A prominent Saudi cleric has visited the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp at the invitation of a Jewish group in America which strongly advocates for Israel.
The secretary general of the Saudi-funded Muslim World League, Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, and the CEO of the pro-Israel American Jewish Committee, David Harris, led the tour to the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial in Poland last week.
The Nazis operated extermination and concentration camps in Poland when Germany occupied the country during World War II.
The American Jewish Committee said that Al-Issa, who is based in Makkah, led a delegation of 62 Muslims including 25 prominent religious leaders from some 28 countries during the “groundbreaking” visit.
The AJC delegation included members of the organisation, among them children of Holocaust survivors.
AJC describes itself as “the leading global Jewish advocacy organisation, with unparalleled access to government officials, diplomats, and other world leaders. Through these relationships and our international presence, AJC is able to impact opinion and policy on the issues that matter most: combating rising antisemitism and extremism, defending Israel’s place in the world, and safeguarding the rights and freedoms of all people.”
Specifically referring to Israel, the AJC says: “Around the world — from the hallways of the UN in New York, to the corridors of the European Union in Brussels, and to the countries of Asia — AJC advocates for Israel at the highest levels. And when Israel is under assault, whether from the terrorist organizations on her doorstep or the global BDS movement, AJC helps bring the world the truth about Israel.”
During his visit to Auschwitz, Al-Issa said: “To be here, among the children of Holocaust survivors and members of the Jewish and Islamic communities, is both a sacred duty and a profound honour. The unconscionable crimes to which we bear witness today are truly crimes against humanity. That is to say, a violation of us all, an affront to all of God’s children.”
Al-Issa called those around the world who engage in Holocaust denial “partners in the crime. They are like Nazis themselves.”
Emphasising that Muslims and Jews have much in common, he said: “Even if we could act on ten percent of the commonality, it would help bring peace to the world.” He added: “The meetings today and yesterday should send a strong message about our cooperation against those who twist the word of God to generate hate towards others, towards humanity.”
The joint mission to Poland is a key element of the Memorandum of Understanding between AJC and MWL, which was signed by Al-Issa and Harris at AJC headquarters, in New York, on April 30, 2019.
The Auschwitz visit and series of meetings in Warsaw confirmed the potential for further joint efforts. Harris and Al Al-Issa referred to each other as “partners.”
“Our twenty-first century challenge at AJC is to write a new chapter between the Muslim and Jewish peoples,” said Harris. “There are those who want to keep us divided. We will not let them win. It’s about nothing less than defining the future of the world in which we want to live.”
The visit to Auschwitz comes as Saudi Arabia is slowly establishing open low-level relations with Israel which runs contrary to the general Arab and Muslim boycott of the Israeli regime since its inception.
Al-Issa’s outreach to Jewish organisations also coincides with a broader alignment of interests and ties emerging between the Arab Gulf states and Israel, which share a common foe in Iran.