From Forward, the Jewish weekly newspaper:
The excursion, which ran from August 8 through August 10, was one the U.S. government itself invested with great importance. Accompanying the group were several government officials, including Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, and Rashad Hussain, special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
The unusual trip was the brainchild of Marshall Breger, an Orthodox Jew and a Republican who served as a senior official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. [. . .]
“There is a view that there is growing anti-Semitism in the Muslim world, reinforced by people like President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, that there is growing Holocaust denial in the Muslim world,” explained Breger, now a law professor at Catholic University. “In light of that, the idea was to offer education to those who might not have the kind of knowledge that we’ve had about World War II and the Jewish community, and to do this in a public way.”
[. . .]
Addressing the chief rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, at a dinner August 10, [interfaith activist Sayyid M.] Syeed called the trip particularly valuable “for some of us who are coming from the background that there was very little information provided to us during our school and life.”
The envoy Hussain, who, like Rosenthal, was attending in his official capacity, saw the trip as a follow-up to President Obama’s visit last year to Cairo, where he directly addressed the issue of Holocaust denial. “To the extent that some of the people I deal with have questions, it’s very important for me to reinforce that I’ve been here and I’ve seen the horror,” he explained.
If, and how, those noble sentiments can be implemented remains to be seen. At several points during the trip, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was invoked, as well as the perceived linkage between the Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel that often makes the Holocaust itself a difficult topic in the Muslim world. Some acknowledged that this posed a potential impediment to widespread acknowledgement of the Holocaust in their own community.
In some of their most sensitive discussions, several delegates grappled with the issue of how to present the truth of the Holocaust in a way that would be accepted and taken to heart by their congregants. Breger, citing the need for the participants to speak freely to each other on this, ruled these exchanges off the record. But broadly, one suggestion was that Muslim acknowledgement of the Holocaust should be followed by similar initiatives on the Jewish side, acknowledging Palestinian suffering and the role that Israel’s founding and the country’s subsequent policies had in this.
The above quotation, lengthy as it is, does not do justice to A.J. Goodman’s excellent and extensive reporting, which deserves to be read in full.