News Digest — 1/24/20

Arab Opposition To US Peace Plan Stokes Fears Of Riots On The Temple Mount

Israel’s security forces geared up for possible rioting on the Temple Mount during Friday (24th) prayers, amid calls for demonstrations on the holy site to protest the Trump administration’s plan to release its much-anticipated Middle East peace plan next week.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas, both of which have rejected the peace plan – which has been dubbed the ‘Deal of the Century’ – even before the release, called on Muslims to gather on the Temple Mount on Friday (24th) to demonstrate opposition to the peace plan.

Unconfirmed reports claim that the deal will require the Palestinian Authority to recognize all of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, and would allow Israel to apply sovereignty to some 30% of Judea and Samaria, leaving the remaining 70% for the formation of a Palestinian state.

After the US signaled it would release the plan next week, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz had been invited to the White House next Tuesday (28th), the Palestinian Authority castigated the US and declared its “total opposition” to the peace plan.

Fearing an Arab backlash against the impending release of the peace plan and concern that the mass gatherings at the Mount could turn violent, Israeli police made special preparations for Friday services.

Also, in recent days, the Islamic Waqf – the Islamic Trust that manages the Temple Mount – had called on Muslims to ‘defend’ the holy site – citing the growing number of Jews visiting the Mount.   



Warning Of Iran, PM Tells Holocaust Forum: ‘We Remember The World Turned Its Back’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday (23rd) told Holocaust survivors and world leaders that the world truned its back on Jews during the Holocaust, teaching the Jewish people that under threat they can only rely on themselves.

Speaking at the World Holocaust Forum memorial to commemorate the 75th liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp at Yad Vashem, Netanyahu said the world was similarly failing to unify against Iran, which he charged was the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet.

“Israel is eternally grateful for the sacrifice made by the allies.  Without that sacrifice, there would be no survivors today. But we also remember that some 80 years ago, when the Jewish people faced annihilation, the world turned its back on us,” Netanyahu said.

“For many, Auschwitz is the ultimate symbol of evil.  It is certainly that. The tattooed arms of those who passed under its infamous gates, the piles of shoes and eyeglasses seized from the dispossessed in their final moments, the gas chambers and crematoria that turned millions of people into ash, all these bear witness to the horrific depths to which humanity can sink,” he said.

“But for the Jewish people, Auschwitz is more than the ultimate symbol of evil.  It is also the ultimate symbol of Jewish powerlessness. It is the culmination of what can happen when our people have no voice, no land, no shield.”

He continued, “The Jewish people have learned the lessons of the Holocaust: to take, always to take seriously the threats of those who seek our destruction; to confront threats when they are small; and above all, even though we deeply, deeply appreciate the great support of our friends, to always have the power to defend ourselves by ourselves.  We have learned that Israel must always remain the master of its fate.”  

“While the world learned the lesson about evil, it did not necessarily learn the lesson about pre-emption,” he argued.

“I wish to assure again our people and all our friends, Israel will do whatever it must do to defend our state, defend our people, and defend the Jewish future,” he vowed.



Pence Calls On Global Leaders To Confront Iran

At the World Holocaust Forum on Thursday (23rd), US Vice President Mike Pence called on world leaders to confront Iran.

Addressing the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, Pence told fellow participants to “confront and expose the vile tide of anti-Semitism” around the world.

“In that same spirit, we must also stand strong against the leading state purveyor of anti-Semitism, against the one government in the world that denies the Holocaust as a matter of state policy and threatens to wipe Israel off the map.  The world must stand strong against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he added. 

Pence’s remarks received a loud applause from the Israeli audience.  The Iranian regime remains Israel’s greatest enemy.

Pence spoke emotionally about the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed by Nazis and their collaborators. 

“Today we gather, nearly 50 nations strong, here in Jerusalem to say with one voice, ‘never again,’” he said drawing more applause.  

He ended his speech with a Hebrew prayer for peace, receiving another loud ovation.

PM Netanyahu thanked President Donald Trump and Pence for confronting the “tyrants of Tehran.”  He again called on other governments to join the “vital effort of confronting Iran.”



“I Cannot Say We Learned From History,” Says German President At Holocaust Event

At the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial on Thursday (23rd), German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed his “deepest sorrow” for the Holocaust while warning that the “spirits of evil” are re-emerging in the form of modern anti-Semitism.

“I wish I could say that we Germans have learned from history once and for all.  But I cannot say that when hatred is spreading,” he added.

Steinmeier’s comments were designed to communicate deep remorse on behalf of his country for the killing of 6 million Jews during World War II, as he addressed a Holocaust forum in Jerusalem attended by world leaders on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

He opened and closed the speech by reciting prayers in Hebrew.

“The spirits of evil are emerging in a new guise, presenting their anti-Semitic, racist, authoritarian thinking as an answer for the future, a new solution to the problems of our age,” said Steinmeier.

Dozens of world leaders joined Steinmeier in addressing the World Holocaust Forum on Thursday, remembering the Nazi genocide (23rd), including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and French President Emmanual Macron.   



Abbas Meets Putin: A Friend Of The Palestinian People

Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, on Thursday (23rd) met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bethlehem.

“I welcome my dear friend, President Vladimir Putin, the President of the Federal Republic of Russia, my personal friend and the friend of the Palestinian people who never misses an opportunity to talk about, or support the Palestinian cause, and this is what we are accustomed to,” Abbas said as he welcomed Putin, according to the Wafa news agency.

Abbas expressed his gratitude for the political, economic, financial, security and cultural support that Russia has provided the PA in recent years, in addition to its support for “the just question of Palestine.”

He also praised the positive and effective role Russia has played in the region.

According to Wafa, among the issues discussed between the two leaders were what was described as “Israel’s ongoing confiscation of Palestinian land,” the so-called US “Deal of the Century,” and efforts to hold “Palestinian legislative and presidential elections.”

Putin praised the historical PA-Russian relations and expressed his readiness to cooperate with and support the PA in all fields.

Putin’s visit came as the White House announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz have both accepted the Trump administration’s invitation to the White House next week to discuss the administration’s upcoming Middle East Peace Plan.

On Wednesday (22nd) Abbas also met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Ramallah, and expressed hope that France will recognize a Palestinian state.

While several European countries have recognized “Palestine” in recent years, those moves were symbolic ones that have little, if any, actual diplomatic effect.



Why Muslims From Around The World Should Remember The Holocaust – Mohammad Al-Issa

→ Some have chosen not to see what really happened wherever the Nazis and their henchmen wielded power.  Instead, they deny the horrors of a diabolical plan to implement a hateful idea of racial purity that ultimately led to the murder of millions of innocent men, women and children – including six million Jews.

→ But denying this history has only helped those who continue to perpetuate hateful ideas of racial, ethnic or religious purity.  The lessons of the Holocaust are universal and Muslims around the world have a responsibility to learn them, heed the warnings and join the international commitment to ensure “never again.”

→ One year ago, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day approached, I wrote to Sara Bloomfield, director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, on behalf of the Muslim World league: “The Holocaust is 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.”

→ “True Islam is against these crimes.  It classifies them in the highest degree of penal sanctions and among the worst human atrocities ever….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.”

→ That letter was immediately posted in both Arabic and English on the website of the Muslim World League.  I received a flood of responses from Muslim religious scholars endorsing the view I had expressed. Not a single reputable scholar has stood up to oppose this view.  None could dispute the indisputable. I urge all Muslims to learn the history of the Holocaust, to visit memorials and museums to this horrific event, and to teach its lessons to their children.

The writer is secretary-general of the Muslim World League and president of the International Organization of Muslim Scholars, based in Mecca.