Iranian Jews in U.S. Rebuff Invitation to Meet With Visiting President Rohani

Community leaders say meeting could be misused and might 'send wrong message' to U.S. public; cite Holocaust-denial as important factor in decision.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

The Iranian Jewish community in the U.S. has declined an official invitation to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rohani during his current visit to New York.

Sam Kermanian, who serves as a special adviser to the Iranian American Jewish Federation, told Haaretz on Monday that community leaders were concerned that such a meeting would “send the wrong message to the administration and to American public opinion at this sensitive time.”

Kermanian added that the Iranian leaders had consulted with American Jewish leaders, including Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, before making their decision. He said that Rohani’s refusal to disavow his predecessor’s Holocaust denial in his NBC interview with Ann Curry were “an important factor” in their decision.

Informed sources said that the invitation for the meeting was made 10 days ago by a senior official at the Iranian mission to the UN. They said that the meeting with the Iranian Jews was to have included Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Zarif as well as the Iranian parliament’s lone Jewish member, Siamak Moreh Sedgh.

But Sedgh’s presence, in fact, served as an impediment as far as the Iranian Jewish leadership was concerned, because of his past support, inter alia, for Rohani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

American Jewish leaders, for their part, expressed concern that such a meeting would serve as a “tool” for Rohani’s “charm offensive” in the U.S.

Kermanian said that American Jews of Iranian descent welcome the signs of positive change emanating from Tehran and would be more than happy to meet with Rohani at some other time.

Hopefully, he said, at such a meeting the Iranian Jews could also discuss the situation of the 10,000 strong Jewish community that still resides in Iran.

Rohani steps out of his plane.Credit: AP

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