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German Green Party Gives Iran a High Five

Claudia Roth has some explaining to do

Adam Chandler
February 07, 2013
Green Party Head Claudia Roth and Iranian Ambassador Ali Reza Sheikh Attar.(Reuters)

Green Party Head Claudia Roth and Iranian Ambassador Ali Reza Sheikh Attar.(Reuters)

High fives remain a complicated social gesture. The maneuver requires synergy, dexterity, and no fear of germs on the part of the two parties involved. More chummy than a handshake, the high five denotes teamwork, the act itself being teamwork.

The origins of the high five are disputed. According to some, the high five came about in the late 1970s during a baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros. (The high five caught on and just years later, the term had an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary.) Something else that happened in the late 70s was the Islamic Revolution in Iran, in which many zealous Iranians loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini no doubt high fixed each other as they took over their country, restricting human rights, murdering opposition, and capturing hostages.

How did the high five and theocratic rule in Iran come to cross paths recently? Well, this past weekend at the Munich Security Conference, Claudia Roth, who heads the German Green Party, which represents 11% of the country, was photographed engaged in an enthusiastic high five with the Iranian Ambassador to Germany Ali Reza Sheikh Attar.

The story is beginning to make waves in Germany because Iran’s leaders routinely deny that the Holocaust ever happened, which is a crime in Germany. An example came soon after at a forum with the German Council on Foreign Relations on Monday when Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Selehi was invited to visit the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Selehi ignored the invitation and then passed on answering a question about Holocaust denial in his country by simply saying “Any holocaust is a human tragedy.” When asked if there has been more than one Holocaust, Selehi told the packed audience that it was up to them to find out.

Claudia Roth’s Green Party arose from the German student movement of the 1960s, recalcitrant in thumbing their noses at the previous generation who had pro-Nazi tendencies. They championed human rights and cast themselves as the enlightened and progressive leaders of Germany’s bright future.

So why is the head of the Green Party so cozy with someone whose country’s fascism represents the complete opposite of the Green Party pillars? Roth has issued a statement downplaying the encounter, but unfortunately, not even German has a word for how this incident makes any sense.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.