In December 2013, two unusual events relating to the Holocaust took place in the Arab world: a first official conference on the Jewish Holocaust was held in Tunisia, dealing with Holocaust of the Jews in that country, and the first visit by an Arab diplomat to a Holocaust memorial site took place as well, when Bahraini ambassador to France Nasser Al-Balushi visited a memorial in Drancy, near Paris. It should be mentioned that on July 27, 2012, Ziad Al-Bandak, the Christian affairs advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, visited Auschwitz and lit a memorial candle for Holocaust victims.
Both events sparked harsh criticism from some elements in the Arab world, who objected that the Holocaust is a fabrication, and that these measures constitute normalization with Israel and a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.
The following are details about the Tunisian conference and the Bahraini ambassador's visit to the Drancy memorial site, and excerpts from the responses.
Holocaust Conference In Tunisia: We Must Remember The Holocaust And Make Sure Such Depraved Deeds Never Happen Again
On December 14, 2013, Tunisia held the Arab world's first official Holocaust conference. The two-day conference, attended by historians, clerics, authors, and journalists, dealt with the Tunisian Jewish Holocaust, and its purpose 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. During the conference, speakers praised Tunisian Muslims who helped Jews during the Holocaust, including Khaled 'Abd Al-Wahhab, who hid 20 Jews in his factory.
The event was held under the auspices of the Tunisian Association to Support Minorities, as well as the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which works to bring religions, specifically Muslims and Jews, closer together. 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..."
Arab Organization: The Holocaust Is A 'Legend' Based On Lies
In response to the Tunisian conference, the Arab Nationalist List organization, one of whose founding members is Ibrahim 'Alloush – the editor of the antisemitic website the Free Arab Voice and a board member of the Association against Zionism and Racism – published a communiqué stating that the Holocaust is "a legend" based on lies. Referring to the statement by the President of the Tunisian Association to Support Minorities, Yamina Thabet, on the Holocaust, the Arab Nationalist List's communiqué says: "Her statement expose the Zionist objectives of disseminating the 'Holocaust' legends, which some Arabs believe. Most unfortunately, many have been ensnared and have adopted the claim that 'the Holocaust' actually happened. But what about the suffering of others who were not Jews?! Is it is permissible to exploit a lie that the Europeans [allegedly] committed in order to justify the violation of Arab rights?!
"The Holocaust legend is based on three major arguments, namely: 1. The claim that the Nazis operated a machine or the mass extermination of the Jews in Germany and in the areas that they conquered in Europe; 2. the claim that this led to the annihilation of 6 million Jews in Europe; 3. the claim that this was performed by killing [the Jews] in special gas chambers.
"In light of the severity of the issue, the Holocaust legend, and the three arguments on which this historical falsehood rests, must inevitably be rebutted. Many revisionist historians investigated and refuted them from several angles, while relying on history and the sciences of chemistry and engineering. The scientific studies prove that: 1. The story about systematic mass extermination is untrue. Nazi documents prove that the Nazis' plan was to expel the Jews from Germany rather than exterminate them… 2. The claim that the number of Holocaust victims totaled six million was refuted by demographic studies proving that there were never six million Jews in Germany during any part of Nazi period, [but only] 550,000, [nor were there six million Jews] in all the Eastern European regions that were conquered by the Nazis…
"According to the legend, the Nazis led the Jews in groups into large rooms, where they murdered them with arsenic gas. This is the excellent part of the story, and herein lies the secret of the Western empathy with the alleged six million [victims] versus [its] indifference to the 22 million Soviet [nationals who were killed] in the [second] World War, or the millions of Arabs who were killed by the Zionist, American and Western killing machines. The reason for this [empathy] is the way they were killed rather than the quantity of people killed..."
The communiqué also argued that commemorating the Holocaust in Tunisia was a normalization measure towards Israel and constituted "betraying the blood of our martyrs who gave their lives to liberate Palestine."
Bahraini Ambassador To France Visits Holocaust Memorial: It Is Our Duty To Combat Intolerance And Hatred
The Bahraini daily Akhbar Al-Khalij, citing the French news agency AFP, reported that on December 10, 2013, 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 visit was conceived by Jewish French author Marek Halter and the Imam of Drancy, Hassan Al-Chalghoumi. 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 MPs: The Visit Is Shameful And Does Not Represent The Bahraini People; The Holocaust Is A Known Lie
Bahraini ambassador visits Holocaust memorial center (Akhbar Al-Khalij, Bahrain, December 10, 2013)
The ambassador's visit sparked criticism in Bahrain. 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, "which harms the people, the land and the holy sites, and is toying with global public opinion in order to receive financial and moral support and cover up all the crimes against humanity that it is carrying out in Palestine." He called on the government to act to correct the ambassador's mistake, which harms Bahrain's reputation on the Arab and Islamic level. According to him, "it is inconceivable to reward the occupation with any normalization or encouragement while it increases its crimes."
Bokhamas on Twitter: "We demand that the government work to correct the ambassador to France's mistake, which harms Bahrain's reputation on the Arab and Islamic level" (source: Twitter.com/Hasan_Bokhamas)
Article On Website Close To Hizbullah: The Ambassador Visited The Memorial To Draw Close To Israel
The website Alahednews.com, which is close to Hizbullah, published an article by journalist Nidal Hamade attacking the visit by the Bahraini ambassador and claiming that his intention was to draw close to Israel in order to prevent Western criticism of the Bahraini regime's oppression of its own people: "For anyone who follows Arab diplomatic activity in France, the news of the visit of Bahraini ambassador Nasser Al-Balushi to the Jewish Holocaust memorial in Drancy in the suburbs of Paris is neither strange or shameful, since the man was appointed to this role in order to draw close to the Israel lobby! The Bahraini ambassador is not the only Arab ambassador in the French capital who maintains ties with Zionist and rabbinical circles, but he was the first to dare visit the Jewish Holocaust memorial... Since arriving in Paris, Nasser Al-Balushi worked to maintain ties with the Israel lobby in France...
The Bahraini regime believes that drawing close to Israel is the best means to avoid defeat in its struggle against the Bahraini people, which is demanding its political rights and is oppressed by regime forces due to those demands. Nasser Al-Balushi ceaselessly speaks of the great Iranian threat to the Gulf and to Israel. He has become one of the most active Arab ambassadors in France since the start of the nonviolent revolution in Bahrain, and transformed the Bahraini embassy into a wasp's nest and a media operation center meant to damage the [Bahraini] revolution's reputation and prevent any Western criticism of the Manama regime. Several French journalists quoted him as saying that 'the Arab Gulf countries, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE, maintain very close ties with influential Israeli elements.' Now [it is also] Bahrain's turn, which hosts in its territory the largest American base in the Middle East – the center for the U.S. Fifth Fleet – and wants to cover up the oppression suffered by its people at the hands of the ruling gang's apparatuses by making accusations regarding Iran, Hizbullah, and Iraq..."
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 4860, PA Official's Auschwitz Visit Evokes Enraged Responses from Hamas, August 1, 2012.
 Magharebia.com, December 20, 2013; Alwatanvoice.com, December 16, 2013.
 On Ibrahim 'Alloush, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 225, "Zionism and Nazism: A Discussion on the TV Channel Al-Jazeera, " June 7, 2001; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 3908, "Articles in Hamas Media on How Jews Gained From Holocaust: 'The Holocaust Is One of the Widest Doorways Through Which Jews Entered the Western World'," June 13, 2011.
 Qawmi.com, December 18, 2013.
 Akhbar Al-Khalij (Bahrain), December 10, 2013.
 Akhbar Al-Khalij (Bahrain), December 12, 2013.
 Manamavoice.com, December 12, 2013.
 Alahednews.com, December 10, 2013.