Founder of Islamic Movement in Israel Slams Holocaust Denial

Amiram Barkat
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Amiram Barkat

The founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel condemned Holocaust denial in the Muslim world on Sunday, rejecting statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In an appearance before the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem, Sheikh Abdullah Nimr Darwish said: "Tell all who deny the Holocaust to ask the Germans what they did or did not do."

Also, Darwish accused his audience of not understanding Muslims or their concerns, and he protested Israel's refusal to support the recent Saudi Arabian peace initiative involving Hamas and Fatah. "Why are you trying to distance yourselves from Muslims as if they were the devil?" he said.

The fourth Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, which opened Sunday in Jerusalem and was sponsored for the first time by the Foreign Ministry, drew 160 participants from Israel and abroad. Among them are politicians and foreign diplomats who deal with the problem of anti-Semitism.

Central to yesterday's events was the session on relations with the Muslim world, which included the participation of former minister for Diaspora affairs, MK Rabbi Michael Melchior, Darwish and Rabbi Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Committee (WJC) Policy Council.

The statements by Darwish, who heads the southern faction of the Islamic Movement and is the first Muslim leader to speak before this forum, were hailed by Singer as "historic." People known for right-wing views, including former vice president of the WJC Isi Leibler, also praised Darwish's comments on the Holocaust.

Darwish opened his speech by saying, "It was not easy for me to come here today. I thought about what will be said by my clerical colleagues from Indonesia to Morocco, but I decided to come out of duty to God."

He went on to say that anti-Semitic texts in the Muslim world do not express the true spirit of Islam. "I know that many of you have read very dark and harsh texts. The people who wrote them have no right to sign off on them in the name of Islam. These are interpretations and not the words of the prophet," Darwish said.

He said attention should not be paid to Holocaust-deniers because "it only gives them something to do. Do you think I suffer less than you when I hear statements by [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad or [Osama] Bin Ladin?" he asked.

Dawrish added that with the Saudi peace initiative, the Arab world had said yes to recognition of Israel "but the Jews will run you ragged until they say yes."