In a Twitter response on Sunday to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Purim Message that Iran will not succeed in destroying the Jews, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused the PM of “fake history & falsifying Torah”, claiming that Iran had actually saved the Jews three times.
At a Megillah reading – the reading of the Book of Esther in celebration of Purim – in his local synagogue in Caesarea on Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the Purim story with a group of children, comparing ancient Persia in the story to modern day Iran.
“Today, too, they’re trying, in Persia,” he proceeded, to great applause, this time from the grownups, “and today they’re also not going to succeed!”
The Iranian foreign minister took umbrage at Netanyahu’s explanation of the Biblical story, tweeting, “To sell bigoted lies against a nation which has saved Jews three times, Netanyahu resorting to fake history & falsifying Torah. Force of habit.”
To sell bigoted lies against a nation which has saved Jews 3 times, Netanyahu resorting to fake history & falsifying Torah. Force of habit. pic.twitter.com/N09PyyGwqy
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) March 12, 2017
Netanyahu, Zarif claimed, “not only distorts the realities of today, but also distorts the past.”
Zarif, a Muslim, went on to explain the Biblical Book of Esther. He stated that it, “tells of how Xerxes I (King Ahashverosh) saved Jews from a plot hatched by Haman the Agagite, which is marked on this very day [Purim].”
Biblical scholars would disagree, explaining the story of Purim as Mordecai, a Jew, and Esther, his niece who married King Ahashverosh, as saving the Jews from an evil decree that Haman, the king’s adviser, had bribed the king to enact.
Zarif also claimed that Cyrus was an “Iranian King” who helped the Jews return to Israel and build the Second Temple.
Zarif claimed that, “during the Second World War, when Jews were being slaughtered in Europe, Iran gladly took them in.”
Surprisingly, there is some basis for Zarif’s claim. In 1942, Iran, considered neutral in the war, took in 116,000 Polish refugees, 5,000 of whom were Jewish. Also, Abdol Hossein Sardari, in charge of the Iranian consular office in Paris in 1942 when the Nazis invaded, issued hundreds of Iranian passports to Iranian and non-Iranian Jews in Paris, thereby allowing them to emigrate and escape. Known as the “Schindler of Iran”, his actions were recognized and honored by the Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum, and also by his own government.
Zarif’s criticism of Netanyahu was taken up by Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani at an open session of the parliament in Tehran on Sunday. “Apparently, he [Netnayahu] neither is familiar with the history nor has studied the Torah,” Larijani said. “Of course, nothing more than presenting such lies is expected from a wicked Zionist.”
Though Zarif has a unique understanding of the Bible and history, his claims of Iranian beneficence towards the Jewish People is in direct contradiction to many of his statements and actions. In a 2015 interview on NBC News concerning Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress, Zarif was confronted about his placing a wreath on the grave of Hezbollah master terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, who the interviewer, Ann Curry, described as having “spilled more blood, more American blood, than other terrorists besides Osama bin Laden.” Zarif did not respon.