If you were to rely solely on the Guardian to understand what the new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, said during an NBC interview last week you’d never know that he described Israel as “an occupier and usurper…that has brought instability to the region, with its warmongering policies.“
You wouldn’t know this because the report on the interview by the Guardian’s Dan Roberts only mentioned those comments by Rouhani which could be interpreted as conciliatory, while completely omitting his demonizing rhetoric about Israel, quotes which featured prominently in the NBC report which Roberts’ report was based on.
Similarly, upon reading two recent reports by the Guardian’s Saeed Kamali Dehghan, pertaining to Rouhani’s address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, you’d be forgiven for believing that Rouhani avoided criticizing Israel at all. Dehghan wrote the following in one of his two Sept. 25 reports:
Rouhani made sure his speech was a step forward, however minimal, and that it did not add fuel to the existing tensions, not further complicate the current standoff.
Nevertheless [the speech] was positive. Western representatives at the UN remained seated and did not join Israel’s inevitable boycott of the speech. Intriguingly, Rouhani did not mention, even once, the word that so infamously was associated with his predecessor: Israel (or, as Iranian leaders prefer, “the Zionist regime”). At the end of his speech, he recited a verse from the Qu’ran that talked about the Jewish holy book, the Torah. Those two choices should have pleased the sole Iranian Jewish MP accompanying Rouhani in his UN visit to New York.
Dehghan’s second report on Sept. 25 that dealt with Rouhani’s speech at the UN included the following:
During his visit to the UN in New York, Rouhani attempted to revamp the image of Iran so badly hurt under Ahmadinejad. He was accompanied by Iran’s only Jewish MP, Siamak Moreh Sedgh, and made no direct mention of Israel in his speech to the general assembly on Tuesday.
Despite the charm offensive, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ordered his delegation to boycott Rouhani’s speech at the general assembly on Tuesday.
However, despite the implicit message conveyed by Dehghan in two reports, that the new Iranian President stayed clear of polarizing, anti-Israel rhetoric, his UN address included the following:
What has been – and continues to be – practiced against the innocent people of Palestine is nothing less than structural violence. Palestine is under occupation; the basic rights of the Palestinians are tragically violated, and they are deprived of the right of return and access to their homes, birthplace and homeland. Apartheid as a concept can hardly describe the crimes and the institutionalized aggression against the innocent Palestinian people.
Rouhani didn’t explicitly use the word “Israel”, but those listening to the speech obviously understood that Israel was the state Iran’s President was referring to.
Moreover, whilst some have justly focused on an extremely misleading report by CNN claiming that Rouhani, in a recent interview, acknowledged the Holocaust, (a narrative parroted by the Guardian), critiques of this specific obfuscation should be contextualized as part of a larger pattern, in which media outlets cherry pick quotes by Rouhani and fail to report information which contradicts the desired story of “Rouhani the moderate”.
Here are a few examples of Rouhani’s far less than moderate political record:
Rouhani: ‘Death to America’:
- Rouhani, in a campaign speech on May 8th, 2013: “’Death to America’ is easy. We need to express ‘Death to America’ with action.” (The Wall Street Journal, via The Weekly Standard)
Rouhani, boasting of duping the West on the nuclear issue:
- Rouhani, who was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator with Europe for two years (2003-2005), “proudly admitted that he successfully bought time to advance nuclear technology while the EU leaders were busy in negotiations with him.” (The Telegraph)
Rouhani, supporter of terror abroad:
- “Rouhani…chaired Iran’s National Security Council between 1989 and 2005, meaning [that] he was at the top table when Iran masterminded the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, [which] killed 85 people, and the Khobar Towers attack in 1996, killing 19 U.S. airmen.” (The Wall Street Journal)
- “Rouhani picked as his defense minister, Hossein Dehghan, one of the plotters of the 1983 U.S. Marine barracks bombing in Beirut that killed 241 Americans.” (The Washington Times)
Rouhani, supporter of terror and repression at home:
- Rouhani (as head of the Islamic National Security Council) had a major role in the violent crackdown on a 1999 student uprising against the Islamist regime, and said, at a pro-regime rally in July that year: “At dusk yesterday we received a decisive revolutionary order to crush mercilessly and monumentally any move of these opportunist elements wherever it may occur.” (The Wall Street Journal)
- Rouhani’s current pick for Justice Minister, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, has been criticized by human rights groups for his role in the summary executions of thousands of Iranian political prisoners in 1988, the assassination of political figures abroad, and the 1998 killings of intellectuals inside the country while he was a director at the Intelligence Ministry. – Al Monitor and Radio Free Europe
As Charles Krauthammer wrote recently about the president of a nation which is among the world’s leaders in fomenting terrorism abroad, and terrorizing women, gays, religious minorities and political dissidents at home:
“[Rouhani has a] strange résumé for a moderate: 35 years of unswervingly loyal service to the Islamic Republic as a close aide to Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei [and] one of only six presidential candidates, another 678 having been disqualified by the regime as ideologically unsound. That puts him in the 99th [per]centile for fealty.
And, if the past is any guide, we can expect the Guardian – inspired by an ideology which evokes sympathy for the political aspirations of the most reactionary, anti-Western political movements in the world – to rank in the top percentile for fealty to the new president as he engages in a surreal campaign to cast himself as a political “moderate”.