Saudi Arabia Acknowledges the Holocaust

Jan. 29 2018

In 2016, Mohammed al-Issa was appointed head of Saudi Arabia’s Muslim World League (MWL), the state-run organization that, for decades, has been the world’s major exporter of the most extreme, intolerant, and anti-Semitic form of Islam. Issa’s mandate, in keeping with the country’s overall reformist turn, seems to involve transforming the MWL into something else entirely. Robert Satloff, who has spearheaded efforts to bring awareness of the Shoah to the Muslim world, hails Issa’s surprise decision not only to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington but also to follow up with an open letter to the museum’s director:

Saudi Arabia: land of religious purity, whose king (Faisal) once celebrated the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as historical fact, whose UN representative (Jamil Baroody, 1976) once denounced Anne Frank’s diary as a forgery and claimed the murder of millions of Jews by the Nazis was fiction? The country . . . whose religious hierarchy exported bigotry and intolerance to mosques and madrasas around the world for decades, fueling the hate on which al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Hamas, and all Islamist extremist movements thrived? Yes, that Saudi Arabia. . . .

But Issa surprised me. . . . He wrote a lengthy missive. . . . In it, he labeled the Holocaust “an incident that shook humanity to the core, and created an event whose horrors could not be denied or underrated by any fair-minded or peace-loving person.” . . . On Holocaust denial, Issa had particularly harsh words: “We consider any denial of the Holocaust, or minimizing [of] its effect, a crime to distort history, and an insult to the dignity of those innocent souls who have perished. It is also an affront to us all, since we share the same human soul and spiritual bonds.”

And unlike many Muslim interlocutors with whom I have discussed these issues over the years, Issa did not try to deflect potential criticism of [his] engaging on the Holocaust by wrapping himself in the false equivalence of Israel’s “genocide” of Palestinians. To the contrary, he stayed away from the issue altogether. . . .

I assume there are many reasons—some sacred, some less so—why the head of the Muslim World League took pen to paper to denounce Holocaust denial. . . . But action matters so much more than motive. And having been written, Issa’s words cannot easily be undone.

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Read more at New York Daily News

More about: Anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Moderate Islam, Muslim-Jewish relations, Politics & Current Affairs, Radical Islam, Saudi Arabia

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat