Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Reuters

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists he is not an anti-Semite and is merely opposed to the “Zionist government”.

Ahmadinejad, who is notorious for his calls for Israel to be wiped off the map and for his Holocaust denial while in office, made the comments in an interview with Samuel Thrope, a Jewish writer with The Nation.

“Look, Trump is opposed to the government of Iran, can we say that he is anti-Muslim?” he asked, insisting that the issue was opposition to Israeli policies, not hatred of Jews.

“If you mean Judaism as a religion, as a culture, how can a person oppose a religion, a culture, or an ethnicity? I’m opposed to actions that violate the rights of others; it makes no difference who does them,” claimed Ahmadinejad, who added, “You’re Jewish and I’m Muslim, and we’re talking. Are we fighting? Are we at war?”

Ahmadinejad asserted that many Jews in the United States also oppose “the Zionist government,” and they are not accused of anti-Semitism.

“The violations of the Zionist regime have been censured by the United Nations,” he continued. “If someone else says these things, does that make him an anti-Semite?”

Despite the comments, Ahmadinejad did not distance himself from his past anti-Semitic statements or Holocaust denial, which he said was his “proudest moment” as president.

Since leaving office in 2013, Ahmadinejad has used Twitter as his primary means of communicating with his American audience. He opened a Twitter account despite the fact that, while in power, he was instrumental in banning the social network in the Islamic Republic.

In the interview with The Nation, the former president denied having political aspirations, saying “my goal is making a better world for everyone—and this is absolutely not in the mold of a party or seizing the centers of power.”

Ahmadinejad, who had sought to run against his successor, Hassan Rouhani, in the last election, was barred from doing so by Iran's Guardian Council, which is in charge of vetting presidential candidates.