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Sunday, 25 January 2009

Moroccan organizations in Holland agree to attend Auschwitz memorial

Representatives of Moroccan organizations in the Netherlands were due to attend the annual Auschwitz memorial scheduled for late Sunday morning after receiving requests from the government.

Their decision to attend - a first for the groups - comes amid heightened tensions between Jewish and Arab groups.

During several pro-Palestinian rallies earlier in January, protesters against Israel's military action in the Gaza Strip shouted a well-known anti-Semitic slogan "Hamas, Hamas, put the Jews to the gas".

The Moroccan groups decided to attend the ceremony after a direct invitation from Dutch Integration Minister Eberhard van der Laan called on Thursday.

Van der Laan emphasized the need for Jews and Muslims to "come together by understanding each other's pain and suffering."

"Muslims should understand what al-Nakba is for Muslims, the Shoah is to Jews, and vice versa." van der Laan said.

Also, Dutch MP Harry van Bommel of the leftist Socialist Party will not be present at the Auschwitz commemoration.

He was filmed calling for an "intifada" - uprising - against Israel during a pro-Palestinian rally where protestors also shouted explicit anti-Semitic slogans.

His announcement in the next days that he would be present at the Auschwitz commemoration caused fury among Dutch Jews. Van Bommel ultimately decided not to attend.

The Dutch Auschwitz commemoration is a public, non-denominational ceremony, usually attended by a maximum of two hundred people, Jews and non-Jews.

The annual Jewish commemoration of the Holocaust, which attracts a much larger number of participants, takes place on Yom Hashoah in the spring, on a different site.

During World War II, the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews, more than 1.5 million Jews in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau, located in Poland.

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