Brazilian Jews protest anti-Israel Islamic cleric speaking at anti-terrorism conference


RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Brazil’s leading Jewish organizations have called for a boycott of a lecture by an Iranian cleric who openly preaches the destruction of Israel.

Ayatollah Mohsen Araki, a Shiite, was announced as keynote speaker at an Arab-led event titled “Muslims and the Fight against Radical Terrorism” to be held July 29 in Sao Paulo.

“We cannot allow the import of the conflict to our lands, as well as the speech of hatred and discrimination, taking into account the harmony between our Arab and Jewish communities,” B’nai B’rith said in a statement released Wednesday, pointing out Araki’s “alleged involvement” in the AMIA Jewish center bombing in Argentina in 1994 and his “close ties” to the terrorist Hezbollah organization.

The statement emphasized that Latin America’s largest nation defends the two-state solution and called for the Brazilian government to speak up.

“In a moment where polarization takes over society, hate speeches only ignite worrisome sparks in our country,”  said Bruno Laskowsky, president of the Sao Paulo Jewish Federation. “We cannot allow dangerous manifestations of discrimination, destruction and wrath to be sown in our country, importing here a conflict that we do not want to see in our land.”

Araki, who was born in Iraq, is an Iranian scholar and politician. He is a member of the Assembly of Experts in Iran and a prominent Iranian cleric. He was the personal representative of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in London and also the head of the Islamic Center of England until 2004. He regularly urges Muslims to form a united front against Muslim radicals. But at a conference of Islamic clerics in Beirut in 2015, Araki declared that “annihilation of the Zionist regime is a sure thing and Quranic pledge,” according to the pro-Iranian Taghrib News Agency.

Jean Wyllys, who has positioned himself against the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel following a recent visit to the Jewish state, wrote “No to fundamentalism” in a Facebook post liked by nearly 1.3 million followers. Wyllys is the only openly gay member of Brazil’s Congress.

“He is a key figure in the Iranian dictatorship, a regime of terror that persecutes and executes homosexuals, oppresses women, persecutes opponents, curtails freedom of expression and thought, supports international terrorism and has links to murderous organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah,” he wrote.

“Mohsen has also made absurd and anti-Semitic statements by preaching hatred against the Jews and characterizing the State of Israel as ‘a cancer that should be expelled from the Middle East.’ I regret that our country welcomes such a harmful character. Fundamentalism and hate speech as something normal: they have already led humanity into the worst tragedies of its history.”

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