Israel and the Muslim World
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Muslim Ambassadors Receive Menorahs as Gifts at Leading Jewish Group’s Hanukkah Party at Trump Hotel in DC
|Barney Breen-Portnoy||December 15th 2016|
A group of Muslim ambassadors were among the guests at the Hanukkah party co-hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Embassy of Azerbaijan at Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC on Wednesday evening.
All the diplomats in attendance — who included representatives of Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Tajikistan and Turkey — received menorahs as gifts from CPMAJO Executive Vice President Malcolm Hoenlein.
“We were moved by [Azerbaijani] Ambassador [Elin] Suleymanov’s suggestion to hold this event,” Hoenlein said in remarks at the party, which took place during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s two-day visit to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. “It represents an essential part of who the Jewish people are to publicly mark Hanukkah, to express our respect for other religions by joining with Muslims, both Sunni and Shi’a, Christians and every other faith tradition and to promote understanding by focusing on what we have in common rather than what separates and divides us.”
Also present was Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, who said, “Hanukkah is a holiday of lighting flames to illuminate the world. Tonight we have lit those flames together and we have shown we can douse the flames of destruction together. Together, we must continue to do both.”
Renowned investigative author and journalist Edwin Black — one of the guests at the party — told The Algemeiner on Thursday, “These Muslim ambassadors were not there begrudgingly. They were active, they were robust, they were gregarious and they were in a wonderful Hanukkah mood.”
Less pleasing to Black, however, was the Jewish media’s reporting on the party, which drew controversy over its location — a hotel owned by President-elect Donald Trump.
“I was struck by the massive misreporting and under-reporting about such a historic event,” Black said. “The Jewish media must not allow itself to fall into the ‘fake news’ milieu.”
“Several Jewish publications falsely reported that the room would be empty,” Black continued. “But not only was the room full, some of the biggest names in the Jewish community in DC did not get invitations, because it was overflowing. Yet these publications have not corrected or retracted their stories.”
Black also took issue with media reports that “several hundred” people took part in a protest — organized by the left-wing “If Not Now” Jewish group — outside the hotel during the party.
“I with my own eyes saw about 30-50 demonstrators — about half of whom were pro-Trump activists counter-protesting — but I’ve seen pictures with approximately 100 demonstrators at most. And I don’t know how many of them were gawkers, how many were protesters and how many were pro-Trump activists. But I do know that the reporting has been exaggerated.”
Executive Director of the Emergency Committee for Israel Noah Pollak tweeted on Thursday in response to a Forward article about the event, “#FakeNews from @nathanguttman & @jdforward. There were 30-40 protesters at Trump hotel, not ‘several hundred.’ Sad!”
In an interview with The Algemeiner earlier this week, Hoenlein said of the controversy surrounding the party, “It is really quite astonishing to me the level of vehemence that accompanied some of the responses. People can go or not go to any event that we do. Some of the people who have commented haven’t attended a Conference event in a long time, so they were not likely to have been there but some are using this to grandstand.”
“However,” he emphasized, “what’s in the background is really important — this event is a gesture to the Jewish people by a Muslim country in which Jews have lived for 2,600 years and where there has not been antisemitism. Jews in Azerbaijan live freely. In their synagogues you can see the Israeli flags. You can walk with a yarmulke in the streets of Baku, as I have done. Those who lit the fuse regarding this event usually lecture about comity and bringing people together, and yet they did not consider the consequences of their actions here.”