Prisoners at Nazi death camp Auschwitz

Dr. Mahmoud and Mr. Abbas: Palestinian leader is an enigma for Israel

Analysis: Abbas' decades of flirting with Holocaust-denying rhetoric should have made him a pariah in the eyes of the Jewish state, but security coordination with the Palestinians under his leadership has saved countless Israeli lives

Avi Issacharoff |
Published: 08.17.22, 19:00
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has a penchant for Holocaust denial. Although he has never done so outright, he has been understating its significance for decades, comparing it to the trials of the Palestinian people and occasionally peppering hints the Jews were behind it.
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  • It started with Abbas' infamous doctoral dissertation he wrote during his studies at Moscow State University in the 1980s in which he explained that the exact number of Jews killed in the Holocaust couldn’t be ascertained. “It could be six million and it could be much lower, fewer than a million even,” he wrote.
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    Prisoners at Nazi death camp Auschwitz
    Prisoners at Nazi death camp Auschwitz
    Prisoners at Nazi death camp Auschwitz
    (Photo: AP)
    But it did not end there. Four years ago, Abbas said that the Holocaust was caused by Jewish actions, not due to their racial origins. He apologized the next day and clarified he had no intent “to insult the Jews.”
    And here we are again. On Tuesday, it seemed like Abbas let the little Holocaust denier in him slip out again, this time on German soil.
    He claimed Israel has committed “50 Holocausts” against the Palestinians. He issued an apology the very next morning in which he said that the Holocaust is "the most heinous crime in modern human history."
    Abbas, 86, can’t use his advanced age as an excuse for such rhetoric since he made similar remarks when he was younger.
    The initial instinct of every Jewish and non-Jewish person living in Israel would be to excommunicate him and storm his office in Ramallah.
    But reality presents us a complex person who is far from an Israel lover but his presidency is, in large part, an important factor in keeping the relative peace across the West Bank.
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    Even the cadre of politicians who lashed out at him with bellicose statements, including Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, understand that the Palestinian Authority (PA) under Abbas is a stabilizing factor in the West Bank. Without the two, the situation in the territory would have looked completely different, and not for the better.
    As odd as it might come off against the backdrop of his antisemitic remarks, many Israelis owe him their lives, soldiers and civilians alike, within the West Bank and elsewhere.
    Abbas maybe talks a blue streak about the Holocaust and continues to pay stipends to Palestinian terrorists but at the same time, his security apparatus has been acting against Palestinian militants and preventing attacks on Israeli targets since he took office in 2005.
    Abbas played an integral part in stopping a tsunami of suicide attacks and terror shootings between 2006 and 2007 and it was he who pushed to get militants off the streets of Palestinian cities, from Hamas to Islamic Jihad and even his own faction Fatah.
    Even in the last few days, these Islamist groups have reported about the PA security apparatus arresting their people and the torture they were subjected to in PA prisons.
    Abbas has worked for many years to stamp out any Palestinian violence against Israel. He preached about the use of diplomacy to end the Israeli occupation, which raised the ire of Israeli decision-makers.
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    שוטרים פלסטיניים מנגנוני הביטחון הפלסטיניים
    שוטרים פלסטיניים מנגנוני הביטחון הפלסטיניים
    Palestinian security forces
    (Photo: Gettyimages)
    But as one former senior Israeli official once told me: "If anyone would have told us the Palestinians would appeal to the International Criminal Court instead of carrying out suicide bombings against us, thus saving the lives of 1,200 Israelis, we would have kissed their hands.”
    In the end, every such incident or statement these days is amplified amid the ongoing Israeli election cycle.
    Those who pride themselves on not having met with Abbas while attacking Defense Minister Benny Gantz for having done so forget that the PA and Abbas at its helm are helping to prevent attacks and preserve the relative peace here.
    And by the way, these are the same politicians who practically allowed Hamas to establish its rule and build itself up in the Gaza Strip while turning a blind eye to Israel.
    So although they did not meet with Hamas leaders and did not shake hands with Holocaust deniers, they agreed to do business with a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, and unlike Abbas, also encourages terrorist attacks against Israelis at this very moment.
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