Two unusual events relating to Holocaust remembrance recently took place in the Arab world – a first official conference on the Holocaust in Tunisia and the first visit by an Arab diplomat to a Holocaust memorial site, when Bahraini ambassador to France Nasser Al-Balushi visited a memorial near Paris.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports that Tunisia held the Arab world’s first official Holocaust conference in December, attended by historians, clerics, authors, and journalists who dealt with the Tunisian Jewish Holocaust. The purpose of the conference was to commemorate the 5,000 Tunisian Jews who were sent to labor camps or European death camps during the Nazi rule of the country. Speakers praised Tunisian Muslims who helped Jews during the Holocaust, including Khaled ‘Abd Al-Wahhab, who hid 20 Jews in his factory.
The president of the Association to Support Minorities, Yamina Thabet, said that “the conference aims to preserve the issue of the Holocaust in public consciousness… and ensure that a depraved act such as the Nazi Holocaust will never happen again in any form.”
The event sparked harsh criticism from some elements in the Arab world, who claim that the Holocaust is a fabrication, and that these measures constitute normalization with Israel and ‘a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.’”
Also last month, AFP, reported Bahraini ambassador to France Nasser Al-Balushi visited the Holocaust memorial center in Drancy near Paris. This was the first visit by a Muslim diplomat to the site, which was established in September 2012. The Bahraini ambassador laid a wreath on the monument and said, “It is our duty to act together to combat any expression of intolerance and hatred. Bahrain is a Muslim country, but its laws enable coexistence with other religious groups. Alongside mosques, [Bahrain] has synagogues, churches, and [other] houses of worship.”
Bahraini MP Khaled Al-Maloud of the Al-Asala Islamic bloc said that the visit was “shameful” and did not represent the Bahraini people, who stands alongside the Palestinian cause and is proud of its Arab and Islamic principles. He added: “Islam forbids harming innocents… But in today’s world it is known that the so-called Jewish Holocaust is a lie and a deception whose disgraceful [nature] is clear to all, and which was meant to harm the rights of the Palestinian people and [facilitate] the theft of its lands. The real Holocaust is the one taking place against Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and all the Palestinian territories, where they have been suffering killing, expulsion and uprooting by the Zionist gangs for close to 100 years.”
Another Bahraini MP, Hassan Bokhamas, claimed in a similar vein that the visit contradicts basic Bahraini, Arab, and Islamic principles related to support of the Jerusalem and Palestine cause and the boycott of the Zionist entity.