Mahmoud Abbas' Holocaust Comment

At a press conference in Berlin on August 16th, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Israel committed “fifty massacres, fifty Holocausts” against the Palestinians. His offensive comparison to the  Holocaust, in the plural, on German soil, in reference to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, justifiably triggered outrage in Israel, the US, Germany and beyond. We at APN were equally outraged. We strongly condemn this kind of discourse.

Upon his return to Ramallah the following day, Abbas clarified that “the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern human history,” adding that his Berlin statement “was not intended to deny the singularity of the Holocaust that occurred in the last century, and condemning it (sic) in the strongest terms.” According to Israeli media reports, Abbas made this clarification at the request of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Abbas’ clarification is welcome, but does little to touch the hearts and minds of Israelis, and deals yet another blow to efforts to reach peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Abbas’ choice of language was antithetical and tragically destructive to the message of peace he tried to convey on his visit to Germany.

At the press conference in Berlin, Abbas was asked about past terrorism acts by groups affiliated with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Abbas, who heads the PLO, has rejected violence and has been closely cooperating with Israel for many years in counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank. He replied, “we had agreed to say ‘enough,’ (to) advance with peace, with security, with stability.” He then said that if one wants to look back at the past, Palestinians can point to massacres committed by Israel. But, he said, addressing Israel, “I do not want more than peace. You are welcome to peace. You are welcome to security. You are welcome to build trust between us and you.” In his prepared remarks, Abbas repeatedly called for a two-state solution, establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and living side by side with Israel in peace and security.

Much has been written about the Palestinian attitude toward the Holocaust, including Abbas’ own PhD dissertation on this topic. It’s frustrating that Abbas continues to provide golden opportunities for those who seek to stir up this ugly pot at the expense of his greater message of peace.