Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s outrageous remarks about Jews may have rocked the world, but they also exposed the international community’s disinterest in the positions held by Abbas and the Palestinians in general. In 1977, Abbas published his book Zionism, Beginning and End. The book, which has never been translated into Hebrew, explains at length all the claims he has repeated publicly in recent years.
The book states that Zionism was forced on the Jews by European colonialists, who against their will made them see themselves as a nation and immigrate to Palestine. To this end, Zionism concerned itself with exacerbating the hardships faced by the Jews of Europe and the Arab world in an effort to convince them to emigrate. One such effort according to Abbas’s book and his doctorate thesis consisted of collaborating with the Nazis.
According to Abbas, the way to bring an end to Zionism is to cooperate with Jews who face discrimination in Israel, in particular Jews from Arab states such as Iraq, to convince them to return to their countries of origin, where they were, of course, treated very well.
In light of the recent calls for Abbas to step down, one must emphasize that his remarks are not just a reflection of his personal opinion, but rather the Palestinian belief system. They constitute the basis of the false Palestinian narrative that holds there is no such thing as the Jewish people.
The Jews are merely a religious group, and as a result, have no right to a nation-state. In a statement following the outcry over his remarks, Abbas apologized not to the Jewish people, but to “members of the Jewish religion.” The Jews have no historical connection to Palestine; therefore, there is no basis for their demand for a return to Palestine. As the descendants of the Canaanites, the Palestinians are the only indigenous people here. The Jews are intolerable beings, which is why the Europeans created Zionism in a bid to both rid themselves of the Jews and defend against the strengthening of the Arab nations and Islam.
“The March of Return” in the Gaza Strip and the “Nakba (Catastrophe) Day” events commemorating the displacement of the Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence on May 15 are a reflection of the Palestinian commitment to the long-term goal of ending Zionism, as outlined in Abbas’s book.
The struggle against Zionism is at the root of Palestinian identity, and is at once national and religious in nature. It is just that for now, Abbas believes certain means of struggle are less beneficial to the Palestinian cause. The Palestinians are the only victims in this conflict, and they must fortify this status through the perpetuation of their refugee status and the strengthening of the public’s consciousness of the nakba. As victims, one should not demand the Palestinians take responsibility for their actions and their plight.
Palestinian incitement is the effort to instill this narrative into their consciousness, and the campaign to delegitimize Israel in the international arena is the campaign to instill this narrative in global opinion.
It is not enough to replace Abbas. We must replace the Palestinian narrative, which is a much harder goal to accomplish. As the Fatah Party’s last living founding father, Abbas could have tried to change the narrative, but he has preferred to deepen his commitment to the narrative by connecting it, and rightly so, to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin al-Husseini.
“The March of Return” in Gaza and the “Nakba Day” events next week reflect the Palestinian commitment to the long-term goal of putting an end to Zionism. Whoever believes they can promote peace under these conditions by merely presenting some plan and sermonizing to the Palestinians, as some senior U.S. officials continue to do today, is continuing to ignore the problem.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly director general of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.