The Jewish parliament member set to accompany Iranian President Hasan Rouhani to a UN summit in New York next week is a critic of Israel who has dubbed its treatment of Palestinians “inhuman.”
Siamak Moreh Sedgh, a medical doctor and the sole Jewish member of Iran’s 290-strong Majlis (parliament), told Reuters in May 2008 that Iran’s Jewish community would not mark Israel’s 60th anniversary.
“We are in complete disagreement with the behavior of Israel,” Moreh Sedgh told the news agency, adding that in Gaza Israel displayed “anti-human behavior… they kill innocent people.”
Prior to his selection as the Jewish representative to parliament in March 2008, Moreh Sedgh headed the country’s Jewish community, estimated at 9,000 according to a 2012 census. Five seats in parliament are reserved for Iran’s recognized religious minorities — one for a Jew, two for Christians and two for Zoroastrians.
In an interview with Russia Today in 2010, Moreh Sedgh denied that anti-Semitism existed in Iran, claiming it was a uniquely European phenomenon. He highlighted the affiliation of the country’s Jews to Iranian culture, noting that he had served 12 months at the front during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
“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.
Raz Zimmt, an Iran expert at Tel Aviv University’s Alliance Center for Iranian Studies, said this would not be the first time representatives of Iran’s religious minorities accompany the president to the UN gathering. In 2009, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad brought along the five minority parliamentarians with him to the summit.
“This is supposed to express [Iran’s] so-called tolerance toward religious minorities,” Zimmt told The Times of Israel.
In the 1990s, Moreh Sedgh’s predecessor Morris Moatamed accompanied then-parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi to New York.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.