Diplomat’s fiery attack
Jewish leaders want Iran envoy expelled from NZ after heated anti-Israel rhetoric
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