(JTA) — Iran’s foreign minister accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “fake history” for saying that Iran sought the annihilation of the Jews, just as had ancient Persia in the Purim story.
“To sell bigoted lies against a nation which has saved Jews 3 times, Netanyahu resorting to fake history & falsifying Torah. Force of habit,” Mohammed Javad Zarif tweeted.
On Saturday, Netanyahu visited an Israeli synagogue, where he told children celebrating Purim that Iran seeks to kill the Jews just as the Persians did. Purim started Saturday night, with costumes and street parties around Israel.
In an image attached to his tweet, Zarif wrote: “Once again, Benjamin Netanyahu not only distorts the realities of today, but also distorts the past — including Jewish scripture. It is truly regrettable that bigotry gets to the point of making allegations against an entire nation which has saved the Jews three times in its history.
“The Book of Esther tells of how Xerxes I saved Jews from a plot hatched by Haman the Agagite, which is marked on this very day,” he wrote, referring to the Persian king known in the Purim story as Ahasuerus.
Jews see Queen Esther as the heroine of Purim for dissuading Ahasuerus from killing all the Jews in the kingdom, as his viceroy Haman initially convinced him to do.
Zarif also credited Cyrus the Great, who he called an “Iranian king,” with saving the Jews during their exile in Babylon and Iran with “gladly” accepting Jews who “were being slaughtered in Europe” during World War II. Iran has often been accused of denying the Holocaust.
Earlier Sunday, the speaker of Iran’s parliament said “apparently, [Netanyahu] is neither acquainted with history, nor has read the Torah,” according to the semi-official Fars News Agency. Netanyahu “has distorted the Iranians’ pre-Islam historical era and attempted to misrepresent events. Of course, nothing more than presenting such lies is expected from a wicked Zionist.”
In a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Friday, Netanyahu said Iran sought to “destroy the state of the Jews” in the same way ancient Persia had plotted to “destroy the Jewish people.” But Putin rejected the parallel, saying the story of Purim occurred “in the fifth century BCE” and suggesting they discuss the “different world” of today.