Toning down rhetoric, Khamenei claims Iran never wanted to throw Jews in sea
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Toning down rhetoric, Khamenei claims Iran never wanted to throw Jews in sea

Supreme leader says only Egypt’s Nasser called for expulsion, while Tehran wants a referendum of descendants of all who lived in Palestine 100 years ago, including Jews

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during Labor Day at a workers' meeting, April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Iranian Supreme Leader's Website /HO)
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during Labor Day at a workers' meeting, April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Iranian Supreme Leader's Website /HO)

Iran’s supreme leader has sought to clarify his position on Israel after threatening its destruction and now says his country has never expressed genocidal aims against the Jewish people.

Earlier this month, a tweet posted on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s official Twitter account said Iran’s “stance against Israel is the same stance we have always taken. #Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen.” The account is run by Khamenei’s office and it’s not known if he dictates the tweets himself.

But in a series of tweets early Monday, Khamenei said the conflict should be resolved through a popular referendum among those who trace their roots back to before the creation of Israel, including Muslims, Jews and Christians.

“To define #Palestine’s destiny, original Palestinians—those who lived in Palestine over 100 years ago, #Muslims, #Jews & #Christians—in/outside occupied territories, will be polled: whatever they decide will happen,” he wrote.

That would seem to include the Palestinians as well as the small community of Jews who lived in the Holy Land before the mass immigration of Jews in the 20th century and the creation of Israel in 1948.

Khamenei did not address the fate of the vast majority of Jewish Israelis, who claim historical and biblical roots to the land but whose immediate ancestors arrived in the last century.

However, he said Iran had never expressed a desire to “throw the Jews in the sea,” accusing late Egyptian leader Gammel Abdel Nasser of seeking the watery genocide instead.

“The Islamic Republic has never said anything like that since its inception,” he tweeted.

Khamenei and other senior Iranian officials have relentlessly encouraged the destruction of Israel, and Iran finances, arms and trains terror groups on Israel’s borders. Officials occasionally clarify that Iran would only attack Israel in “self-defense” and bears no hostility toward Jews as a religious community.

Khamenei also chided Europe for listening to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warnings about Iran’s aims during a recent trip to Europe. During the trip to Germany, France and the UK, Netanyahu discussed the need to end the nuclear deal with Iran and support pushing Iranian forces out of southern Syria.

On Friday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that Israel “can never” feel safe, as many thousands of Iranians marched in an annual day of protest against Israel.

An effigy of the US President Donald Trump is set on fire during the annual anti-Israeli Al-Quds, Jerusalem, Day rally in Tehran, Iran, June 8, 2018. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Khamenei has previously branded Israel as “barbaric,” “infanticidal,” and the “sinister, unclean rabid dog of the region.” More recently, he blamed “Zionists” for the anti-government demonstrations held across Iran earlier this year.

Netanyahu was asked last week about Khamenei’s threat at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Iran calls for our destruction, but it’s also seeking nuclear weapons to carry out its genocidal design,” said Netanyahu, who was visiting Europe to press for the further dismantling of the Iranian nuclear deal after the US pulled out.

An Iranian protester holds an anti-Israeli placard during an annual anti-Israeli Al-Quds, Jerusalem, Day rally in Tehran, Iran, Friday, June 8, 2018 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Merkel also condemned the tweet, while insisting the nuclear agreement was the best way to keep Iran from developing atomic weapons.

Khamenei, in his remarks on Sunday, also called Netanyahu a “criminal” who had “lied” to European leaders by saying that Iran wanted to annihilate Jews.

Iran is home to the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside of Israel, and has a number of synagogues and popular shrines. The Jewish community has a representative in Iran’s parliament.

Iran had between 80,000 and 100,000 Jews before the 1979 Islamic Revolution but most have since fled, mainly to the United States, Israel and Europe. There are now only about 8,500 left, mostly in Tehran but also in Isfahan and Shiraz, major cities south of the capital.

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