World Jewish Congress sends sympathies to Saudis after haj disaster

Letter was sent by World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder and CEO Robert Singer.

Saudi King Salman  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Saudi King Salman
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The World Jewish Congress sent condolences to Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud on Tuesday, less than a week after more than a thousand pilgrims were trampled to death during a stampede outside of the Islamic holy city of Mecca.
“On behalf of the World Jewish Congress, our more than 100 affiliated Jewish communities across the globe, and the entire Jewish people, we want to express to you our most sincere and deepest condolences at Thursday’s tragic loss of life in Mecca,” wrote WJC President Ronald Lauder and CEO Robert Singer.
“What should have been a moment of spiritual uplift during the haj became instead a moment of sorrow, and we join you in mourning for the souls of the hundreds of pilgrims who will not return to their families.”
Noting that the haj coincided with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Lauder and Singer recalled that “the fate of every one of us is in the hands of our divine Creator.”
“May you, your nation, and all of Islam find strength in the memory of those whose lives were cut short, and may we, together, dedicate ourselves to bringing harmony into our world so that we – Muslims, Jews and Christians – may together worship our common God with love and in peace.”
Saudi Arabia has been accused of promoting anti-Semitism.
According to the Anti-Defamation League’s website, “a whole range of anti-Jewish commentary and depictions in the Saudi media – the blood libel accusation, denial of the Holocaust, and Jewish control over the media and American policy – have gone unanswered by Saudi religious, political and community leaders.”
According to the ADL 100 worldwide poll, 74 percent of Saudis harbor anti-Semitic attitudes, and 70 percent believe that “Jews have too much control over global affairs.”
Saudi rival Iran blamed both Riyadh and Jerusalem for the stampede.
In an interview with the official state Fars news agency on Monday, Iranian Deputy Chief of Staff Brig.-Gen. Massoud Jazzayeri said that “given the usurper Zionist regime’s infiltration and influence on the al-Saud, there is a growing possibility that the crane crash incident at the Grand Mosque [in Mecca] and the death of thousands of people in Mina were the result of deliberate crime.”
Iran’s Tasnim and Fars news agencies reported that 125 Iranians were among the dead.
Fars reported that Tehran summoned the Saudi chargé d’affaires to lodge an official complaint over the disaster.
The haj, the world’s largest annual gathering of people, has been the scene of numerous deadly stampedes, fires and riots in the past, but their frequency has been greatly reduced in recent years as the government spent billions of dollars upgrading and expanding haj infrastructure and crowd control technology.
Reuters contributed to this report.