Saudi author and journalist Abdullah Bin Bakheet wrote in the kingdom’s Al-Riyadh daily in January that any true bid for peace with Israel requires transcending politics and acknowledging that the Holocaust was a “tragedy” and an “unforgivable crime.”

In the column, which was published shortly after the Jan. 23 visit of Muslim World League secretary-general Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Issa to the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp in Poland, Bin Bakheet also rejected the claim that the Palestinian problem was a result of the Holocaust. The roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he wrote,  went back much further, into the opening of the 20th century.

The following are translated excerpts from his column:

“If we are [really] interested in peace, it is not enough to talk about peace, brandish slogans of peace and demand that others listen to the peace initiatives. In our world [which abounds with] conflicts, no one pays attention to subtle messages like these that [merely] echo in space unless they are preceded by a message of peace on the ground….

“The Jews have a right to live in peace, just like the Muslims and the Hindus. Just as the conflict between certain groups of Hindus and Muslims does not negate the right of either side to live in peace, so the conflict between Muslims and Jews over the Palestinian issue does not negate the right of either side to peace and justice.

“Many of us don’t realize that what happened to the Palestinians in Palestine was not the result of what happened to the Jews in Germany. The British colonialists did not give Palestine to the Jews as a gift to appease them after what happened to them during World War II [i.e., the Holocaust]. The Arab-Israeli conflict began at the start of the twentieth century, while the crime of the Jewish Holocaust took place in the middle of that century.

“The visit of Dr. Muhammad al-Issa, secretary general of the Muslim World League, to Auschwitz, where the Nazi Holocaust took place and where more than a million people were killed, mostly Jews from Poland, was a moral gesture unrelated to the pending political issues. This visit highlights the Saudi perception of Islam, which does not distort the facts or exploit them [to serve] its interests. Mixing [unrelated] issues and using them for political [ends] only fills mankind with more hatred and violence.

“This historic visit proves that Saudi Arabia, aided by its moderate Islam, does not adopt contradictory messages in striving for peace. What is happening to the Palestinians in Palestine is a tragedy, and what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany is also a tragedy. When we defend the rights of the Palestinian people, it must not be [accompanied by] efforts to ignore the rights of others. What happened to the German Jews and to several other ethnic groups [during the Holocaust] is an unforgivable crime.

“In order to consolidate the concept of peace, we must rise above the games of politics and see tragedies as they are. There is no difference between one tragedy and another. Even if Israel exploited the tragedy of the Jews during the Nazi period [for its own ends], many Arabs and Muslims have [acted similarly by] exploiting the Palestinian tragedy and using it [to serve] their political agendas. [And just as] many respectable Muslims feel solidarity with the victims of Nazism, we must remember that many respectable Jews have defended, and continue to defend, Palestinian rights.”

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