Iran's Anti-Israel Assembly Calls For Holy War

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - As Israel honored its fallen soldiers Wednesday, some of its most dedicated enemies gathered in the Iranian capital to discuss ways of intensifying the anti-Israel battle, with some leaders questioning Israel's right to exist.

In Israel, air-raid sirens brought the country to a standstill on Wednesday to pay silent tribute to the country's 19,312 fallen soldiers since statehood was declared a little over half a century ago.

Israel has sealed off the Palestinian-controlled territories until Friday morning to help ensure that both Memorial Day, and Independence Day which runs from sunset Wednesday until sunset Thursday, pass without trouble.

As Israel commemorated those killed in five wars, in terrorist attacks and during the current Palestinian uprising, Tehran hosted the second day of a conference called to garner backing for the Palestinian uprising.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, earlier opened the conference with a speech accusing Jews of collaborating with Nazi Germany to exaggerate the extent of the Holocaust in order to justify their own actions against Palestinians.

However, observers in Jerusalem said on Wednesday that although the rhetoric coming from Iran was virulently anti-Semitic and particularly untimely, it was not out of the ordinary for the region.

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Weisenthal Center in Jerusalem, said such statements were "typical" of those parts of the Arab world that continue to deny Israel's right to exist.

"Now they're trying to rewrite the history that led to [Israel's] creation," Zuroff said.

Historians generally agree that some six million Jews were killed by the Nazi Germany, who devised a scheme to annihilate European Jewry during World War II.

State-run media in Arab and Islamic states consistently deny the extent of the horrors of the Holocaust and accuse Jews of using it to gain sympathy.

Although anti-Israel rhetoric "goes up and down," in the region it has been "bad" for some time, said Anti-Defamation League spokesperson Laura Kam Issacharoff.

"This adds to the list of official Arab anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial equating Israel [with the Nazis]," said Issacharoff. "It fits a pattern [and] Iran is emerging as a leader in this enterprise," she added.

Iran on Wednesday rejected U.S. criticism of the conference and the charge that Iran supported terrorism.

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker earlier reiterated U.S. concern over Iran's support of terrorism, terrorist groups and those who oppose Middle East peace on Tuesday.

Calling the statements from Tehran "outrageous and deplorable," Reeker said they did nothing to allay U.S. concerns about Iran and "its support for terrorism and opposition to Middle East peace."

But Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said Tehran would continue "its moral and humanitarian support of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon and of the Palestinians," regardless of whether the United States agrees with it or not.

In his speech, Khamenei said there was evidence that "Zionists had close relations with German Nazis and exaggerated statistics on Jewish killings."

He told representatives of 35 Islamic nations as well as members of terrorist organizations that, "a large number of non-Jewish thugs of eastern Europe were forced to migrate to Palestine as Jews.

"The purpose was to install in the heart of the Islamic world an anti-Islamic state under the guise of supporting the victims of racism and to create a rift between the East and the West of the Islamic world."

Israel was established by a United Nations resolution in November 1947, which provided for a Jewish and an Arab state to be established side-by-side in British Mandatory Palestine. Israel accepted the resolution but the Arab nations rejected it.

Since then, Israel has fought five wars with its Arab neighbors.

Other militant groups also expressed their goals at the conference.

The leader of the Iranian-backed, Lebanese-based Hizballah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, warned the "fully-armed Zionist military" that it should expect "surprise attacks by Palestinian resistance groups."

Head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Abdullah Ramadan Shalah, was quoted by the Iranian news agency as saying jihad (holy war) was the only solution to the Middle East crisis.

"We will continue our struggles against Israel until we manage to bring the savage regime to its knees even if it takes a century," Shalah said.