JERUSALEM (AP) — The Iranian president’s comment that “there are some signs” that the Holocaust happened but that the issue required more research sparked an outcry on Monday from Israeli officials, who denounced the remarks as antisemitic Holocaust denial.
Hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi made the comment during an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” on the eve of his visit to New York for the U.N. General Assembly. When asked whether he believed the Holocaust happened, Raisi said there “are some signs that it happened.”
He added: “If so, they should allow it to be investigated and researched.”
Soon after the interview aired, outrage spread in Israel, a country home to tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors. The chairman of Israel’s official Holocaust memorial center, Yad Vashem, rebuked Raisi as a “despicable anti-Semite.”
“Even casting doubts on the occurrence of the Holocaust is one of the most abhorrent forms of anti-Semitism,” said Dani Dayan.
Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid, whose late father survived the Holocaust, posted a series of graphic photographs from the genocide on Twitter with the caption: “Some signs.”
Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan also decried Raisi’s comments as “shocking,” calling on U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres to deny him “a world stage to spread antisemitism and hatred.”
Raisi will be speaking at the 77th session of the U.N. General Assembly later this week, his first appearance at the annual gathering of world leaders.
Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric known for his hostility to the West, became president last year.
Israel considers Iran its greatest enemy and threat. Iran has long backed armed groups committed to Israel’s destruction. Its leaders have called for Israel to be wiped off the map and previously made statements that distort the history of the genocide that killed 6 million Jews or deny its existence.