Holocaust Denial in Translation What Iran’s President Really Told CNN About Nazis and the Jews. WSJ


Reasonableness at last. That was the general reaction Wednesday to the news that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appeared to acknowledge and condemn the Holocaust during an interview this week with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Previous President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had rarely missed an opportunity to call the Nazi genocide of six million Jews a “myth.” But Mr. Rouhani has adopted a more tempered tone, and the world longs to see him as someone with whom “we can do business together,” as Margaret Thatcher once said about Mikhail Gorbachev.

One problem: The words attributed to Mr. Rouhani are not what he said.

According to CNN’s translation of Mr. Rouhani’s remarks, the Iranian President insisted that “whatever criminality they [the Nazis] committed against the Jews, we condemn.” Yet as Iran’s semi-official news agency Fars pointed out, Mr. Rouhani never uttered anything approximating those words. Nor, contrary to the CNN version, did he utter the word “Holocaust.” Instead, he spoke about “historical events.” Our independent translation of Mr. Rouhani’s comments 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.”

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.

We’ll leave it to CNN to account for its translation, and why it made Mr. Rouhani seem so much more conciliatory than he was. Meantime, 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.

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