Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei chose the occasion of the Persian New Year on Friday to again deny the Holocaust.
In an address to a large crowd of people in Iran's northeastern city of Mashhad, Khamenei questioned whether the Holocaust had ever happened, saying that "the Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain and, if it happened, it's uncertain how it happened."
"Does anybody dare talk about Holocaust in Europe?" Khameini asked.
The Supreme Leader also referred to the Middle East peace efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, saying that the United States "failed in Palestine. Their plan for Palestine, in which they invested a great effort, did not work and, God willing, will not work either."
Regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, Khameini said: "They want to turn Palestine into a country where Muslims and Christians cannot live; to terminate Palestine, so to speak."
"Absolute freedom doesn’t exist anywhere in the world," Khameini said. "Even countries that claim to have freedom set red lines on which they’re utterly strict."
- For Iran, the Holocaust is just another tragedy - if it ever happened
- Palestinian students visit Auschwitz in first organized visit
Jewish organizations have condemned the Ayatollah's comments as revealing the "true face" of the Iranian regime. World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said in a press release Friday that Khamenei's provocations should remind the world not to be allured by Iranian President Hassan Rohani's "charm offensive." Lauder added that the West should remain "very careful in engaging with Teheran."
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, also issued an official condemnation later on Friday. "His [Khamenei's] message is that despite the ongoing nuclear negotiations, Iran is holding strong to its radical ideology," read the ADL statement.
Further criticism was sounded by officials of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. Conference Chairman Robert G. Sugarman and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, sent out a statement also warning the West from buying into Iran's "moderate façade."
"The escalating persecution in Iran of various minority groups and the sharp increase in the number of executions reflect his racism and bigoted views which extend to Holocaust denial," the statement read.
The leader's comments come at a time when Iran's secular politicians are trying to downplay the country's hardline image and repair ties with the West. Last Rosh Hashana, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that "Iran never denied [the Holocaust.] The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone. Happy New Year."
The reference was apparently to former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who once described the Holocaust as a "fairy tale."
In a subsequent interview with an Iranian news website, Zarif said: "We never were against Jews. We oppose Zionists, who are a minority. We have condemned killing of Jews by Nazis as we condemn (the) killing and crackdown on Palestinians by Zionists."