Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Iran Friday over its treatment of Christians, in light of recent reports of converts being arrested in the run up to Christmas.
In a video posted to YouTube, Netanyahu pointed to a Christmas greetings tweet from Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, before tearing into the Islamic Republic for its alleged persecution of its Christian minority and curbs on social media.
“Get a load of this. A few days ago, Iran’s foreign minister tweeted: ‘A very happy and peaceful Christmas to all.’ I wonder what the Christians jailed this month in Iran would think about that tweet,” said Netanyahu. “I wonder what Iranian youth would think about that tweet, but sadly the Iranian regime bans Twitter. Except, of course, if you’re a high-ranking official.”
The prime minister was referring to reports from earlier this month that four Iranian Christian converts had been arrested. Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, reported that the homes of six other Christian converts were also raided, including one used as a house church.
“Imagine praying quietly in your home, surrounded by your family, and all of a sudden armed thugs burst in and drag you away to prison,” said Netanyahu in reference to the arrests. “They torture you merely for practicing your Christian faith.”
“Welcome to Iran,” he added.
Under Islam, converting to another religion is punishable by death. In Iran, which defines itself as an Islamic Republic, Islamic law plays a central role in the legal system.
In the video, Netanyahu slammed the “hypocrisy” of Zarif’s Merry Christmas tweet.
“Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ while jailing Christians in your own country is the height of hypocrisy,” said Netanyahu.
“If you stand for freedom, share this message. If you stand against hypocrisy, share this message. And above all, say a quiet prayer for our Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering at the hands of this cruel Iranian regime,” he added. “We stand with you, brothers and sisters. The world stands with you.”
Netanyahu has previously called out top Iranian officials for tweeting holiday greetings to non-Muslims.
In September 2013, he dismissed a Jewish new year’s greetings from Zarif, saying it was meant to distract from Iran’s development of nuclear weapons that would threaten Israel and the world at large. Iranian leaders regularly call for Israel’s destruction.