Iranian media slanders Zelensky with antisemitic article

IRGC-linked media goes on an antisemitic rant regarding Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky takes the oath during his inauguration ceremony in parliament hall in Kiev on May 20 (photo credit: VLADYSLAV MUSIIENKO / UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENTAL PRESS SERVICE / REUTERS)
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky takes the oath during his inauguration ceremony in parliament hall in Kiev on May 20

Iran’s Fars News, which is a pro-government media outlet linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, ran a long article bashing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and using antisemitic tropes.

In the March 10 article that appears on its website's homepage, Zelensky is accused of being a hedonist who seeks to “gain power and pleasure, using any kind of moral and financial corruption being committed.” It accuses him of having made obscene works in his film career and supporting “marijuana, gambling and prostitution.” 

The article openly refers to him as a Jew with “deep ties to Jewish officials and the rich, such as George Soros.” It accuses him of being a Zionist, saying that “Zionist behavior” is duplicitous and that Israel had tossed Ukraine aside “like a handkerchief.” 

Read more about the Russia-Ukraine War:

 PEOPLE PASS a mural of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran (credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/WANA VIA REUTERS) PEOPLE PASS a mural of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran (credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/WANA VIA REUTERS)

The article describes Zelensky’s relationship with the Trump administration, arguing that the previous American president preferred amicable relations with Russia and that his allies worked against Ukraine and its ambassador in Washington.  This “coincided with the beginning of the first days of Zelensky's presidency,” the article claims.

Next, the article notes that “Trump repeatedly told Zelensky that he would have to contact Rudy Giuliani in order to be able to talk to him. This meant that the future of US-Ukrainian relations was potentially left to Trump’s personal lawyer.”

But the Iranian article then asserts a wild conspiracy. “Trump’s treatment of Zelensky is reminiscent of the extortion of Jeffrey Epstein, a prominent government and industrial figure in the United States and Europe.” This bizarre reference notes that “Epstein was a sex trafficker who extorts and silences officials and the rich around the world in moral scandals.”

FARS NEWS then claims that, “undoubtedly, in addition to Zelensky's need for US funding and military assistance, there were other hidden issues that kept Zelensky so silent in the face of repeated humiliation and forced him to continue interacting, especially given the close relationship with Trump and Jeffrey Epstein.”

This explanation only hints at a wider conspiracy by using dog whistles of antisemitism, such as references to Zelensky being Jewish and a “Zionist” and claiming he was linked to Soros and that this is somehow also linked to Trump and Epstein.  

The article relies in part on Turkish sources to push other conspiracies. It refers to a Turkish journalist close to Ankara’s leadership that has argued Zelensky is linked to Soros and the Open Society Foundation.

"Soros is the main cause of division and destruction in many nations,” the article notes, referring to Turkish claims. “Zelensky, meanwhile, has repeatedly thanked the Zionist regime for its support for his country, and reiterated his gratitude" to Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett.

The article claims that Zelensky is fluent in Hebrew and has “addressed the Jews of the world,” via Facebook posts. It thus mixes actual comments Ukraine's president made with references to conspiracies.  

“Zelensky’s campaign was with the financial support of one of the most corrupt and wealthy Ukrainian oligarchs, and in fact, Zelensky was in the pocket of these rich oligarchs,” the article claims. Then it notes that “Zelensky and his prime minister were the second Jewish heads of state in the world, after senior Israeli officials.”

THE ARTICLE doesn’t explain why it mentions these two issues in the same paragraph, but the clear implication is that somehow there is something corrupt about Zelensky being Jewish and linked to “oligarchs.” The article links Western antisemitic terms such as “clever” with Zelensky being Jewish and then accuses him of immorality.

“Zelensky's lifestyle as a hedonistic Jew made him an effective tool in the hands of the Western mafia, especially the Americans, who take every action to reach the peak of their pleasure and lust. His cinematic and television background, and of course his work on social media, well support this claim," it claims.

“Zelensky, like many other pro-Western leaders, lacked the political credentials and other credentials to run a country at the highest levels,” the article says. It returns to the argument that “Epstein in the United States was in fact one of Zelensky’s most influential role models. The abuse of women and illicit sexual relations is a powerful tool in the hands of managers who try to achieve their goal by any means possible.”

Fars then links this theory to a film Zelensky appeared in, arguing that the movie is a model for how the former actor manages his own affairs. “This film well illustrates the pattern of Zelensky's managerial behavior, and it can be said that Zelensky has practiced and modeled his business management style in this film."

"We have to look at Zelensky through a camera frame that was placed behind or in front of him for years to reflect and reinforce his worldview and ideology," the article says. "He is a follower of the school of hedonism, which legitimizes the attainment of pleasure in any way possible, and this school has spread to all aspects of his existence.” 

Overall, the article is full of slander against Zelensky. What is important here is how Iranian media tries to hint at various conspiracies and takes from Turkish and other sources to weave a tale of negative stereotypes against him.

This is clearly part of the Iranian regime's agenda to attack and tarnish the Ukrainian leader as part of Tehran's desire to have some closer relations with Russia.

Iran’s media doesn’t go the full distance of claiming more wild antisemitic conspiracies such as the Elders of Zion, but this media dog-whistling is part of the worldview linked to the far-right Islamists that push ideologies similar to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas and others in the Brotherhood have long pushed anti-Jewish conspiracies, such as linking Jews to the French revolution and sex crimes. In addition, those like Malaysia’s former leader Mahathir Mohammed have often pushed antisemitic conspiracies about Jews being behind the world’s conflicts.

The Nazis claimed Jews were sexually immoral, and Iran’s media builds on the same hate speech. The Iranian article is a word salad of these conspiracies, linking Zelensky to “Zionism,” to oligarchs, and to Epstein via Trump – and then to “hedonism” and various other to defame him.