This NY Jewish Week editorial, “Willful Dissonance,” asks if the ascendency of Pres. Rouhani in Iran will lead to a peaceful resolution of the problems posed by Iran’s nuclear program. It opens with a probing question emanating from Rouhani’s much quoted (and somewhat misquoted) remarks in the midst of Iran’s annual Al Quds Day, about two weeks ago:
… Hassan Rouhani, is being described as a moderate in the American press. Compared to his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, maybe he is. After all, while Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and openly and repeatedly called for doing away with Israel, so far Rouhani, appearing at an Al Quds Day event in Iran on Friday where marchers shout “Death to Israel,” “only” referred to the Jewish state as “a sore that has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years.” In fact, much was made over the translation of his remarks, which were downgraded from saying the “sore” must be removed.
This is supposed to ease our concerns about an Iran still actively building a nuclear arsenal? . . .
Prime Minister Netanyahu reacted with typical alarm, employing the misquote — but clearly the quote was bad enough. This episode is reminiscent of the time when Rouhani’s predecessor Ahmadinejad was misquoted as saying that “Israel should be erased from the map” rather than the more accurate “Zionism will be erased from the pages of history” remark (undoubtedly during a Kumbaya moment at the “World Without Zionism” conference in Teheran).
When it comes to Israel, expressions of hostility are often given the benefit of doubt or explained away diplomatically by liberal or neutral observers, while right-wingers tend to ring alarm bells.
The fact is that Iran remains dangerously hostile toward Israel. Still, we can only hope that Rouhani will act rationally to settle the nuclear issue peacefully, and that his boss, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, will permit him to do so. Hopefully, provocative rhetoric from either Israelis or Iranians will not get in the way.
I’m including links to articles in the New York Times and from the JTA that further explore this matter: