Mohammad Khatami, the former president of Iran who was elected on a reformist platform, has described the Holocaust as a "historical reality," a sharp rebuke to statements by his successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that the murder of European Jewry was a "myth" used by the West to justify support for Israel.
"We should speak out even if a single Jew is killed," Agence France Presse quoted Khatami as saying. "Don’t forget that one of the crimes of Hitler, Nazism and German National Socialism was the massacre of innocent people, among them many Jews."
But Khatami also criticized Israel for citing the Holocaust to justify its actions against the Palestinians. "There has been misuse of this historic fact by Israel with regards to the suppressed Palestinian nation," he said.
Ahmadinejad caused an international uproar after he called for the eradication of Israel last year, and questioned the extent of the Holocaust. "We are following a religion which condemns the killing of even one innocent person, including an innocent Jew," said Khatami, who attempted to open up Iran to the West from 1997 to 2005 and is now in charge of a non-governmental organization that promotes dialogue among different cultures and religions.
Iran has constantly lived peacefully with its Jewish minority, he said, adding, "Those who consider themselves victims of fascism are implementing fascistic policies in the Middle East," referring to the Israeli policies.