German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel welcomed Monday an Iranian religious leader who called for the elimination of Israel at last year’s al-Quds rally in Berlin.
The appearance of Hamidreza Torabi, at a ministry event promoting religious peace, puts the spotlight back on Gabriel, who has been engulfed in a series of anti-Israel scandals over the years.
The Israeli Embassy in Germany told The Jerusalem Post on Friday: “Any person who incites for violence has no place in a dialogue that uses religions as a bedrock to bring peace, tolerance and understanding between people, nations and religions. Moreover, there is no doubt that a person who incites for violence against Israel and Jews in the name of God, in the city of Berlin, has no place in such a dialogue, certainly not one organized by the German government.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post: “It is incomprehensible that an event sponsored by the Foreign Ministry invites a person who called for the destruction of the State of Israel.”
Torabi, who heads the Islamic Academy of Germany – part of the Iranian regime-owned Islamic Center of Hamburg – held a poster in downtown Berlin at the 2016 anti-Israel al-Quds rally urging the “rejection of Israel” and terming the Jewish state “illegal and criminal.”
Torabi is a key organizer of the al-Quds event in Berlin. The Islamic Center buses pro-Hezbollah and pro-Iranian regime members and activists to the annual event, which also serves as a gathering for the BDS campaign against Israel.
Gabriel’s support of Torabi roiled prominent Jewish human rights organizations, as well as the German- based, anti-Iranian regime group Stop the Bomb. Ulrike Becker, a spokeswoman for the NGO, said, “The invitation of an Islamist who spreads hatred against Israel to a so-called peace conference of the German Foreign Ministry once again shows the dramatic consequences of dialogue with the Iranian regime. Anyone who aims to make the Islamic Republic a partner ends up with antisemites in his house and becomes entangled in protecting a regime that is feared and hated throughout the Middle East because of its expansionist wars.”
The Federal Foreign Ministry website described the event as “using the power of religions to foster peace,” adding that “100 representatives of many different faith communities from 53 countries traveled to Berlin for the dialogue- based event.”
“I have faith in the great peacemaking potential of all religions,” Gabriel said at the event, titled “The Conference on the Responsibility of Religions for Peace.”
In a Friday email to the Post, the Foreign Ministry wrote, “From May 21-23, 2017, the Federal Foreign Ministry held a conference with around 100 religious representatives from 53 countries. Representatives of Jewish, Muslim, Christian and other faiths used the constructive atmosphere of the forum to discuss the responsibility of religions for peace. Chief Rabbi Dr. David Rosen was one of the main speakers of the event.
“Foreign Minister Gabriel’s take on Iran’s attitude toward Israel has been consistent and unmistakable: A normal and cordial relationship between Germany and Iran will only be possible if Iran recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
Steadfast solidarity with Israel remains a guideline and pillar of Germany’s foreign policy,” the ministry added.
Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, said: “It is the height of hypocrisy to present a [German] foreign policy that views the security of Israel as a fundamental principle, and then invite people who promote the destruction of Israel.”
Deidre Berger, director of American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office, told the Post,” The annual al-Quds demonstration is a provocative and hateful Israel-bashing event, demonstratively coordinated worldwide by the Iranian government.
In Berlin, the al-Quds day event is organized by Hezbollah supporters, marked each year by outpourings of hatred for Jews and for Israel. It is a contradiction in terms to convene a conference for peace and invite those responsible for events protesting the existence of the Jewish State of Israel.
“We call on the Foreign Ministry to distance itself from such rabble-rousers. Iran must cease and desist with its antisemitic and anti-Israel propaganda, its trampling of human rights and its export of terrorism before it can take a seat at the table of civilized partners for peace,” she added.
According to Stop the Bomb, Gabriel invited Iran’s ambassador to Germany, Ali Majedi, and Seyed Abdolhassan Navab, president of the University of Religions and Denominations. “The university is an Islamist academy that adheres to totalitarian and antisemitic Iranian ideology,” the NGO said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined last month to meet with Gabriel if the foreign minister went ahead with his meeting with Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence. Gabriel met with the group, which uses anonymous sources to criticize Israel’s army, prompting the prime minister to pull the plug on his meeting with Germany’s top diplomat.
Gabriel previously called Israel an “apartheid regime” and belittled the Holocaust in an April opinion piece in the Franfurter Rundschau.
Gabriel is one of Europe’s leading advocates of boosting trade with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Days after world powers reached a nuclear accord with Iran’s regime in July 2015, he traveled with a delegation of leading German business leaders to Tehran.
In 2008, Gabriel’s Social Democratic Party colleague and current president of the Federal Republic, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (then-foreign minister), sponsored an event at the Foreign Ministry to address “common solutions” in the Middle East. Iran’s former deputy foreign minister, Muhammad Javad Ardashir Larijani, called at the event for the “Zionist project” to be “canceled” and said that Israel “has failed miserably and has only caused terrible damage to the region.”
Larijani also engaged in a form of Holocaust denial at the parley.