WASHINGTON (JTA) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani acknowledged the Holocaust as a crime against the Jews but refused to comment on its scope.
“I have said before that I am not a historian, and that when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust, it is the historians that should reflect on it,” Rouhani told CNN in comments published Tuesday on its website.
“But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis committed towards the Jews, as well as non-Jewish people, was reprehensible and condemnable as far as we are concerned,” he said.
Rouhani also appeared to liken the Holocaust to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
“This does not mean that on the other hand you can say Nazis committed crimes against a group, now therefore they must usurp the land of another group and occupy it,” he said. “This too is an act that should be condemned. There should be an evenhanded discussion.”
Rouhani in an interview earlier this week with NBC declined to answer a question about the Holocaust, prompting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say that Rouhani differed little from his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denied the Holocaust.
Netanyahu in a statement posted on his Facebook page said Rouhani’s alleged Holocaust denial was one reason he ordered the Israeli delegation to the United Nations not to be present when the Iranian leader spoke Tuesday at the General Assembly.
“The Israeli delegation absented itself from Rouhani’s speech in order not to grant legitimacy to a regime that does not recognize the existence of the Holocaust and which publicly declares its desire to wipe the State of Israel off the map,” Netanyahu said.
President Obama said at the General Assembly that he was ready to engage with Rouhani to bring about a diplomatic solution to tensions over Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program. Netanyahu has said he believes Rouhani’s claims to moderation are a ruse.