Iranian President Hassan Rowhani is bringing the country's sole Jewish member of Parliament along with him to the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week, according to a report by Britain's The Guardian.
The move has been described as part of the Islamic Republic’s “charm offensive” to alter its image amid fears over the development of a nuclear weapons program which could target Israel.
Rowhani’s main purpose in accompanying Siamak Moreh Sedgh is perceived as changing the world’s perspective of Iran, moving away from the vehement image of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who repeatedly condemned Israel and the Jews.
Rowhani is delivering his speech on Tuesday following President Barack Obama’s welcoming statement which will be the first face-to-face encounter since the 1970’s between leaders of the two countries.
Despite Sedgh’s Jewish heritage, he’s an enthusiastic anti-Zionist and critic of Israel. In 2008 he participated in a rally outside the U.N. office in Teheran, condemning “Israeli war crimes and the slaughter of the innocent people in the Gaza Strip,” Israeli media reported.
In 2010 interview with Russia Today, Sedgh denied that Iran was an anti-Semitic nation. “Jews are safe in Iran. That’s true. Nobody needs guards. There has never been a single instance of anti-Semitism in Iranian society. This phenomenon belongs to the European, Christian world,” he said.
Sedgh’s travel to New York is likely to be seen in Israel as part of President Rowhani’s “spin” campaign.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously described Rowhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” saying the Iranian leader is mounting a charm offensive to keep his centrifuges spinning.
Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst, wrote in Al-Monitor that Rowhani is counting on the support of Iran’s Jewish MP to achieve his international goal. But domestically, Iran’s Jewish MP will not be able to help Rowhani, Javedanfar added.
Jews have lived in Iran for almost three thousand years. In 1948 the Jewish population in the country reached a peak of about 150,000. The Jewish community, still believed to be the largest in the Middle East after Israel, dropped following the Khomeini revolution, as thousands of Jews fled to Israel, Europe, Britain, Australia, the United States and Canada, International Business Times reported.