WASHGINTON – Assad joins the Holocaust-denial party: It turns out that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not the only world leader apparently not wholly familiar with the historical facts of the Holocaust.
In an interview with American public television, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that while a massacre of Jews took place during World War II, the perception in the Middle East is that the number of Holocaust victims was exaggerated.
The Syrian leader added that he did not know whether the killing of Jews was carried out through shootings or the use of gas chambers, noting he is not an expert on the matter.
The killing method or number of victims are not important, Assad argued, adding that what happened in the Holocaust is the "same thing" now happening in Palestine.
The shocking comments were made during a nighttime interview on a low-rating channel and were not covered by the U.S. media.
'Palestinians pay the price'
Jewish interviewer Charley Rose was invited to hold the rare interview with Assad at his presidential palace in Damascus in a bid to help the Syrian leader improve his pitiful image among Americans
During the hour-long interview, Assad reiterated familiar Syrian positions, a tactic that apparently did not prove effective in advancing his public relations effort in America.
When asked about earlier Ahmadinejad comments where the Iranian leader denied the Holocaust, Assad replied by saying that there was a different perception of the Holocaust in the Middle East.
The interviewer asked whether Assad believed that there was an exaggeration in the number of those murdered in the Holocaust, but Assad dismissed the question and argued "the numbers are not important" and that it did not matter whether six million or a million Jews perished in the Shoah.
The question was not how many people were killed, Assad said, but rather, why do the Palestinians have to "pay the price" for the Holocaust.
Addressing a question about whether a Nazi policy of exterminating Jews existed, Assad shot back: What's happening in Palestine is the same thing, adding that he was not living in Europe at the time.