Armenia. Curiously neither this, nor any Armenian children, feature in the IHRC’s video.