Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at Israel in vitriolic terms on Wednesday, referring to Israel as a "festering Zionist tumor."
Rouhani, who has been championed by Western media as a moderate reformer who could change Iran’s extremist ways, appears to be adopting a violent tone similar to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has advocated for the complete destruction of Israel in recent days.
"Today, this festering Zionist tumor has opened once again and has turned the land of olives into destruction and blood and littered the land with the body parts of Palestinian children," Rouhani was quoted as saying in a statement that was translated by the Brookings Institution.
Rouhani’s comments have received little attention in the Western media, which rushed to congratulate the Iranian leader last year for sending a greeting to Jews during the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
Rouhani went on to compare Israel to the jihadists affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), which Iran is fighting against in Iraq.
ISIL is "a second festering tumor that murders people in the name of Islam," Rouhani said, adding that, "analysts say that both of these tumors derived from the same origin."
Khamenei himself has called for the arming of all Palestinians so that they can combat Israel.
Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iranian dissident and cofounder of Iranian Liberal Students and Graduates, warned that Rouhani and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, the lead negotiator in talks with the West, are fooling the world by posing as moderates.
"Rouhani and Zarif to Khamenei are the same as Joachim von Ribbentrop was to Adolf Hitler," Ghasseminejad said. "Both are loyal servants to a dangerous apartheid regime that wants to change the world order dramatically and is ready to use any means available to reach its deal. Like Ribbentrop, it is their job to fool the world, buy time for the regime, and sell a fake image to the world."
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq, slammed U.S. media for perpetuating the myth that Rouhani is a Western-style moderate.
"The Iranian government counts on the fact that the American media will act as useful idiots," Rubin said. "Some self-censor for access, others simply believe what they read in English—for example Rouhani's Rosh Hashanah tweet—and ignore completely what the Iranian leadership says in Persian."
"The fact of the matter is that Rouahni is part and parcel of the system, and embraces Khamenei's ideology hook, line, and sinker," Rubin added
Rubin noted that several years ago Rouhani boasted about his ability to appease the United States with promises of diplomacy.
"There should be some serious introspection about the cherry picking in which the media has engaged to promote a false narrative," Rubin said. "Putting lipstick on Rouhani doesn't make him Western; he remains just as much a devotee of an ideology seeking to defeat both Israel and the West."
As Western leaders such as President Barack Obama seek to get closer to Rouhani, his regime has armed terror groups such as Hamas and sought to spread regional chaos.
"The reality is that under Rouhani, Iran has increased its support for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah thanks to the sanctions relief" provided to Iran under the terms of the interim nuclear agreement, Ghasseminejad said.
"The mullahs in Tehran have significantly increased their influence as the United States wants to please Iran by recognizing what is being called Iran’s legitimate interests as a major power in the Middle East," he said.