Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Citing the story of Purim to say that the Persians want to destroy the Jewish people, Netanyahu sparked a harsh reaction from the Iranian government.
On Twitter, the Israeli prime minister sparred with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who accused him of falsifying history.
The row began last Saturday, when Netanyahu tweeted a video from the ceremonial reading of the Book of Esther at his local synagogue in Caesarea, Haifa district.
In it, Netanyahu tells the story of Purim to young children. "In Persia, they wanted to kill us but it didn't work," Netanyahu said. "Today, too, Persians are trying to destroy us, but today, too, it will not work."
Iranian leaders reacted angrily the next day. During an open session of parliament on Sunday, Speaker Ali Larijani said that Netanyahu “knows neither history nor has he read the Torah.”
In a similar vein, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday tweeted, “To sell bigoted lies against a nation which has saved Jews 3 times, Netanyahu resorting to fake history & falsifying Torah. Force of habit.”
Zarif notes that Persian Kings Xerxes I saved the Jews by stopping a plot to kill them. In the book of Esther, condemned to death by the king’s adviser Haman, the Jews are saved by order of the sovereign, known in scripture as Ahasuerus.
The minister added that Jews were also saved by Cyrus the Great – a Persian king – and during World War II, “Iran gladly took them in” when they were fleeing extermination in Europe.
Netanyahu has since responded to Zarif's remark, tweeting on Monday evening: "Iran's FM speaks of tolerance while the regime hangs gays, jails journalists and calls for Israel's annihilation. Who are they kidding?"
This isn’t the first time Netanyahu has invoked Purim to make geopolitical attacks against the Iranian leadership.
In 2012, the Israeli Prime Minister gave President Barack Obama a copy of the Book of Esther. In a 2015 speech, Netanyahu made his appeal to the US Congress. Zarif had also responded to those comments in 2015.
Netanyahu made similar comments during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday. However, Putin dismissed them, saying that “we live in a different world now.”