Australian Jews rail against Khatami visit

Former Iranian president to speak at La Trobe Center for Dialogue, meet with Melbourne's Anglican diocese.

Khatami scared 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Khatami scared 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Melbourne's Jewish community has resigned its membership of La Trobe University's Centre for Dialogue after discovering that former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami has been invited to speak there on March 26. In a letter sent March 12, John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) told the center's director, Prof. Joseph Camilleri that "…it is not possible for the Victorian Jewish Community to participate in an organization ostensibly committed to dialogue, when it hosts the former president of Iran, a man whose views on the State of Israel are clearly inimical to true dialogue and peace." Khatami, who was president of Iran from 1997 to 2005, is considered by many to be a more reform-minded leader than the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but his feelings towards Israel are similarly aggressive. Last year, he called Israel "an old, incurable wound on the body of Islam, a wound that really possesses demonic, stinking, contagious blood." Two years ago Ahmadinejad sparked controversy when he spoke at Columbia University where he refused to acknowledge the Holocaust. But according to the Center for Dialogue's announcement, Khatami's public lecture at La Trobe will be far less contentious. The keynote address will focus mostly on the role of dialogue between cultures, based on Khatami's own theory "Dialogue Among Civilizations" which he introduced to the United Nations in 2001. On behalf of JCCV, Searle also declined an invitation from the Anglican diocese of Melbourne, who will be hosting Khatami for morning tea. "While [Khatami] may spout pious words of coexistence, his actions certainly belie them. Frankly archbishop, our community finds it inconceivable that the Anglican diocese would choose to host such a man or even to meet with him," Searle wrote to Archbishop Philip Freier. Searle asked the archbishop to reconsider hosting Khatami and reiterated that, "…a person with this track record could not have a commitment to honest dialogue nor to peace."