Sam Kermanian is perhaps among the most respected leaders of the Iranian Jewish community based in the U.S. For many years he was the Secretary General of the West Hollywood-based Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF) and a voice for the Iranian Jewish community to elected officials in California and Washington D.C. He has since substantially reduced his involvement with the IAJF but still serves as a senior advisor to the group. Amidst recent statements by Iran’s only Jewish member of Parliament denouncing Israel and other statements from Jewish leaders in Iran comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, Kermanian and other Iranian American Jews are shedding light on why Jews in Iran are verbally attacking Israel.
Recently I sat down with Kermanian to find out the truth behind these statements made by Jews in Iran against Israel. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Jews living in Iran face horrible duress from the regime’s strongmen and are forced to publicly denounce Israel in order to remain alive or even avoid imprisonment or death. The following is a segment of my conversation with Kermanian regarding these latest developments from Iran’s Jewish community…
Can you please share with us why Siamak Moresedegh, the only Jewish member of the Iranian parliament and Iran’s other Jewish community leaders have denounced Israel and compared Israel to Nazi Germany? And do you believe Iran’s Jewish leaders are under duress from the regime's authorities to denounce Israel?
Let me first start by saying that no person of conscience, particularly a Jew, can be indifferent to the death of even a single child and I would argue that this is true of all Israelis as well. That is why the measures taken by the IDF in trying to avoid civilian casualties among the Palestinian population are unprecedented in the history human warfare. The only party that gains from the deaths of Palestinian women and children is Hamas. It is in this context that I can say with confidence that Morsedegh’s vitriol can be attributed to four factors. First and foremost Morsedegh’s own history indicates that far more than being the representative of the Jewish community in the Iranian parliament he is a hand-picked representative of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence for representing that community in accordance with the wishes and propaganda guidelines of the IRI regime. Secondly, considering the Islamic Republic of Iran’s (IRI) policies towards Israel and the fear and intimidation that the Iranian Jewish community faces inside Iran he might wrongfully think that he is serving the interests of that community by selling himself out to the IRI. But just as importantly, with respect to this latest utterance Morsedegh is proving that he has little knowledge or connection to Jewish history in general and the history of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in particular. And lastly by acting the way he believes he is buying influence for himself and serving his own personal interests.
Do Jews in Iran truly believe that Israel is at fault for this conflict with Hamas? If not, then please advise their current situation that prevents them from being vocally supportive of Israel?
I doubt very much that any reasonable and logical person familiar with the facts would consider Israel to be at fault for a conflict that started with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers followed by the launching of thousands of rockets on Israeli population centers. That said, the Jewish community of Iran lives under a stringent, tyrannical and cruel Islamic theocracy which also happens to be Hamas’ main supporter. Anyone in today’s Iran who would openly support Israel will be putting his life and those of his family in immediate danger.
Does the non-Jewish Iranian community in Iran, America and Europe realize the full extent to which the Iranian regime has been involved in funding, supporting and training Hamas for this current war?
If you follow the public statements of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Supreme Leader and its lesser military and civilian official it is clear that not only Iran does not deny its support for Hamas and other militant Islamic groups such as Hezbollah and Jihad but in fact they take pride in it and urge all Moslems to extend their own support to these groups. So one would be hard pressed to claim that the current anti-Israel sentiments displayed by some non-Jewish Iranians is attributable to their ignorance of the facts.
Why do Iranian Jews in the U.S. and elsewhere do have such a deep love for Israel? Is it because of the experience of fleeing Iran more than 30 years ago?
Iranian Jews consider the creation of the State of Israel as a redemption and the people of Israel as the heroes of the Jewish People. They have always supported Israel to the best of their abilities. In fact more than two thirds of Jews of Iranian origin currently live in Israel. There are no Iranian Jews anywhere in the world who do not have direct family ties to Israel which is only topped by their religious and cultural ties to that land.
Can you please explain how Jews in Iran are being utilized for propaganda purposes by the Iranian regime and why their statements lack credibility?
At present, virtually the entire leadership of that community is composed of people who are either direct recruits of the Iranian regime or for the very least are willing to tow the Iranian line. The Iranian Ministry of Information simply will not allow anyone who does not meet such qualifications to serve in any public capacity within that community. That includes the community’s so called representative to the parliament, most members of the Jewish Central Committee and even the religious leadership of the community.
Why do many in the Iranian American Jewish community today still have fear of what the regime will do to Jews in Iran if they are publically supportive of Israel?
The preservation of life is the highest value in Judaism. It is therefore only prudent for our organized community outside of Iran to consider all potential threats to the community inside Iran in determining their positions and charting their actions. At the same time the Islamic Republic of Iran needs to be aware that there are certain redlines beyond which our community abroad will not go, and certain issues on which it will not keep quiet regardless of cost. The safety and security of Jews and the State of Israel are two such issues.