Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has given a lot of interviews in which the question: "Are you an anti-Semite" has been posed in many forms. The idea that Ahmadinejad and by extension Iran is anti-Semitic is extremely important for the effort to demonize Iran and increase hostility, with possibly fatal consequences for Americans and Iranians, between the United States and Iran. The edifice of the demonization of Iran is held together by the glue of the accusation that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iranians are anti-Semitic. This glue is actually quite flimsy when examined directly.
Following are many interviews in which the subject of anti-Semitism directly or indirectly came up. It is tedious reading but I think it is important that it be in one place even if readers just skim and skip through it. I'm struck by the consistency with which answers the questions. His opinions by now are actually completely clear, though there are parties with motives to deliberately distort his views.
I'd love to see Ahmadinejad directly refute the charge that he hates Jews even when the question is raised indirectly just as he does when it is raised directly. Every time he refutes that charge he makes the effort to portray himself, his country and opposition to Zionism as anti-Semitic more difficult. To the degree words matter, these are the words most valuable in preventing escalating US/Iranian hostilities.
Reading these 14 interviews, and you can likely find another dozen or so interviews that I missed with a more thorough search, you can verify these basic positions:
Israel: A referendum should be held in which the wishes of the Palestinians are respected. If that leads to Israel going the way of the Soviet Union or Apartheid South Africa, then Israel will be "removed from the map" in a fair and just manner.
Jews: Judaism is distinct from Zionism. He opposes Zionism and holds no ill feelings of any kind against any people who are Jewish either in Iran, in Israel or anywhere in the world.
The Holocaust: 1) People should not be put in jail for expressing dissenting views on the Holocaust any more than they are put in jail for expressing dissenting views on physics or denying God. 2) The Holocaust happened in Europe so Palestinians should not pay for the crime.
We'll start with NBC Nightly News in September 2006.
Williams: There is something you said that upset and scared a lot of people. It upset a lot of Jews in the United States and around the world when you called the Holocaust a myth. There are people, some people I know who escaped Hitler's reign. There is research. There are scholars who can teach you about it. And yet, you've expressed doubt about the Holocaust. Why?Then Britain's Channel 4 News from September 2007.
Ahmadinejad: I've answered three of your questions on this. You know that I belong to the university. I'm an academician by nature. I'm interested in having a scientific approach to all events. But we've chosen three questions. The first question was: In the first World War, over 60 — In the second World War, over 60 million people lost their lives. They were all human beings. Why is it that only a select group of those who were killed have become so prominent and important?
Williams: Because of the difference humankind draws between warfare and genocide.
Ahmadinejad: Do you think that the 60 million who lost their lives were all at the result of warfare alone? There were two million that were part of the military at the time, perhaps altogether, 50 million civilians with no roles in the war — Christians, Muslims. They were all killed. The second and more important question that I raised was, if this event happened, and if it is a historical event, then we should allow everyone to research it and study it. The more research and studies are done, the more we can become aware of the realities that happened. We still leave open to further studies absolute knowledge of science or math. Historical events are always subject to revisions, and reviews and studies. We're still revising our thoughts about what happened over thousands of years ago. Why is it that those who ask questions are persecuted? Why is every word so sensitivity or such prohibition on further studies on the subject? Where as we can openly question God, the prophet, concepts such as freedom and democracy? And the third question that I raised in this regard: if this happened, where did it happen? Did the Palestinian people have anything to do with it? Why should the Palestinians pay for it now? Five million displaced Palestinian people is what I'm talking about. Over 60 years of living under threat. Losing the lives of thousands of dear ones. And homes that are destroyed on a daily basis over people's heads. You might argue that the Jews have the right to have a government. We're not against that. But where? At a place where their people were — several people will vote for them, and where they can govern.
Williams: Yes, but…
Ahmadinejad: Not at the cost of displacing a whole nation. And occupying the whole territory.
Williams: Is that a change in your position that Israel should be wiped away? And second, would you ever be willing to sit down with Jews, with scholars, with survivors of Hitler's camps where six million died? Our American film director Stephen Spielberg is one of many collecting the stories of those still alive, who will tell you of the dead, and the program to kill the Jews in Germany and elsewhere.
Ahmadinejad: I feel as there is a feeling a feeling of a need to get the truth here. Among American politicians as well as some media here. The main question is if this happened in Europe, what is the fault of the Palestinian people? This is a problem we have today, the root cause of many of our problems, not what happened 60 years ago. The Palestinian people are — their lives are being destroyed today. There's a pretext of the Holocaust. Lands have been occupied, usurped. What is their fault? What are they to be blamed for? Are they not human beings? Do they have no rights? What role did they play in the Holocaust? Some attempt to sort of change the subject. From the first day I said, "Well, assuming that the Holocaust happened..." Then again, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people? Not at all. Nothing. Believe me, Palestinian people are human beings. They have feelings. They like to live in their own land, to have the right to self determination, to feel secure in their homes. So that small kids are not killed. So that women are not taken from their own homes, taken from their own home. What is the future of such measures?
Q: You have said that you want Israel off the map. You really cannot accept the existence of Israel?A relatively hostile interview with CBS News' Scott Pelley from September 23, 2007.
No we don't need it and we have a solution for the Israeli and the Zionist Regime. We told them that they should let the Palestinians express their views in a referendum so that the people can chose - we think that this is a humanitarian solution. We are fundamentally opposed to war.
Iranian president Ahmadinejad
Q: You have said that you want Israel off the map. You really cannot accept the existence of Israel?
We do not accept or officially recognise Israel. They are occupiers and illegitimate. But our approach is humanitarian. I ask you where is the Soviet Union now - has it been wiped out or not? It vanished without a war. Let the Palestinian people chose. It will happen
Q: But you speak with more determination. The collapse of Soviet Union was a surprise - you're saying you want Israel off the map now.
Because we analyse the problems of the region carefully and realistically, We do not deceive ourselves. We say a regime that does not have a proper philosophy of existence, which is an occupier which bullies people, and which is without culture and civilisation and which has all the powers of the region against it and only relies on its military power- this cannot survive.
Q: Do you regret denying the holocaust?
I had asked a couple of questions about the holocaust and I'm sorry that some European politicians and governments instead of responding to a couple of scientific questions by a university lecturer, they made it a political issue. I asked these two questions and I ask them of you now. First, if the holocaust is a historical fact then they should allow it to be investigated because we allow everything to be investigated
Q: But documentation is enormous...
Do we have more evidence about the holocaust or about freedom, mathematics and physics?
Q: There are people watching this programme, whose parents, sisters and aunts perished in the concentration camps.
Why are you accusing me? My question is clear - I say if a historical event has happened we should let the scientists investigate it - maybe new dimensions will be uncovered and new issues will be discovered - why don't they allow it? This is suspicious.
Then my second question is, if the holocaust did happen where did it take place? What role did the Palestinian people play? The Palestinians were innocent. Why should they be punished, why should their land be occupied, why should they be killed and why should they be turned in to wanderers? These are my two questions
Q: The issue will remain and I think the majority of people in world will not agree with you.
Well you are wrong. Carry out a referendum in Europe and the European people would agree with me. If the British government and the German government and all the European governments, if we go to international organis ations and carry out a free referendum in Europe you will see that the European people will agree with me. I just raised two questions, I did not pass a judgement.
(CBS) PELLEY: Mr. President, you say you love all nations. I have to assume that includes the Nation of Israel.Larry King in September 2008.
AHMADINEJAD: Israel is not a nation. Well, we like the people, yes, because they are victims as well. They used to live in their own countries, in their own cities. They were given empty promises, false promises. They said that we are going to give you jobs, we are going to give you security. And they pushed the local Palestinian people out and made them refugees and also made refugees of another community. In other words, from thousands of miles away, people have been emigrating to this country and they are living in fear every day. And we feel for them. Last year in my speech I said that the Zionist entity should open the borders and the gates. Let the people decide where they want to go and settle. They are good people as well. We have no bones to pick with them. We are against terrorism. We are against wrong policies. We are friends with all people, Jewish people, Christians, different people of different faiths. We are, well, we're in contact with them. Here in Iran there are Jewish communities; there are Christian communities; we're all friends. Also, non-Muslim countries, we help them when a natural, let's say, calamity breaks. We love all people. We are opposed to Zionism, occupation, terrorism, dropping bombs on behalf of people when they are inside their own homes, killing men, women, and children. Very openly I have said time and again that I oppose these.
PELLEY: If the Palestinians reach an agreement with Israel for a two-state solution, will you then recognize Israel as well?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, the decision rests with the Palestinian people. This is exactly what I'm saying.
PELLEY: What would you do, sir?
AHMADINEJAD: What I'm saying is that you should allow -- oh, please, let me finish my thought. What we are saying, our solution for Palestine is a humane one. We are saying that you should allow the Palestinian people to participate in a fair and free election and determine their own fate. Whatever decision they take, everyone should go with that.
PELLEY: And if that decision . . .
AHMADINEJAD: No other party must interfere. We are not telling the Palestinian people what decisions they should take. Let them make their own decision. Whatever decision they take, we will go for that.
PELLEY: And if that decision is a two-state solution, you're good with that? You could support a two-state solution?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, why are you prejudging what will happen? Let's pave the ground first for a free and fair choice. And once they make their choice, we must respect that. All the people, all the Palestinian people must be given this opportunity, allow them to make their own decisions. Let us not tell them what course of action they need to take.
KING: We're back. Mr. President, you mentioned the Zionist regime. You called-let me get this correct, you called for Israel to be wiped off the map. Now, since you say you are a peaceful nation, you don't mean militarily. You mean politically wiped off the map? What do you mean?The New York Times in September 2008:
AHMADINEJAD: I think that I have to elaborate on two points here.
Today marks in fact the fourth year that I visited in New York City and the questions that are being asked of me are the same questions that were asked four years ago. Whereas the world, in fact, has undergone some tremendous changes, many developments have unfolded since then in the United States, in Europe and everywhere else around the world. Developments are new.
I have responded to this question many times before. The fact that we oppose the fundamentals of the Zionist regime is because of peace and justice. We see a viable peace. Perhaps as a journalist who has years of experience, you must be aware of what goes on there. The extent of the calamity, in other words, for over 60 years more than five million Palestinian have been displaced. People who were forced out of their homes.
And those who have stayed are being bombarded every day militarily. They are being killed in their homes at times. Women and children at times. Are besieged and medicine, water and food does not always reach them sufficiently. Children lose their lives as do women as a result at times.
Sometimes women die giving birth. Palestinian figures are assassinated and it goes to such extent that it's actually announced beforehand. Three big wars started by the Zionist regime. The last of which was in 2006 when they attacked Lebanon. So when will this calamity, this catastrophe end? Our solution is a humanitarian one.
AHMADINEJAD: What we say is that in the Palestinian territory there must be a free referendum and the Palestinian people should determine their own fate. This is the spirit and the letter of the Charter of the United Nations.
I'd ask you, I'd like to ask you, really, how is it possible to force out the people from one land and gather other people from around the world and let them live in the homes and others and establish a government. This is really a logic that is unacceptable. What are the Palestinians to do? The world community that the United States claims to speak for, how come does not embody the voices of the Palestinians?
KING: Why ...
AHMADINEJAD: Sixty years of this place ...
KING: Would you agree, and there are obviously disagreements there, would you agree to sit down with all of the people of the Middle East, Israel included, to work at some solution? You don't want harmful solutions, you don't want bombs, you don't want to obliterate a people. You want to do something politically. Why not sit down and talk, Israel included?
AHMADINEJAD: The Zionist regime is an uninvited guest, it is an occupier.
KING: But if you don't talk to them ...
AHMADINEJAD: ... is killing people-allow me-I'd like to ask you. If someone comes and occupies the United States as American people, would you give them any rights or would you force them out?
KING: But the world declared it a state. Israel is-that's a fact. You're not going to change that fact. Israel is a state.
So all I'm asking is, why not get together now and discuss their disagreements and hopefully come to some peace and bring about justice for Palestinians?
Why can't you? Israel, you're not going to change that.
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): The Apartheid regime of South Africa was a fact as well, where is it today? The Soviet Union was a fact as well, where is it today? Did the Soviet Union collapse as a result talks and dialogue, or as a result of resilient resistance? In other words, at times you have to resist.
You see, over 100 peace plans have been offered for the resolution of the Palestinian crisis, and all of them have been defeated. None of them have given results. Today the head of the Palestinian Authority, the Egyptian leader, many others have negotiated with the Zionists plenty of times, but has there been results? Hundreds of meetings and negotiations, what's the result so far...
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): ... except the expansion of the Zionist regime, the expansion of settlements, except for the escalation of tensions and terror and the killing of people? This regime is -- fundamentally is illegal.
KING: All right. Let me get a break. And then we'll ask for your answer, what is the solution? Don't go away.
KING: We're back.
Mr. President, since violence is not the answer, and even if the Soviet Union did it without violence, South Africa did it without violence, what's the solution? How do we bring about this concept of peace everywhere? You don't want to see Israelis die, I assume you don't want to see Israelis die. You don't want to see Palestinians die. What's the answer?
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Let me elaborate on two points in response the question. When we speak of a disappearing, what we're speaking of is that crime must disappear. Murders and killing must disappear, terror must disappear, aggression and occupation must disappear.
But our solution is like a very humanitarian and a very democratic one. What we're saying is that throughout the Palestinian territories, people should gather to determine the type of government that they'd like to have and have an election for that, free elections, for all, under the supervision of international organisations.
Let us give the Palestinians an opportunity to have self-determination. This is the only viable solution.
KING: But does Israel remain Israel?
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Well, let the people decide. Why should we decide for the people? We must allow people to decide for themselves. It's their right to decide. I think that there are two reasons for--that account for the failure of the peace plans offered for Palestine.
The first reason is the disregard for the root cause of the problem. The Palestinian people were living in their lands. And they didn't have any problem. It was others who came and created problems for them. Well, so we really have to identify the roots of that and then seek the solution based on that reality.
And second reason is that the right of the Palestinian people for self-determination has been overlooked. Both have been overlooked. I've heard a lot that unfortunately, a group of people are trying to infuse the idea among the American people that Iran even wants to attack the United States, that Iran is a violent country or whatnot.
These are all false propaganda. When have we ever attacked? What we're saying is that we must allow free elections to happen in Palestine under the supervision of the United Nations.
And the Palestinian people, the displaced Palestinian people, or whoever considers Palestine its land, can participate in free elections. And then whatever happens as a result could happen.
KING: But you do not wish...
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Why--we can't decide for the people.
KING: You do not wish the Jewish people harm?
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): No. You see, we have no problems with Jewish people. There are many Jews who live in Iran today. In Iran, for every 150,000 people, we have one representative at the parliament, or the Majles.
For the Jewish community, even though there are only 20,000 in Iraq, they still have one independent member in parliament who has the same prerogative as the other members of parliament.
But please pay attention to the fact that the Zionists are not Jews. They have no religion. They have no religion. They're neither Jews nor Christians nor Muslims. They just have--wear masks of religiosity. How can you possibly be religious and occupy the land of other people?
How can you call yourself a religious person and kill women and children?
KING: Well, they come from a...
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Women and children, women and children were (INAUDIBLE) as a result, cannot have access to medicine.
KING: Mr. President, do they not--I know you've denied this for some reason, but do they not--the Zionists, as you call them, do they not come from some history of persecution? Do they not come from the death of millions of men, women, and children? Is there not a birth (INAUDIBLE)--there's no birth (INAUDIBLE) in that. You don't think that happened?
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): First and foremost, they specifically don't allow anyone to freely discuss the history that happened. They just say, this is our telling of the history and this is what happened. And everybody just listen to it.
KING: You say it didn't happen?
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Let's just assume--what I'm saying is let more research be done on this--that history. There is a claim that the extent of the calamity was what it was. There are people who agree with it. There are people who disagree. Some completely deny it. Some absolutely agree with the whole account of it.
What we're saying is that we should have an impartial group go do their own research about the extent of the calamity that occurred and then announce a result of that.
Now but what I'd like is really to put this debate aside for a moment. Let's assume that it happened, the extent of which everyone is speaking of. Where did it happen? Did it happen in Palestine? Or did it happen in Europe?
KING: Well, it created Israel.
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): If it happened--it happened in Europe, if the crimes were committed in Europe, why should the Palestinian people be victimised as a result? Why don't the Europeans just give them a territory? Or in Alaska, perhaps. They could give them a territory anywhere they like.
But why pay from the pocket of some other people? It's as if somebody--you throw a party from the pocket of someone else. The Palestinian people had no role in that crime. They're innocent, completely.
NYT: On another subject, you are a Persian; you are not an Arab. Your country has never directly at least fought a war with Israel, and yet you seem obsessed by the Jews. Why?Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez for Democracy Now in September 2008:
President Ahmadinejad: We have nothing to do with their business at all. Jewish people live in Iran; they have lived there historically. They have a representative in our Parliament. Although there are only 20,000 people, they still have one representative in Parliament. Whereas for the rest of the population you have a minimum requirement of 150,000 people to have one representative. So the Jewish people are treated just like everyone else, like the Christians and the Muslims and the Zoroastrians. They are respected. Everyone is respected.
The question is really over Zionism. Zionism is not Judaism. It is a political party. It is a very secretive political party, which is the root cause of insecurity and wars. For 60 years in our region people have been killed, they have been threatened for 60 years, they have been aggressed upon for 60 years. Several large wars have occurred. A large number of territories there are occupied. More than five million people have been displaced and become refugees. Women and children are attacked in their own homes. They demolish homes over the heads of women and children with bulldozer, in their own house, in their own homeland. These are not crimes that one can shut ones eyes to. We disagree with these criminal acts and we announce it loud and clear. The anger of the U.S. government does not prevent us from saying loud and clear what we think about these acts. As long as these crimes are not rooted out we will continue voicing our concern.
I am surprised that in your media there is hardly any attention to the human rights crimes committed by the Zionist regime, nor to the ongoing crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. NATO troops went to Afghanistan to establish security, but they just expanded insecurity. Terrorism has increased. The production of illicit drugs has multiplied. Some days there are 10 people killed, some days there are 100 people killed. Sometimes wedding ceremonies are bombarded and insecurity has now affected Pakistan as well. In the process of occupying Iraq over one million people have been killed, a lot of women and children, several million people have been displaced. Is there enough forces in America to represent those innocents who have been deprived of their rights innocently those countries?
There are seven billion people living on this planet, close to 200 countries. Why is it that politicians here in the United States only rise to defend the Zionists? What commitment forces the U.S. government to victimize itself in support of a regime that is basically a criminal one? We can’t understand it. When human rights are violated in Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo, how come there is just not enough attention given to it? In a lot of countries that are friends of the United States there are vast human rights violations. Human rights has become completely politicized with multiple standards that apply to different parts of the world. I would like to repeat myself: People in Iran like their government. You will see in the election.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to turn for a moment to the Palestinian struggle. Our program has often reported on the fight for self-determination of the Palestinian people. But over the decades, most groups within the Palestinian national movement have concluded that the eventual peace between Israelis and Palestinians will come through a two-state solution, although there are still problems of the right of return, of the fate of Jerusalem, the boundaries of that state that have not been worked out. What is your view of how peace will be achieved, through a one-state solution or through a two-state solution?Steve Inskeep for NPR in September 2009:
PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: [translated] I believe that we should look at the problem from another perspective. To find cure for a disease, we do not necessarily just deal with how it looks, but with the root causes of a disease. We must destroy the root causes of it.
You’re aware that over a hundred peace plans have been offered to this day for the Palestinian crisis. But all have failed. Why? If we can answer that why, then we’ll find the right solution.
The first reason is that none of the solutions have actually addressed the root cause of the problem. The root cause is the presence of an illegitimate government regime that has usurped and imposed itself on, meaning they have brought people from other parts of the world, replaced them with people who had existed in the territory and then forced the exit of the old people out, the people who lived there, out of the country or the territories. So there have been two simultaneous displacements. The indigenous people were forced out and displaced, and a group of other people scattered around the globe were gathered and placed in a new place.
It’s kind of one of those rare instances in history that some powers decided to do for their own interest. Look at the consequences. Ever since it came into being, this regime, there’s only been nothing more than wars, aggression, displacement and usurpation. It seems this is what this regime is out there to do, to fight wars, to threaten, as if if they stop doing that, they will get destroyed themselves. It seems that that was their mission, to start with. That’s the problem.
A second reason is that none of those peace plans offered so far have given attention to the right to self-determination of the Palestinians. If a group of people are forced out of their country, that doesn’t mean their rights are gone, even with the passage of sixty years. Can you ignore the rights of those displaced? How is it possible for people to arrive from far-off lands and have the right to self-determination, whereas the indigenous people of the territory are denied that right?
We have to really resolve these two issues. Then the problem will be resolved. Otherwise, it won’t. We look at a government that has come to power through the vote of the people, called Hamas. It was economically besieged, no medicine getting in, attacks carried out every day on them. How exactly are they to resolve the situation, unless they pay attention to those two causes?
This Zionist regime does not have a chance of remaining in the region, because it has not established roots with the region. It’s like an alien creature that’s come into your body. Imagine an extra piece of metal like a pin going into your body, a nail. Your body will reject it. As long as the nail is in your body, your body just doesn’t function. And as long as it’s not removed, you won’t have a cure. You just can’t bring others from elsewhere, kill the rights of the indigenous people and force yourself on the place. Our links and ties with the body of the Palestinian people is very strong.
None of the people in Palestine agree with what you just said. If there were to be elections right now today, the Hamas would get reelected, even with more votes than it got last time.
AMY GOODMAN: So, do you think Israel should be eliminated?
PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: [translated] We believe that people have to decide and choose their own fate, the right to self-determination. If they would like to keep the Zionists, they can stay; if not, they have to leave. What do you think the people there want?
AMY GOODMAN: You would support a two-state solution, if they do?
PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: [translated] Wherever people decide, we will respect it. I mean, it’s very much in correspondence with our proposal to allow Palestinian people to decide through free referendums. We’ve been saying this for several years as a proposal. But those who use democracy as a pretext everywhere else are not—don’t think the Palestinians need democracy.
INSKEEP: Before coming to this conversation, I spoke with Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Prize winner, Holocaust survivor, and author of a book that I would recommend to you called Night, which is his description of his family's murder and his own near-death in the Holocaust.Interview after speaking at Columbia University in September 2007:
Mr. Wiesel described you as the number one Holocaust denier in the world. Are you proud of such a distinction?
AHMADINEJAD: I have no opinion about what people and others think about me. It doesn't matter. But would you like to hear my views on the Holocaust? Are you willing to hear it?
INSKEEP: We have, in a previous interview, discussed how you feel it is being used unjustly to justify Israel, so we need not cover that ground again. But if you would like to describe to me what specifically you believe happened between 1942 and 1945, I would be interested.
AHMADINEJAD: But then 1942 to 1945 is still about the Holocaust, right? I do raise a couple of questions about the Holocaust, and you are a member of the media, and I believe that you should actually tell people what these questions are, and try to receive answers from them as well.
The first question is, is the Holocaust a historical event or not? It is a historical event. And, having said that, there are numerous historical events. So the next question is, why is it that this specific event has become so prominent?
Normally, ordinary people and historians pay attention to historical events. Why are politicians giving so much attention to this particular event? Why are they so biased about it? Does this event effect what is happening on the ground this day, now?
What we say is that genocide is the result of racial discrimination. Sometimes we look at history to learn the lessons of history.
INSKEEP: Are you acknowledging that millions of people were killed? Millions of Jews, specifically, were killed during World War II?
AHMADINEJAD: If you bear with me so that I can complete my statements, you will receive your answer. I'm asking, and I'm asking a number of serious questions. And I'm not addressing these questions to you, but to a wider audience — everyone — anyone who cares about the fate of humanity; who care about human beings and the rights of people. These are serious questions. If we are looking at history with the aim to learn — derive lessons from it, then what this indicates is that in the future, we should not carry out the same mistakes that were done in the past.
While I personally was not alive 60 years ago, I happen to be alive now, and I can see that genocide is happening now under the pretext of an event that happened 60 years ago. So the fundamental question I raise here is that, if this event happened, where did it happen? As a form of an objection question, who was it carried by? Why should the Palestinian people make up for it?
INSKEEP: You just went back to, if this event happened. If you'll forgive me, because time is short, we wish to go on, but do you acknowledge that it happened? Do you now find it a reliable claim?
AHMADINEJAD: I'm not a historian. Most certainly, I've read a lot of books about this issue, and that is why I have questions about it. My questions are very clear ones. We should allow researchers to examine all sorts of questions because it's quite clear that when they do, they will reach different conclusions.
Why have we shut off all forms of research that are impartial on the subject of the Holocaust? It seems that even if a historian reaches a result that is other than what has been said by, say, European historians, they could even end up in prison for it. A couple of academics in Europe were actually prosecuted because of it. These are famous historians who carried out some historical research and arrived at conclusions other than what was said by the officials and by the, you know, official tenets.
INSKEEP: These are not official channels. These are thousands of survivors who witnessed the deaths of their families.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, these are claims. Do you expect me to endorse these claims on a one-sided manner? I do not wish to pass a judgment; I'm just saying we must allow historians to carry out research on it. Why should everyone be forced to accept just the opinion of a few on a historical event? I mean, this does violate the freedom of opinion.
The first question is: Do you or your government seek the destruction of the state of Israel as a Jewish state?NPR in 2008:
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: We love all nations. We are friends with the Jewish people. There are many Jews in Iran living peacefully with security. You must understand that in our constitution, in our laws, in the parliamentary elections, for every 150,000 people we get one representative in the parliament. For the Jewish community, one-fifth of this number they still get one independent representative in the parliament. So our proposal to the Palestinian plight is a humanitarian and democratic proposal.
What we say is that to solve the 60-year problem we must allow the Palestinian people to decide about its future for itself. This is compatible with the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles enshrined in it. We must allow Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians to determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum. Whatever they choose as a nation everybody should accept and respect. Nobody should interfere in the affairs of the Palestinian nation. Nobody should sow the seeds of discord. Nobody should spend tens of billions of dollars equipping and arming one group there.
We say allow the Palestinian nation to decide its own future, to have the right to self-determination for itself. This is what we are saying as the Iranian nation. (Applause.)
MR. COATSWORTH: Mr. President, I think many members of our audience would be -- would like to hear a clearer answer to that question, that is -- (interrupted by cheers, applause).
The question is: Do you or your government seek the destruction of the state of Israel as a Jewish state? And I think you could answer that question with a single word, either yes or no. (Cheers, applause.)
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: And then you want the answer the way you want to hear it. Well, this isn't really a free flow of information. I'm just telling you where I -- what my position is. (Applause.)
I'm asking you, is the Palestinian issue not an international issue of prominence or not? Please tell me, yes or no. (Laughter, applause.)
There's a plight of a people.
MR. COATSWORTH: The answer to your question is yes. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Well, thank you for your cooperation.
It is -- we recognize there is a problem there that's been going on for 60 years. Everybody provides a solution, and our solution is a free referendum. Let this referendum happen, and then you'll see what the results are. Let the people of Palestine freely choose what they want for their future. And then what you want in your mind to happen, it will happen and will be realized. (Applause.)
MR. COATSWORTH: Which was posed by President Bollinger earlier and comes from a number of other students. Why is your government providing aid to terrorists? Will you stop doing so and permit international monitoring to certify that you have stopped?
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Well, I want to pose a question here to you. If someone comes and explodes bombs around you, threatens your president, members of the administration, kills the members of the Senate or Congress, how would you treat them? Would you award them or would you name them a terrorist group? Well, it's clear. You would call them a terrorist.
My dear friends, the Iranian nation is a victim of terrorism. For -- 26 years ago, where I work, close to where I work, in a terrorist operation, the elected president of the Iranian nation and the elected prime minister of Iran lost their lives in a bomb explosion. They turned into ashes.
A month later, in another terrorist operation, 72 members of our parliament and highest ranking officials, including four ministers and eight deputy ministers, bodies were shattered into pieces as a result of terrorist attacks. Within six months, over 4,000 Iranians lost their lives, assassinated by terrorist groups, all this carried out by the hand of one single terrorist group. Regretfully that same terrorist group, now, today, in your country, is being -- operating under the support of the U.S. administration, working freely, distributing declarations freely. And their camps in Iraq are supported by the U.S. government. They're secured by the U.S. government.
Our nation has been harmed by terrorist activities. We were the first nation that objected to terrorism and the first to uphold the need to fight terrorism. (Applause.)
MR. COATSWORTH: A number of questioners, sorry, a number of people have asked.
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: We need to address the root causes of terrorism and eradicate those root causes.
We live in the Middle East. For us, it's quite clear which powers sort of incite terrorists, support them, fund them. We know that. Our nation, the Iranian nation, through history has always extended a hand of friendship to other nations. We're a cultured nation. We don't need to resort to terrorism.
We've been victims of terrorism ourselves, and it's regrettable that people who argue they're fighting terrorism, instead of supporting the Iranian people and nation, instead of fighting the terrorists that are attacking them, they're supporting the terrorists and then turn the fingers to us. This is most regrettable.
MR. COATSWORTH: A further set of questions challenge your view of the Holocaust. Since the evidence that this occurred in Europe in the 1940s as a result of the actions of the German Nazi government, since that -- those facts are well-documented, why are you calling for additional research? There seems to be no purpose in doing so, other than to question whether the Holocaust actually occurred as an historical fact. Can you explain why you believe more research is needed into the facts of what are -- what is incontrovertible?
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Thank you very much for your question. I am an academic, and you are as well. Can you argue that researching a phenomenon is finished forever, done? Can we close the books for good on a historical event? There are different perspectives that come to light after every research is done. Why should we stop research at all? Why should we stop the progress of science and knowledge? You shouldn't ask me why I'm asking questions. You should ask yourselves why you think that it's questionable.
Why do you want to stop the progress of science and research? Do you ever take what's known as absolute in physics? We had principles in mathematics that were granted to be absolute in mathematics for over 800 years, but new science has gotten rid of those absolutism, gotten -- forward other different logics of looking at mathematics, and sort of turned the way we look at it as a science altogether after 800 years. So we must allow researchers, scholars to investigate into everything, every phenomenon -- God, universe, human beings, history, and civilization. Why should we stop that?
I'm not saying that it didn't happen at all. This is not (the ?) judgment that I'm passing here. I said in my second question, granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people? This is a serious question. They're two dimension.
NPR: Let me delve into two more areas. As you know, Mr. President, you are known in much of the world, and not only in the United States, as the man who wants to "wipe Israel off the map." Are you?Spiegel, a German periodical in June 2006:
Ahmadinejad: Is the problem of the U.S. government the Zionist regime? I believe the extremity to which the U.S. government has gone to extend support to the Zionist regime has caused the U.S. government problems around the world.
NPR: Do you accept the label of the man who wants to wipe Israel off the map? You're not?
Ahmadinejad: Please pay attention to the fact that there are two issues that go side by side in this discussion. The first part is the proposal we have given to resolve the problem of Palestine. For 60 years, wars and killings have been going on over there.
Every peace proposal that has been put on the table so far has failed to give results. Why? Because it neglects the rights of the Palestinian people. Our proposal has been to offer the Palestinian people a free referendum. Everyone who lives in Palestine [should be able] to participate in a referendum to decide the future and the nature of its government.
Let me create an analogy here — where exactly is the Soviet Union today? It did disappear — but exactly how? It was through the vote of its own people. So therefore in Palestine too we must allow the people, the Palestinians, to determine their own future.
And then the second side of this same issue, and I'd really like to invite you to pay attention to it. Especially you — you must, because you are always being subjected to [the] unilateral sort of information that is coming from the administration here.
Let's ask ourselves, where exactly did the Zionist regime come from? Palestine has existed historically with people who live there for thousands of years. Then at gunpoint several million of the indigenous people there were forced out of their homes and became displaced. And it didn't stop there; others were brought from elsewhere in the world to replace them. How can you accept this regime?
SPIEGEL: It concerned your remarks about the Holocaust. It was inevitable that the Iranian president’s denial of the systematic murder of the Jews by the Germans would trigger outrage.ABC News' George Stephanopoulus in April 2009
Ahmadinejad: I don’t exactly understand the connection.
SPIEGEL: First you make your remarks about the Holocaust. Then comes the news that you may travel to Germany -- this causes an uproar. So you were surprised after all?
Ahmadinejad: No, not at all, because the network of Zionism is very active around the world, in Europe too. So I wasn’t surprised. We were addressing the German people. We have nothing to do with Zionists.
SPIEGEL: Denying the Holocaust is punishable in Germany. Are you indifferent when confronted with so much outrage?
Ahmadinejad: I know that DER SPIEGEL is a respected magazine. But I don’t know whether it is possible for you to publish the truth about the Holocaust. Are you permitted to write everything about it?
SPIEGEL: Of course we are entitled to write about the findings of the past 60 years’ historical research. In our view there is no doubt that the Germans -- unfortunately -- bear the guilt for the murder of 6 million Jews.
Ahmadinejad: Well, then we have stirred up a very concrete discussion. We are posing two very clear questions. The first is: Did the Holocaust actually take place? You answer this question in the affirmative. So, the second question is: Whose fault was it? The answer to that has to be found in Europe and not in Palestine. It is perfectly clear: If the Holocaust took place in Europe, one also has to find the answer to it in Europe.
On the other hand, if the Holocaust didn’t take place, why then did this regime of occupation …
SPIEGEL: … You mean the state of Israel…
Ahmadinejad: … come about? Why do the European countries commit themselves to defending this regime? Permit me to make one more point. We are of the opinion that, if an historical occurrence conforms to the truth, this truth will be revealed all the more clearly if there is more research into it and more discussion about it.
SPIEGEL: That has long since happened in Germany.
Ahmadinejad: We don’t want to confirm or deny the Holocaust. We oppose every type of crime against any people. But we want to know whether this crime actually took place or not. If it did, then those who bear the responsibility for it have to be punished, and not the Palestinians. Why isn't research into a deed that occurred 60 years ago permitted? After all, other historical occurrences, some of which lie several thousand years in the past, are open to research, and even the governments support this.
SPIEGEL: Mr. President, with all due respect, the Holocaust occurred, there were concentration camps, there are dossiers on the extermination of the Jews, there has been a great deal of research, and there is neither the slightest doubt about the Holocaust nor about the fact – we greatly regret this – that the Germans are responsible for it. If we may now add one remark: the fate of the Palestinians is an entirely different issue, and this brings us into the present.
Ahmadinejad: No, no, the roots of the Palestinian conflict must be sought in history. The Holocaust and Palestine are directly connected with one another. And if the Holocaust actually occurred, then you should permit impartial groups from the whole world to research this. Why do you restrict the research to a certain group? Of course, I don’t mean you, but rather the European governments.
SPIEGEL: Are you still saying that the Holocaust is just "a myth?"
Ahmadinejad: I will only accept something as truth if I am actually convinced of it.
SPIEGEL: Even though no Western scholars harbor any doubt about the Holocaust?
Ahmadinejad: But there are two opinions on this in Europe. One group of scholars or persons, most of them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite position and have therefore been imprisoned for the most part. Hence, an impartial group has to come together to investigate and to render an opinion on this very important subject, because the clarification of this issue will contribute to the solution of global problems. Under the pretext of the Holocaust, a very strong polarization has taken place in the world and fronts have been formed. It would therefore be very good if an international and impartial group looked into the matter in order to clarify it once and for all. Normally, governments promote and support the work of researchers on historical events and do not put them in prison.
SPIEGEL: Who is that supposed to be? Which researchers do you mean?
Ahmadinejad: You would know this better than I; you have the list. There are people from England, from Germany, France and from Australia.
SPIEGEL: You presumably mean, for example, the Englishman David Irving, the German-Canadian Ernst Zündel, who is on trial in Mannheim, and the Frenchman Georges Theil, all of whom deny the Holocaust.
Ahmadinejad: The mere fact that my comments have caused such strong protests, although I’m not a European, and also the fact that I have been compared with certain persons in German history indicates how charged with conflict the atmosphere for research is in your country. Here in Iran you needn’t worry.
SPIEGEL: Well, we are conducting this historical debate with you for a very timely purpose. Are you questioning Israel’s right to exist?
Ahmadinejad: Look here, my views are quite clear. We are saying that if the Holocaust occurred, then Europe must draw the consequences and that it is not Palestine that should pay the price for it. If it did not occur, then the Jews have to go back to where they came from. I believe that the German people today are also prisoners of the Holocaust. Sixty million people died in the Second World War. World War II was a gigantic crime. We condemn it all. We are against bloodshed, regardless of whether a crime was committed against a Muslim or against a Christian or a Jew. But the question is: Why among these 60 million victims are only the Jews the center of attention?
SPIEGEL: That’s just not the case. All peoples mourn the victims claimed by the Second World War, Germans and Russians and Poles and others as well. Yet, we as Germans cannot absolve ourselves of a special guilt, namely for the systematic murder of the Jews. But perhaps we should now move on to the next subject.
Ahmadinejad: No, I have a question for you. What kind of a role did today’s youth play in World War II?
Ahmadinejad: Why should they have feelings of guilt toward Zionists? Why should the costs of the Zionists be paid out of their pockets? If people committed crimes in the past, then they would have to have been tried 60 years ago. End of story! Why must the German people be humiliated today because a group of people committed crimes in the name of the Germans during the course of history?
SPIEGEL: The German people today can’t do anything about it. But there is a sort of collective shame for those deeds done in the German name by our fathers or grandfathers.
Ahmadinejad: How can a person who wasn’t even alive at the time be held legally responsible?
SPIEGEL: Not legally but morally.
Ahmadinejad: Why is such a burden heaped on the German people? The German people of today bear no guilt. Why are the German people not permitted the right to defend themselves? Why are the crimes of one group emphasized so greatly, instead of highlighting the great German cultural heritage? Why should the Germans not have the right to express their opinion freely?
SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we are well aware that German history is not made up of only the 12 years of the Third Reich. Nevertheless, we have to accept that horrible crimes have been committed in the German name. We also own up to this, and it is a great achievement of the Germans in post-war history that they have grappled critically with their past.
Ahmadinejad: Are you also prepared to tell that to the German people?
SPIEGEL: Oh yes, we do that.
Ahmadinejad: Then would you also permit an impartial group to ask the German people whether it shares your opinion? No people accepts its own humiliation.
SPIEGEL: All questions are allowed in our country. But of course there are right-wing radicals in Germany who are not only anti-Semitic, but xenophobic as well, and we do indeed consider them a threat.
Ahmadinejad: Let me ask you one thing: How much longer can this go on? How much longer do you think the German people have to accept being taken hostage by the Zionists? When will that end – in 20, 50, 1,000 years?
SPIEGEL: We can only speak for ourselves. DER SPIEGEL is nobody’s hostage; SPIEGEL does not deal only with Germany’s past and the Germans’ crimes. We’re not Israel’s uncritical ally in the Palestian conflict. But we want to make one thing very clear: We are critical, we are independent, but we won’t simply stand by without protest when the existential right of the state of Israel, where many Holocaust survivors live, is being questioned.
Ahmadinejad: Precisely that is our point. Why should you feel obliged to the Zionists? If there really had been a Holocaust, Israel ought to be located in Europe, not in Palestine.
SPIEGEL: Do you want to resettle a whole people 60 years after the end of the war?
Ahmadinejad: Five million Palestinians have not had a home for 60 years. It is amazing really: You have been paying reparations for the Holocaust for 60 years and will have to keep paying up for another 100 years. Why then is the fate of the Palestinians no issue here?
SPIEGEL: The Europeans support the Palestinians in many ways. After all, we also have an historic responsibility to help bring peace to this region finally. But don’t you share that responsibility?
Ahmadinejad: Yes, but aggression, occupation and a repetition of the Holocaust won’t bring peace. What we want is a sustainable peace. This means that we have to tackle the root of the problem. I am pleased to note that you are honest people and admit that you are obliged to support the Zionists.
SPIEGEL: That’s not what we said, Mr. President.
Ahmadinejad: You said Israelis.
AHMADINEJAD: When I was talking against the Zionist regime in the racism conference, the first proviso for successful talks would be to give the other party the freedom to speak. Mr. Obama has the right to have his own opinion, obviously.An obviously edited interview by Mike Wallace in August 2006:
He is ready to express his points of view. But the Geneva conference had been organized to combat racism, to oppose racism. My point of view is that the Zionist regime is the manifestation of racism.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet when you speak at that conference, Western diplomats walk out. Even the U.N. secretary-general condemns your remarks.
AHMADINEJAD: That's fine! That's fine! They are free to have their own points of view. Why do they want to deny me my ideas
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why do you insist on questioning the Holocaust even when it's established as a historical fact and even when politicians here in Iran worry that kind of talk isolates Iran?
AHMADINEJAD: I'm going to talk about that as well. Don't be hasty. I have posed two questions over Holocaust.
My first question was, if the Holocaust happened, where did it take place? In Europe. Why should they make amends in Palestine? The Palestinian people had no role to play in the Holocaust. They had no role, for that matter, in the Second World War.
Racism happened in Europe, the amends are made in Palestine?
My second question about the Holocaust, if this is indeed a historical event, why do they want to turn it into a holy thing? And nobody should be allowed to ask any questions about that? Nobody study it, research it, permit it to research it. Why?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's the most studied historical event in history.
AHMADINEJAD: If this is a historically documented event, why do Western states show so much sensitivity towards a historical event? They do not want the lid to be taken off. I am asking them to permit studies.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talking about something that's happening right now. President Obama has appointed Senator George Mitchell to help negotiate a peace between Israel and Palestine. Do you support that effort?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, we are asking for the legal rights of the Palestinian people. What we are saying is that the Palestinian people like other peoples have the right to determine their own fate. Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. We should -- they should allow them to engage in elections, free elections and a free referendum to determine for themselves their own fate.
We must not repeat the mistakes of the past.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe President Obama's new effort is repeating the mistakes of the past?
AHMADINEJAD: Well? I am yet to have a clear idea about Mr. Obama's Palestinian policy. However, the gentleman's support of the massacre of Gazans in support for the criminals who were responsible for that atrocity was a major mistake on the part of the gentleman. I think that if Mr. Obama wants to help with the Palestinian issue, he has to move in accordance with justice, fair play and also, again, I am calling for the right for the Palestinians to determine their own fate. STEPHANOPOULOS: If the Palestinian people negotiate an agreement with Israel and the Palestinian people vote and support that agreement, a two state solution, will Iran support it?
AHMADINEJAD: Nobody should interfere, allow the Palestinian people to decide for themselves. Whatever they decide.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's all I'm asking.
AHMADINEJAD: It is the right of all human beings.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If they choose a two state solution with Israel, that's fine.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, what we are saying is that you and us should not determine the course of things beforehand. Allow the Palestinian people to make their own decisions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if they choose a two state solution, if they choose to recognize Israel's existence, Iran will as well?
AHMADINEJAD; Let me approach this from another perspective. If the Palestinians decide that the Zionist regime needs to leave all Palestinian lands, would the American administration accept their decision? Will they accept this Palestinian point of view?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll ask them. But I'm asking you if Palestinians accept the existence of Israel, would Iran support that?
AHMADINEJAD: Can I ask you questions as well?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not part of the American government. I'll put that question to the American government.
AHMADINEJAD: I'm asking that people vote.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I have a question for you as president of Iran.
AHMADINEJAD: That's fine!
STEPHANOPOULOS: If the Palestinians sign an agreement with Israel, will Iran support it?
AHMADINEJAD: Whatever decision they take is fine with us. We are not going to determine anything. Whatever decision they take, we will support that. We think that this is the right of the Palestinian people, however we fully expect other states to do so as well.
The U.S. administration, European governments. The right to determine their fate by the Palestinians should be respected by all of them.
Q: You are very good at filibustering. You still have not answered the question. You still have not answered the question: Israel must be wiped off the map. Why?Wally Weymouth of the Washington Post, September 2006.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, don't be hasty, sir. I'm going to get to that.
Q: I'm not hasty.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) I think that the Israeli government is a fabricated government.
Q: (Narrating interview.) Fabricated following the Holocaust, which he has said may also have been fabricated.
Q: Last December, you said this: "The Europeans created a myth - the Holocaust." A myth?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) What I did say was that if this is a reality, if this is real, where did it take place?
Q: In Germany.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) There are (unintelligible).
Q: In Germany.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Who caused this in Europe?
Q: In Europe. What you are suggesting - one moment - what you are suggesting, then, that Israel should be over in Germany because that's where the Holocaust took place?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) I'm not saying that, mind you.
Q: (Narrating interview.) But he has said Israel could be moved to Europe or even to the United States, but it should not be in Palestine.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, if an atrocity was committed in Germany, or Europe for that matter, why should the Palestinians answer for this? They had no role to play in this. Why on the pretext of the Holocaust they have occupied Palestine? Millions of people have been made refugees. Thousands of people to date have been killed, sir. Thousands of people have been put in prison. Well, at the very moment, a great war is raging because of that.
Are you really serious when you say that Israel should be wiped off the face of the Earth?Spiegel in April 2009.
We need to look at the scene in the Middle East -- 60 years of war, 60 years of displacement, 60 years of conflict, not even a day of peace. Look at the war in Lebanon, the war in Gaza -- what are the reasons for these conditions? We need to address and resolve the root problem.
Your suggestion is to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth?
Our suggestion is very clear: . . . Let the Palestinian people decide their fate in a free and fair referendum, and the result, whatever it is, should be accepted. . . . The people with no roots there are now ruling the land.
You've been quoted as saying that Israel should be wiped off the face of the Earth. Is that your belief?
What I have said has made my position clear. If we look at a map of the Middle East from 70 years ago . . .
So, the answer is yes, you do believe that it should be wiped off the face of the Earth?
Are you asking me yes or no? Is this a test? Do you respect the right to self-determination for the Palestinian nation? Yes or no? Is Palestine, as a nation, considered a nation with the right to live under humane conditions or not? Let's allow those rights to be enforced for these 5 million displaced people.
If the Palestinian people decided that they wanted a two-state solution, would you support that decision?
The politicians in the United States should allow the Palestinians to vote, and then we'll all respect the results. They won't even accept a small Palestinian state. That's why we think the root cause of the crisis must be addressed. Jews, like other individuals, will have to be respected. It's not necessary to occupy the land of others, to displace them, to imprison their young people and to destroy their homes and agricultural fields and to attack neighboring countries.
SPIEGEL: You have become one of the most powerful political players in the region because you have become a champion of the Palestinian cause.
Ahmadinejad: We are defending more than the basic rights of oppressed Palestinians. Our proposal for resolving the Middle East conflict is that the Palestinians should be allowed to decide their own future in a free referendum. Do you think it right that some European countries and the United States support the occupying regime and the unnatural Zionist state, but condemn Iran, merely because we are defending the rights of the Palestinian people?
SPIEGEL: You are talking about Israel, a member of the United Nations that has been recognized worldwide for many decades. What would you do if a majority of the Palestinians voted for a two-state solution, that is, if they recognized Israel's right to exist?
Ahmadinejad: If that were what they decided, everyone would have to accept this decision…
SPIEGEL: …and you too would have to recognize Israel, a country that you have said, in the past, you would like to "wipe off the map." Please tell us exactly what you said and what you meant by it.
Ahmadinejad: Let me put it this way, facetiously: Why did the Germans cause so much trouble back then, allowing these problems to arise in the first place? The Zionist regime is the result of World War II. What does any of this have to do with the Palestinian people? Or with the Middle East region? I believe that we must get to the root of the problem. If one doesn't consider the causes, there can be no solution.
SPIEGEL: Does getting to the root of the problem mean wiping out Israel?
Ahmadinejad: It means claiming the rights of the Palestinian people. I believe that this is to everyone's benefit, to that of America, Europe and Germany. But didn't we want to discuss Germany and German-Iranian relations?
SPIEGEL: That's what we are talking about. The fact that you deny Israel's right to exist is of critical importance when it comes to German-Iranian relations.
Ahmadinejad: Do you believe that the German people support the Zionist regime? Do you believe that a referendum could be held in Germany on this question? If you did allow such a referendum to take place, you would discover that the German people hate the Zionist regime.
SPIEGEL: We are confident that this is not the case.
Ahmadinejad: I do not believe that the European countries would have been as indulgent if only one-hundredth of the crimes that the Zionist regime has committed in Gaza had happened somewhere in Europe. Why on earth do the European governments support this regime? I have already tried to explain this to you once before…
SPIEGEL: …when we argued about your denial of the Holocaust three years ago. After the interview, we sent you a film by SPIEGEL TV about the extermination of the Jews in the Third Reich. Did you receive the DVD about the Holocaust, and did you watch it?
Ahmadinejad: Yes, I did receive the DVD. But I did not want to respond to you on this question. I believe that the controversy over the Holocaust is not an issue for the German people. The problem is more deep-seated than that. By the way, thank you once again for coming. You are Germans, and we think very highly of the Germans.