Iran’s Ahmadinejad rebrands: I’m not an anti-Semite

Iran’s ex-president Ahmadinejad is working to change his public persona from tyrant to advocate for global freedom.

By World Israel News Staff

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 80, denied he is an anti-Semite in an interview with The Nation on Monday.

Ahmadinejad told Israel-based reporter Samuel Thrope that he was opposed to Israeli policies, and not motivated by hatred of Jews.

“If you mean Judaism as a religion, as a culture, how can a person oppose a religion, a culture, or an ethnicity?” Ahmadinejad said. “I’m opposed to actions that violate the rights of others; it makes no difference who does them.”

“You’re Jewish and I’m Muslim, and we’re talking. Are we fighting? Are we at war?,” Ahmadinejad told the interviewer.

Ahmadinejad said that many Jews oppose “the Zionist government,” but aren’t called anti-Semites.

However, the interviewer noted that Ahmadinejad wouldn’t renounce his earlier anti-Semitic statements. As president, Ahmandinejad displayed “bald anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial,” Thrope writes.

During his presidency, he called for the destruction of Israel.

In 2006, at the “International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust,” prominent Holocaust deniers were brought to Tehran, including former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.

Arash Azizi, a Middle Eastern history scholar, tells Thrope that  “Anti-Semitism has always had a part in Ahmadinejad’s international brand,” adding, “It works; that Jews control the world is an unfortunately popular trope.”

Iran observers say the former Iranian president is trying to make himself relevant again, possibly positioning himself as a future leader for Iran. He is using online media to soften his previous hard-line positions.

“The two great nations of Iran and the U.S. desire friendly relations and ties, based on mutual productive interactions,” he wrote. “This desire is a constructive, natural and innate trend, rooted in God’s creation and the gem of human existence.”

Thorpe notes “the comic incongruity” between Ahmadinejad’s image as a “Middle Eastern demagogue” and his online personality.

In April, when the Trump administration designated the Iran Revolutionary Guard a terror organization, Ahmadinejad ignored it, instead tweeting a day later about the University of Virginia basketball team winning the NCAA Final Four.

“I know the special feeling these young men have and I congratulate them and their families on this achievement.” Ahmadinejad tweeted, adding the hashtag: “@UVAMensHoops #NationalChampionship #FinalFour #GoHoos.”

Thrope said that Ahmandinejad likely viewed the interview as a way to “burnish his image.”