Diplo­mat’s fiery at­tack

Jewish lead­ers want Iran en­voy ex­pelled from NZ af­ter heated anti-Is­rael rhetoric

Sunday Star-Times - - Front Page - TONY WALL

An Ira­nian diplo­mat has been ac­cused of fu­elling rad­i­cal­ism with a provoca­tive, anti-Is­rael speech at an Auck­land mosque.

Jewish com­mu­nity lead­ers want Hor­moz Ghahre­mani, first sec­re­tary of the Ira­nian Em­bassy, to be ex­pelled af­ter he ap­peared along­side speak­ers who de­nied the Holo­caust and called for the ‘‘sur­gi­cal re­moval’’ of Is­rael.

In his speech, Ghahre­mani said Is­rael was try­ing to ‘‘de­ceive the world’’ by pre­tend­ing to be an ad­vo­cate of peace when in fact it was fu­elling ter­ror­ism in the Mid­dle East to di­vert at­ten­tion from the Pales­tine is­sue.

Mus­lim na­tions needed to unite against ‘‘the anti-hu­man regime of Is­rael and dis­cern their com­mon en­emy with pro­found in­sight’’, he said.

At the same event a vis­it­ing Ira­nian cleric, Ho­ja­toleslam Shafie, said Is­rael ‘‘hides be­hind a fake phe­nom­e­non’’ of the Holo­caust.

The an­ni­hi­la­tion of the ‘‘Zion­ist regime’’ had be­gun, he said.

Com­mu­nity el­der Sayed Taghi Der­hami, a Mt Al­bert ac­coun­tant, told at­ten­dees that Is­rael was a ‘‘can­cer­ous gland’’ that had to be ‘‘sur­gi­cally re­moved’’.

News this week­end of the ag­gres­sive speeches comes af­ter ral­lies against racism. New Green MP Gol­riz Ghahra­man de­nounced racism at a rally in front of Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day.

Gol­riz Ghahra­man, who came to New Zealand from Iran as a refugee as a child, said last night she was con­cerned that racist rhetoric was be­com­ing more com­mon­place in main­stream New Zealand pol­i­tics. ‘‘It’s im­por­tant to note the Holo­caust was the most har­row­ing of crimes against hu­man­ity,’’ she said.

A video of the speeches has been posted on the YouTube chan­nel of the Is­lamic Ah­lul­bayt Foun­da­tion, which hosted the event at its cen­tre

in the east Auck­land sub­urb of Paku­ranga.

The speech was in June but has only just come to light. Con­tacted at the Ira­nian Em­bassy in Welling­ton, Hor­moz Ghahre­mani told the Sun­day StarTimes he agreed the speech could be seen as in­flam­ma­tory but it had to be taken in the con­text of the event at which it was given. He spoke at a gath­er­ing to mark the an­nual Quds Day, ini­ti­ated by Iran in the 1970s to sup­port Pales­tini­ans and op­pose Zion­ism.

Ghahre­mani said he was up­set the speech was on the in­ter­net.

‘‘It was some­thing pri­vate, a small gath­er­ing. I was there to re­flect the po­si­tion of the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment.’’

Asked if such in­flam­ma­tory speeches could fuel rad­i­cal­ism in the Mus­lim com­mu­nity, Ghahre­mani said: ‘‘If it’s spo­ken in pub­lic places yeah, you’re right. But it was a small, pri­vate gath­er­ing that hap­pens once a year. This year they make a mis­take to shoot a film, to put it on YouTube.’’

Juliet Moses, a spokes­woman for the Jewish Coun­cil, said the fact an Iran gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive was mak­ing such in­flam­ma­tory state­ments was con­cern­ing. ‘‘It’s not a great sur­prise in one sense, be­cause state­ments like this come from Ira­nian lead­ers all the time, but when those words are be­ing spo­ken in New Zealand it’s a very dif­fer­ent mat­ter,’’ she said.

Moses hoped the Gov­ern­ment would take ac­tion against Ghahre­mani. ‘‘Ex­pul­sion might be an op­tion.’’

Paul Moon, a his­tory pro­fes­sor at the Auck­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, said the videos clearly con­tained ‘‘ex­trem­ist talk with el­e­ments of racism as well’’.

He said the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion should in­ves­ti­gate. A com­mis­sion spokesper­son said the on­line video might breach the Harm­ful Dig­i­tal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Act.

It was some­thing pri­vate, a small gath­er­ing. I was there to re­flect the po­si­tion of the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment. Hor­moz Ghahre­mani

New Zealand is caught in diplo­matic rows in­volv­ing Kuwait, above, and Iran.

Hor­moz Ghahre­mani and Juliet Moses

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