SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — The head of Australia’s Islamic community stood by his comment that Israel committed atrocities in Gaza that were worse than the Holocaust.
Ikebal Patel, the chair of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, ended a speech Thursday at a major interfaith summit in Brisbane by qualifying, but not withdrawing, his Holocaust analogy, according to a report on the Brisbane Times Web site.
“I’m talking about the style of suffering. I’m not talking about a crazy despot like Hitler doing what he did,” he said. “We are echoing basically the world opinion of what was happening. It wasn’t just an isolated press release from the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils that used those words.”
On Jan. 5, during Israel’s military action in Gaza, Patel issued a media statement saying the “victims of the Holocaust [are] now perpetrating much worse atrocities against the Palestinians.”
In the Brisbane speech, he explained that “Those words were very measured and we’d expect the Australian Jewish community to understand that there’s a lot of anger amongst the world community, not only Australian Muslims.”
But, Patel admitted, he had “probably underestimated” the sensitivity of the term “Holocaust.”
“All I was trying to say was there has to be restraint by the people who have suffered terrible tragedies,” he said.
Jeremy Jones, who was representing the Executive Council of Australian Jewry at the summit, remains indignant.
“When you look at the horrors of the Nazis and compare that with Gaza or anywhere else in the world today, I really think that nobody with respect of history could make that statement,” the Brisbane Times quoted Jones as saying.
“It crosses the line between political commentary and something which is much more offensive and hurtful.”
In a Feb. 2 letter to Patel, council president Robert Goot threatened that if the “contemptible” remarks were not withdrawn “publicly and unequivocally,” then the Jewish community would be unable to work with the Islamic community.