Israel’s former chief rabbi invited Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s to visit Jerusalem to see proof of the Holocaust with his own eyes as the Israeli tourism ministry urged the Pope Wednesday to cancel a meeting with a mayor of an Arab Israeli town, calling the latter a "terror supporter and warmonger."
Israel’s response to Ahmedinejad’s critical speech at the United Nations racism conference in Geneva came as an invitation from former chief rabbi, Yisreal Lau, who invited the Iranian president to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Occupied Jerusalem.
"Come to Yad Vashem, we’ll show you all of the archives documents and memoirs. We will present you with all the evidence until you are convinced that the Holocaust actually happened," said Lau, was quoted by Israeli newspaper Haaretz as saying.
"Under the international umbrella of the United Nations, the president of Iran appeared dripping with hatred toward the Jewish people," Lau added.
In his conference speech on Monday Ahmedinejad condemned Israel for its aggression against Palestinians and accused the west of using the Holocaust as an excuse for Israel’s ongoing persecution of Palestinians.
However Ahmadinejad’s speech did not deny the Holocaust, U.N. reports confirmed yesterday, saying that the text of Ahmadinejad’s speech only accused the west of using the "ambiguous and dubious" question of the Holocaust to create Israel at the expense of Palestinians.
Instead, Ahmedinejad described Israel as “the most cruel and repressive racist regime,” to the consternation of many European diplomats who walked out in protest.
Pope Should Boycott Arab Mayor
On Wednesday a spokesperson for Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov urged Pope Benedict to cancel his meeting next Saturday with Mazen Ghanaim, the Arab mayor of Sakhnin, an Arab Israeli town.
"This is a terror supporter and warmonger that acts against the national interests of the state in which he serves as mayor, and I call on the Holy See to abstain from meeting with him," Misezhnikov said in a statement.
Ghanaim organized a demonstration in his town against Israel’s devastating war in Gaza earlier this year during which he spoke out against the operation that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and wounded over 5000 civilians.
"During it he said, and I paraphrase, that ‘I support the people of Gaza who are struggling against this cruel and oppressive occupation’," said Misezhnikov’s spokesman, Amnon Lieberman.
"He said, ‘long live shahids, long live Palestine with its capital in Jerusalem’… he said, ‘this brutal occupation should be stopped’," Lieberman said.
Lieberman objected to Ghanaim’s words saying they broke state laws of Israel which prohibit Arab Israelis from showing national solidarity–the same laws which banned Arab Israeli celebrations of Jerusalem as the 2009 capital of Arab culture last month.
Misezhnikov is a member of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party, who during the recent election promised to deal with with Israeli Arabs who do not show sufficient loyalty to Israel.
As tourism minister, Misezhnikov is in charge of coordinating the pope’s forthcoming visit to the Holy Land in mid-May.
Ghanaim told Arab news sites that Misezhnikov was "irresponsible. It seems that he forgot that the elections are behind us and he does not need to garner extra votes."
Racism in Israel
Despite criticism of Ahmadinejad’s comments on Israel as a racist state, human rights activists and groups have accused the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East of racism against a sizeable portion of its population.
According to a 2008 report by the Haifa-based human rights group Moussawa, racial discrimination against Arab Israelis has manifested itself in the daily lives of non-Jewish Israelis.
It states that racism in Israel manifests on many levels and that Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the main source of increased racism in public opinion, with ideas like population exchange and racial segregation gaining currency amid growing paranoia over Israel’s Jewish character.
Israel imposes laws such as banning Arabic from all areas of the public sector in order to preserve the “Jewish character” of Israel although its official primary languages are Hebrew and Arabic. It continues to build illegal settlements despite international disapproval, demolishes Palestinian homes to establish Jewish neighbourhoods instead, and constructs the Apartheid Wall which in 2004 the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled was illegal.