Israel accuses Iran of anti-Semitism

Iran and Israel are involved in a spat of verbal clashes.

Israel flag. Picture: AFP

JERUSALEM - Iranian allegations that Zionists were inciting drug trafficking and Jewish religious law called for annihilation of gentiles prompted a sharp response from Israel on Wednesday which said Iran was governed by fanatical anti-Semites.

The verbal clash highlighted festering tension in an international stand-off over Tehran's nuclear program.

A third round of nuclear talks between world powers and Iran 10 days ago failed to resolve the stalemate. With that process seemingly close to collapse, Israel renewed veiled threats of military action against Iranian nuclear production sites, which it deems a mortal threat.

While Iran and Israel have traded hostile rhetoric for years, the remarks at a United Nations global drug enforcement conference in Tehran by Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi seemed unusually inflammatory to Western delegates.

Speaking on Tuesday, Rahimi said the Talmud, or canon of Jewish religious law, "teaches them how to destroy non-Jews so as to protect an embryo in the womb of a Jewish mother", according to excerpts published by the Fars news agency.

He accused "Zionists", a term the Iranian government usually applies to Israelis and their Jewish supporters abroad, of inciting drug trafficking. "You cannot find a single addict among the Zionists," Rahimi said.

The New York Times, which covered the conference marking a U.N.-sponsored International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, further quoted Rahimi as saying Zionists ordered gynecologists to kill black babies and that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was started by Jews - although none, he was also quoted as saying, died in it.

The speech, for which at least 10 Western diplomats were present, drew furious condemnation from Israel, which has been angered in the past by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's description of the Nazi Holocaust as a lie.

"The fact U.N. representatives and European delegates still attend conferences in Tehran, at which the worst kind of anti-Semitism is sounded, lends legitimacy to the Iranian ayatollah regime," Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.

AGENDA

Iran's government, he said in a statement, is "made up not of madmen but of fanatical, anti-Semitic people with an agenda, who have a detailed global plan including, as they say openly and forthrightly, the destruction of the State of Israel".

Widely assumed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, Israel has hinted at pre-emptive war to prevent its arch-enemy from getting the atom bomb. Iran denies having any such designs, though its often secretive nuclear program has stoked foreign suspicion and drawn increasingly tough sanctions.

Lieberman likened Iran to Hitler's Germany but said that, post-Holocaust, Israel would "not allow any Jew to be harmed".

He said the Islamic Republic, and any failure by the international community to curb its nuclear work, would be "a sure recipe for disaster and a threat to world peace".

The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who leads nuclear talks with Iran on behalf of six world powers, said Rahimi's speech was anti-Semitic and "unacceptable".