German Jews slam German president for praising antisemitic Iranian regime

“Why... after the Ayatollah Khamenei released a Holocaust denying video... did the president of Germany sent warm greetings to a regime that seeks Israel's destruction?"

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier touches a wreath during a ceremony commemorating the six million Jews killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust, in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem (photo credit: REUTERS)
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier touches a wreath during a ceremony commemorating the six million Jews killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust, in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem
(photo credit: REUTERS)

The head of Germany’s nearly 100,000-strong Jewish community blasted the president of the federal republic, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, for sending a congratulatory telegram to the Iranian regime to honor the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic.

Dr. Josef Schuster, chairman of the Jewish community, told the Bild newspaper on Monday: “On the federal president’s congratulatory telegram on the anniversary of the revolution in Iran, routine diplomacy seems to have supplanted critical thinking. It is incomprehensible that by the topic of Iran the presidential office apparently lacked the necessary sensitivity. If there was a need to congratulate on this anniversary, the president would at least have to find clear words of criticism of the regime.

“I expect the federal president to take the next opportunity to make clear to Iran the critical attitude of the Germans in whose name he speaks.”

Steinmeier has refused to congratulate US president Donald Trump on his election victory in 2016, calling him a “hate preacher.” However, the social democratic president has sent congratulation remarks to authoritarian leaders such as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Russian President Vladimir Putin on their questionable election victories.

The Israeli-Palestinian psychologist and Islam expert Ahmad Mansour wrote on Twitter: “Did not the same Steinmeier refuse to congratulate Trump? Why is he setting different standards for Iran? Iran is the export world champion of antisemitism, is actively involved in the killings of Jews, thousands in Syria, homosexuals in their own country.”

Steinmeier has previously bowed in honor of former PLO president Yasser Arafat’s tomb in Ramallah. The former German foreign affairs minister also hosted an event for the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence at the Social Democratic Party’s headquarters in Berlin. The NGO uses anonymous testimonies to criticize Israeli soldiers.

According to Bild, Steinmeier defended his telegram to Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani in his Monday conversation with Schuster. The president’s press office said congratulating Iran’s regime for its Islamic revolution is “the longstanding state practice of the Federal Republic of Germany.” The Bild article termed the Islamic Republic of Iran an “antisemitic regime.”

The Jerusalem Post reported last week on Steinmeier’s praise of the clerical regime in Tehran. After German politicians and the US-based human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center sharply criticized Steinmeier, the Central Council of Jews in Germany weighed in.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a new statement on Monday, asking: “Why is Germany hailing Iranian Regime’s 40th while Ayatollah denies Holocaust, and IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] threatens to ‘Raze Tel Aviv and Haifa?’”

The center’s dean and founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, and Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of Global Social Action, asked in a second question: “Why, only weeks after Ayatollah Khamenei released a Holocaust-denying video on International Holocaust Memorial Day, did the president of Germany send warm greetings to a regime that seeks Israel’s destruction?”

The center’s officials said that “the official video released by the ayatollah includes references to notorious Holocaust deniers Roger Garaudy, David Irving and Robert Faurisson, all of whose hateful views were debunked by legitimate historians.”

The rabbis blasted the German Foreign Ministry and its deputy foreign minister, Niels Annen, for appearing at a celebration of the Islamic revolution at the Iranian Embassy in Berlin.

“We were further dismayed to learn that the foreign ministry” sent officials to Iran’s embassy “that seeks to destroy Israel, hangs gays publicly and persecutes its religious minorities. And just one day after the 40th anniversary a top official threatened ‘to raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground.’”

The Wiesenthal Center said: “These shocking public displays of friendship for the most notorious state-sponsor of terrorism, of Holocaust denial [and] of a regime that regularly threatens Israel with destruction, flies in the face of Germany’s longstanding commitment to protect the memory of six million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany and to stand by the democratic Jewish state against existential threats.”

“Moments of Silence and national memorials to the past in Germany won’t have meaning much longer if today’s Germany is prepared to sacrifice its democratic principles for lucrative contracts from the Iranian regime,” Hier and Cooper noted.

A spokesman for Israel’s consulate in Munich, Tobias Wenger, told the Post by email that the matter involves a “national topic” and the embassy in Berlin in responsible for comments. Numerous Post email and Twitter queries to Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff were unanswered.