Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made headlines on Sunday when, in a written statement, he condemned the Holocaust as “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in modern era.” Abbas’s statement came on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.
However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasn’t buying it. During an interview with Bob Schieffer on the CBS program Face the Nation, Netanyahu argued that he could not “reconcile” Abbas’s statement on the Holocaust with his decision to form a unity government with Hamas:
I think it’s an overture to American public opinion, to world opinion to try to placate and somehow smooth over the fact that he made a terrible step away from peace. He made a giant leap backwards, away from pace, because he embraced Hamas that calls for the extermination of Jews worldwide, for the eradication of Israel.
Abbas’ decision to form a unity government with Hamas prompted Netanyahu to withdraw from any further discussions with the Palestinian Authority. Like Netanyahu, I’m not buying it either, but for reasons other than Abbas’ new alliance with Hamas.
First, let us never forget that more than 30 years ago Abbas wrote his doctoral dissertation at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow titled The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism & Zionism. His doctoral dissertation would later become a full-length book. Abbas argued that 6 million Jews did not die during the Holocaust, claiming that the number was fewer than 900,000 and that was only as a result of a conspiracy between the Nazis and Zionists seeking support for Jewish immigration to Palestine. Abbas called the Holocaust “the Zionist fantasy, the fantastic lie that six million Jews were killed.”
By 2011, Abbas was claiming that he did not deny the Holocaust and that he could “accept” that 6 million Jews had been killed. Yet at the time that Abbas indicated he could “accept” the Holocaust had happened, his thesis was still being taught in Palestinian schools. According to David Bedein of the Center for Near East Policy Research, Abbas’s doctoral dissertation “is the basis for Holocaust studies in the Palestinian Authority.”
It actually isn’t the first time the Palestinian Authority has “condemned” the Holocaust. In January 2014, the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry issued a statement in which it “strongly condemns the crime of the Holocaust.” However, in that same statement, the PA Foreign Ministry also claimed that both the Nazi regime in Germany and Israel represented “several chapters of catastrophic evil in human history that must be confronted and prevented from recurring.” This sort of moral equivalence can be found in Abbas’s statement:
The Palestinian people, who suffer from injustice, oppression and denied freedom and peace, are the first to demand to lift the injustice and racism that befell other peoples subjected to such crimes.
It is also difficult to take Abbas’ condemnation of the Holocaust seriously given his unwillingness to condemn attacks on Jews in the present day. Two weeks ago, on the eve of Passover, Palestinian terrorist opened fire on a vehicle on en route to a Passover Seder near Hebron, killing Baruch Mizrachi, a top Israeli police official, and wounding his wife and 9-year old son. Following the attack, a delegation of left-wing members of the Israeli Knesset traveled to Ramallah to visit with Abbas. After their visit, they claimed that Abbas had condemned the attack. Or had he? Upon hearing the claims of the Israeli MKs, Abbas’s office put out a statement denying he had condemned attacks.
For his part, Ismail Haniyeh, who heads up the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, said the shooting of Mizrachi and his family “brought life back to the resistance” and warned there would be more attacks like it in the future. This is the man that now calls Abbas his partner.
As long as Abbas’s doctoral dissertation on the Holocaust is taught as fact in the Palestinian Authority; as long as the Palestinian Authority places Israel and Nazi Germany on the same moral plane, and as long as the Palestinian Authority cannot condemn the murder of Jews en route to a Passover Seder, then Abbas’s statement concerning the Holocaust should be viewed as the empty, meaningless gesture that it is.