Sunday, January 10, 2010

Muslim Sheikh Pays Solidarity Visit to the Jews of Hevron

Noam Arnon, a spokesperson for the Jewish community of Hevron, told Arutz Sheva about a very unusual guest who came to show his support on Monday.

Making the trip from Italy to Hevron for the second time in recent years, the head of the Italian Muslim Assembly, Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, met with local Jewish leaders in a show of solidarity.

The sheikh, an Italian national who received his Islamic education from leading mainstream Saudi and Egyptian Sunni institutions, believes that his religion obligates its followers to support Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.

In support of his position, Sheikh Palazzi quotes Koranic passages and traditions that affirm God's assignment of this land for the Jews.

As Palazzi has written of himself, he is "a Zionist Muslim clergyman and a friend of the Jewish people."

"We are talking about a unique personality," Arnon told Arutz Sheva. "A man who connects warmly with everyone he meets. A very brave individual."

During Sheikh Palazzi's visit to Hevron, community leaders discussed with him ways in which Islamist fundamentalism might be curbed.

"He emphasized Saudi Arabia as responsible for extremism," Arnon said. "It funds mosques in Europe and the United States and then determines who will be allowed to speak in them. In this way, Islam becomes more and more extreme, which is a dangerous trend."

In his activities in Italy, Arnon explained, Palazzi teaches what he calls "the real Islam", which he believes includes tolerance, Jewish-Muslim fellowship and Zionism. "He even organized a protest outside the Iranian embassy in Rome when Ahmadinejad talked about destroying Israel," Arnon added.

Sheikh Palazzi, who is also the Muslim co-founder of the Islam-Israel Fellowship of the Root & Branch Association, told his Hevron hosts that Italian Jews are now shifting their political positions further to the Right. In the past, according to Palazzi, Jews in Italy were primarily supporters of the Left, but a slow change in underway. Arnon said that Sheikh Palazzi believes his efforts, as a non-Jew supporting Israel, have contributed to that shift.

Asked about threats against the Zionist sheikh Arnon was adamant that he was perfectly safe in Hevron. "He walked around [here] without bodyguards," he said. However, Arnon said that he would probably be unable to openly enter Gaza or Ramallah under current circumstances.

Palazzi's visit in Israel continues for another few days, during which he will be making his way to other communities in Judea and Samaria to express his support for continued Jewish development and sovereignty in those regions.


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