The chief rabbi of Iran’s Jewish community charged that Israel’s government “doesn’t care about Judaism at all,” and hailed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed earlier this year in a US drone strike, as a national hero.
In a Hebrew-language interview with Al-Monitor, published Sunday and broadcast on Israel’s Channel 12, Rabbi Yehuda Garami denied any connection between Judaism and Zionism.
Prominent figures in the Jewish community of Iran, where the Islamist regime avowedly seeks Israel’s destruction, intermittently issue anti-Israel statements that match the regime’s agenda.
“People tend to get confused, but there is a big difference between Zionism and Judaism. Judaism is a religion that is 3,300 years old, while Zionism is a national and political movement that is just 100 years old. As a country, the State of Israel has nothing to do with religion in general and Judaism in particular,” he said.
Garami denied that the conflict between Iran and Israel is a religious one and took a shot at the Israeli government.
“The Israeli government doesn’t care about Judaism at all. Everything that they supposedly give to the Orthodox is because of some political deal or other, and not because of their religious approach,” he said.
Garami also defended making a condolence call to the family of Soleimani, who headed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force.
“What the Western world does not fully understand is that Soleimani is an Iranian national hero. He is really admired in our country. He showed great bravery in the Iran-Iraq War. Then, in the war in Syria, it was Soleimani who defeated the Islamic State, and this was very important to the people of Iran,” Garami said.
The Iranian rabbi also said the Jewish community emerged relatively unscathed from the coronavirus pandemic, after quickly shutting down synagogues as the virus spread.
He claimed that the Iranian Jewish community — the largest in the region after Israel’s — enjoys “total freedom of religion.”
“Unlike in Europe, for example, we do not have guards outside our synagogues and schools, and our personal safety is excellent. Of course, we sometimes encounter people who are anti-Semitic, but that happens everywhere. Most of the population respects us and lives in peace with us. What is important is that in Iran there is no such concept as organized attacks on Jews.”
In May, Garami lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Israelis, as Iran marked its annual anti-Israel Quds Day. He said in a Hebrew message aimed at Israelis: “You don’t represent Judaism.”
Prior to the Islamic Revolution in 1979, there were some 100,000 Jews in Iran; by 2016, according to an Iranian census, that number had fallen to below 10,000.
“We Iranian Jews want to sent this message to the Zionists, and first and foremost to Netanyahu. Know that you Zionists do not represent Judaism and do not represent the Jewish people,” Garami said in a statement broadcast on Iranian television last month. “You only represent the idea of a political movement whose ideas and values oppose the ideas and values of our holy Torah and the Jewish religion.”
“We strongly condemn your aggressive actions and emphasize to the whole world: There is a big difference between Judaism and Zionism,” Garami said.
רב הקהילה היהודית באיראן, יהודה גראמי, בריאיון בעברית לטלוויזיה הממלכתית במדינה לרגל יום אל-קודס ביום שישי: "הציונים ובראשם נתניהו, דעו לכם שאינכם מייצגים את העם היהודי. אנו מגנים בתוקף את התוקפנות שלכם ומדגישים בפני כל העולם – יש הבדל גדול בין היהדות לציונות" @kaisos1987 @yoavz pic.twitter.com/dC7uMlLIf2
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 25, 2020
Iran’s sole Jewish parliamentarian, Siamak Moreh Sedgh, last month called on Jews worldwide to rise up against Israel, according to a report from the Iran Front Page news website.
Opposing Israel is a humanitarian and religious obligation, Moreh Sedgh said, calling the Jewish state “the catastrophe of Zionism.”
Sedgh, a physician who also serves as director of the Tehran Jewish Committee, has represented his community in parliament since 2012, and has been a frequent critic of Israel. He has made similar anti-Israel statements for Quds Day in past years.
Iran is openly sworn to bring about Israel’s destruction and financially supports terrorist groups, like Hezbollah and Hamas, committed to this aim.