TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani donated $170,000 to the country’s only Jewish hospital, his second such gesture since taking office.
The official IRNA news agency said Thursday that Rouhani gave the same amount from government funds as he did last year to the Dr. Sapir charity hospital, established in 1942 in the capital, Tehran.
The donation is seen as part of Rouhani’s pledge to pay more attention to the country’s minorities. It’s also in contrast to Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who prompted an international outcry by denying the Holocaust took place while also calling for the destruction of Israel.
Iran’s Jews number about 8,000, making it the largest Jewish community in any country in the Middle East outside of Israel.
Siamak Moreh Sedgh, the only Jewish member of Iran’s parliament, has been a longstanding critic of Israel.
In an interview with Russia Today in 2010, Moreh Sedgh denied that anti-Semitism existed in Iran, claiming it was a uniquely European phenomenon.
“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. There is no anti-Semitic sentiment in Iran. We have no attacks on synagogues or cemeteries as happens in Paris. Just so you know, there are 15 synagogues in Tehran,” he said.
In November, in a rare public display, Iranian Jews appeared outside a UN building in Tehran to rally in support of Iran’s nuclear program.
In an interview with German TV this past week, Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif described the Holocaust as an event that was “horrifying tragedy” that “should not occur again.”
“We have nothing against the Jews,” Zarif said.
The semi-official Fars News Agency later denied that the foreign minister had made the Holocaust statements, and quoted his deputy denying them too, despite footage of the interview being available online.
“In a phone conversation that I had with Mr. Zarif he completely rejected the remarks attributed to him and declared that the Islamic Republic’s stance about the (Zionist) regime is what has been repeatedly announced by the country’s diplomacy apparatus and this stance has not changed,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi said, according to the Iranian news agency.