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May 12, 2016

Washington Post Editorial Notes Iranian ‘Moderates’ Mendacity on Holocaust

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A Washington Post editorial “Iran’s ‘moderates’ and the Holocaust,” (May 10, 2016) noted that Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, offered an “unconvincing disavowal of the regime’s hate speech,” including Tehran’s sponsoring of a Holocaust “cartoon festival.”

Post editorialists pointed out that “at the heart of the Obama administration’s diplomatic engagement with Iran is the notion that the regime is divided among hard-liners who foment its terrorism and regional aggression and more moderate forces who are open to cooperation with the West.”

CAMERA has noted (see, for example “The Media and the Myth of the Moderate Mullahs,” March 2, 2016) the tendency of major U.S. print news outlets, including The Washington Post, to refer to “moderates” in the theocratic, authoritarian regime that rules the Islamic Republic of Iran—often overlooking evidence that contradicts that idea.

Zarif is frequently labeled a “moderate” and is, The Post editorial said, “‘an English-speaking favorite of many Western journalists and even more so, Secretary of State John Kerry.”

Yet, this label doesn’t match Zarif’s actions or those of the regime he serves.

The Post pointed out that during the 18-month imprisonment of their Tehran bureau chief, Jason Rezain, by Iran, Zarif suggested that the journalist had been taken “advantage” of by an “overzealous low-level operative” of the U.S. government.

The foreign minister’s mendacity also was on display when he was asked to explain why Iran is sponsoring an international cartoon contest with a Holocaust denial theme. A previous Holocaust cartoon contest was held in 2006 under Iran’s then-President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) and a second in 2015. Ahmadinejad favored blunt anti-Western, anti-Israel rhetoric, unlike Zarif, was often referred to by press and policymakers as a “hard-liner.” But both men served Iran’s “Supreme Leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is rarely if ever characterized by the press as “moderate.”

The Post editorial noted that when Zarif was asked about the upcoming Holocaust cartoon contest by Robin Wright of The New Yorker magazine, his reaction “was a form of denialism: He claimed the Rouhani administration [Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s current President who is also frequently called a “moderate” by Western journalists] had nothing to do with the exhibition. The sponsor is a nongovernmental organization ‘that is not controlled by the Iranian government.’”

In his interview with Wright, Zarif tried to blur the lines, claiming that the event was comparable to the activity of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan, in the United States. Zarif obfuscated, asking Wright: “Is the government of the United States responsible for the fact that there are racially hateful organizations in the United States?”

Wright, a former correspondent for The Post and Los Angeles Times, among other outlets, also works for the United States Institute of Peace and frequently argues for greater U.S. engagement with Tehran. She did not challenge Zarif’s Klan-Holocaust cartoon contest comparison although she did question his claims that the Iranian government was not involved in the event. However, as The Post editorial noted, “a spokesman for the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance confirmed that the ministry supports the [Holocaust cartoon] exhibition….A festival official also reported that it was cooperating with the ministry.”

Additionally, The Post pointed out, “one of the organizations staging the festival, the Owj Media and Cultural Institute, is funded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps; another, the Sarcheshmeh Cultural Complex, is backed by the Islamic Development Organization, whose budget is approved by the Iranian Parliament.”

That is, the Holocaust cartoon festival is absolutely supported by the Iranian regime, of which Zarif is a loyal servant.

“If there really is a gulf between Mr. Zarif and the supposed hard-liners,” the editorial said, “he often does a good job of disguising it.” Other news media outlets would do well to note that it’s a rather thin disguise and think twice before separating members of Iran’s largely self-selecting theocratic dictatorship, including Zarif and Rouhani, as well as Ayatollah Khamenei, into “moderate” and “hard-line” camps.

When it comes to Iran coverage, The Post’s declared sharp separation of the news and editorial departments may be real. National and foreign desk references to Iranian “moderates” and “reformers” versus “hard-liners” abounded in reporting the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the United States, France, Great Britain, Germany, Russia and China. In this year’s Iranian parliamentary elections, “moderates” made big gains, according to The Post.

Posted by SD at May 12, 2016 10:48 AM

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