President-elect Hassan Rouhani’s comments at Iran’s Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day rallies have caused considerable controversy within both domestic Iranian and international media. International Quds Day was initiated by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1979 after the Iranian revolution. It is a government-sponsored event that falls on the last Friday of Ramadan and is meant to signify solidarity with the Palestinian people.
As Iranian-Israeli analyst Meir Javedanfar noted, before correcting their quote, Mehr News originally quoted Rouhani as saying, “Israel is a wound on the body of the world of Islam that must be destroyed.” Several other news agencies, such as the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) also carried the quote. In response, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “The real face of Rouhani has been exposed earlier than expected.”
Immediately after the foreign media picked up the story, a video surfaced, apparently the original interview from which Mehr quoted. Rather than a prepared speech, a reporter appears to have stopped Rouhani at the rally to ask him a question. Rouhani does not mention the words “Israel,” “Zionism” or “destroyed.”
A transcript of the 55-second video:
“Quds day, which is in memorial of Imam [Khomeini], is a day that people present the unity of Islam against any type of oppression or aggression. And in any case, in our region, it is an old wound that has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world, in the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the dear Quds. And this day, in fact, is a remembrance that Muslim people will not forget this historical right and will always stand against oppression and aggression.”
After misquoting Rouhani, many domestic media corrected their stories.
Fars News covered the controversy. Its coverage said that as a result of “the apparent mistake of some domestic media,” Rouhani’s statements received “comments at the top news of international media.”
The Fars article continued, “As a result, all of the Western and Zionist media were able to maneuver on the issue that Rouhani said that ‘Israel is an old wound on the body of Islam that must be removed.’” Fars, which went with the headline “The Distortion of Rouhani’s Position on The Zionist Regime Has Created Controversy,” not only listed many of the Western and Israeli media which covered Rouhani’s statements, but also Netanyahu’s reactions as well.
Fars News even quoted Tehran-based New York Times correspondent Thomas Erdbrink, who tweeted, “Rouhani is actually remarkably mild, compared to others in Iran. Local media should be more careful with how they quote their leaders.”
Mehr News and ISNA both modified their headlines to “The Occupation of Palestine Is a Wound on the Body of The Islamic World.” An earlier Mehr headline read that “Israel Is a Wound on the Body of The Islamic World.”