Tehran is not pressuring the Iranian Jewish community to take part in
its so-called "charm offensive," a former Israeli diplomat to Tehran
told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
this week, the head of the Iranian Jewish community called on US
President Barack Obama to seize the "unrepeatable" opportunity to mend
ties with Tehran in light of recent overtures done by Iranian President
Hassan Rouhani to the US.
"If the US and the international community do not make the best of this
golden and perhaps unrepeatable opportunity, then it will be in the
benefit of those who are against the normalization of ties between Iran
and the US," Tehran community leader Homayoun Sameyah Najaf Abady wrote
in an open letter to the US president.
Some critics have surmised
that the government of the Islamic Republic had pressured local Jews to
speak up for the regime. However, Aryeh Levin, a former Israeli
diplomat who was stationed in Iran prior to the revolution, said that he
believes that this is not the case.
“What I think is that no one put any pressure on them to speak up in
favor of the government,” Levin, who served as Israel’s minister
plenipotentiary in Tehran between 1973 and 1977, told the Post.
The situation for Iranian Jews, he explained, is “quite difficult
although they live well and nobody is really bothering them these days.”
Still, he added, “they want to be on the right side of things.”
“I believe an unsolicited statement that they made just to make sure that everything would be okay in the future.”
In his letter to President Obama, Abady also rejected the suggestion
made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that the Iranian people are
denied personal freedoms.
"We, the Iranian Jews, as an Iranian
religious minority, participated in the elections and elected our
popular president freely,” he wrote in an open letter to President Obama
quoted by AFP.
The Jewish community has most likely suffered from western sanctions and
seeing that there is a possibility of improved relations between Tehran
and the west, the local Jewish community “probably want to make sure
they are on the right side if things change and apparently there is
change in the air.”
However, Levin said that while the local Jewish community is not
harassed in a direct manner, many young people do not believe that there
is a future in the country and are moving abroad.
previously written that “Given the Iranian government’s
vitriolic stance toward Israel and Zionism, Iranian Jews have been
forced to practice a difficult balancing act: They are able to practice
Judaism unperturbed so long as they put aside any sense of connection to
the Jewish state. However, the existing ambiance in the country cannot
but affect the long-term viability of the Jewish community.”
the lack of harassment by authorities in Iran itself, Iran is still an
exporter of terrorism against Jewish and Israeli targets abroad, he
Iran’s sole Jewish parliamentarian Siamak Moreh Sedgh, that joined
Rouhani in his visit to the US for the UN General assembly, told CNN’s
Fareed Zakaria that the members country’s Jewish community of around
twenty five thousand - down from over eighty thousand from before the
1979 revolution - feel themselves to be “full citizens of Iran,” which
he termed “one of the most [religiously] free countries.”
JPost.com staff contributed to this report.