by Ted Lipien Dublin, CA, October 30, 2006 — Iranian leaders have intensified their anti-Israeli rhetoric in recent weeks using strong language reminiscent of anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda and some of the anti-Western Soviet propaganda of the Cold War period. Most recent statements by the Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki and the Iranian Foreign Ministry referred to “the usurper regime of Israel,” “the racist Zionist regime,” “the Zionist regime [being] a cancerous gland in need of being uprooted,” and “the notorious Zionist occupiers.”

While name calling such as “Zionist regime” has been frequent among Iranian leaders for many years, direct and more veiled calls for Israel’s destruction have intensified in recent weeks in connection with the annual event called al-Quds Day, where the Israeli control of Jerusalem is protested.

Iranian President Dr. Mahmud Ahmadinejad initiated high-level Iranian government calls for Israel’s destruction a year ago when he told Iranian students there was, “no doubt the new wave [of attacks] in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world.” Israeli Prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, said that “a country that calls for the destruction of another people cannot be a member of the United Nations.” Many world leaders, including the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, condemned President Ahmadinejad’s statement.

This month’s references to Israel’s destruction in official statements from Iranian leaders included comments by Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki that “the usurper regime of Israel is cracking and falling apart both from inside and outside.” Speaking to reporters at a al-Quds Day rally, Mottaki said “the Israeli regime is falling and the Zionists` supporters should take the massive support for Palestinians from the Iranian people and the world Muslims as a warning.” [Link] The Iranian Foreign Ministry declared in a statement issued in connection with the al-Quds day that “the Zionist regime is a cancerous gland in need of being uprooted, and a threat against the inhabitants of the planet earth.”

Anti-Israeli rhetoric in Iranian official statements is much harsher than anti-American propaganda, although the two are often linked. The Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei said last week that for America today “no interest takes lead [in the Middle East] over the interests of Zionists and the Zionist regime.” [Link] Another rhetorical theme in Iranian official statements presents Israel as the West’s agent in the Middle East. A recent Iranian Foreign Ministry communique stated that “the usurper Zionist regime,” referred to in the communique as “the root cause for the ever aggravating Middle East crisis,” was established by the West “to create a foothold for itself in the region.” [Link]

Also as part of his public relations campaigns, the Iranian President continues to deny the existence of the Nazi Holocaust against the European Jews, openly posting his views on the subject on his personal weblog. [Link] In a recent exchange with a group of Americans, Dr. Ahmanidejad defended those in the West who question the Holocaust and tried to draw parallels between the Holocaust and the killings of Palestinians by the Israeli forces.

Such harsh rhetoric, name calling, and denial of the Holocaust in statements by Iranian officials are highly unusual by today’s diplomatic and ethical standards, but this kind of propaganda language was common practice during World War II. While Nazi Germany engaged in anti-Semitic propaganda, other countries also used racist and other offensive propaganda themes aimed at their enemies. Similar language was also used by European nationalists in the early decades of the 20th century, communist regimes of the Cold War period, and perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide.

Extremist nationalist groups in Europe – such as those in Ireland, Spain, Serbia, Bosnia, and Albania -  have engaged in this type of rhetoric more recently to provoke ethnic violence, but the appeal of such propaganda among the mainstream European and American public has been declining for decades with rising levels of education and more sophisticated media reporting. Former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was probably the last major European leader whose public statements urged ethnic cleansing and caused significant loss of life.

Statements similar in their level of threats and antagonism are still being used by government officials and media in North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, Mozambique, and by Islamist groups in various regions and countries, from Iraq to Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Pakistan., a California-based nonprofit organization which supports media freedom worldwide, has been urging independent journalists to provide better coverage and analysis of propaganda claims used to promote ethnic and religious violence.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called President Bush “the devil” in a speech at the United Nations. President Bush used the term “the axis of evil.” But the intensity of harsh anti-Israeli rhetoric in official Iranian statements and calls for Israel’s destruction are unprecedented among most governments in the post-Cold War world. While largely ignored by Western media, these statements often receive positive media coverage in some Arab and other Muslim countries. They often have the greatest appeal among less educated and those who are already firm believers in anti-Israeli, anti-American, and anti-Western propaganda claims.

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