With Mahmoud Abbas’s recent health scares, advancing age and the 25th anniversary since the beginning of the Oslo peace process, now would seem a pertinent time to assess the reign of the Palestinian leader, and whether he has been a help or a hindrance towards peace during his tenure.
In fact, a cursory look at his 13-plus years in office demonstrates that not only has peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians never been further from being actualized, it becomes clear that Abbas has no interest in working towards self-determination for his people, but rather to undo, by any and all means, the self-determination of a people he sees as his arch enemy.
Abbas’s career has been largely to try and attempt to win a decades-long military, legal, diplomatic and intellectual war of deception and denial against Zionism—the right of the Jewish people to sovereignty in their indigenous and ancestral homeland.
Rather than work towards peace between nations or even work for the benefit for his own people, as a spiritual and ideological descendant of Hitler-ally and arch-rejectionist Haj Amin Al-Husseini, throughout his career Abbas has continuously combined anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and falsification of history as tools to attack Zionism and Israel.
In 1982, Abbas defended his doctoral thesis at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, where he argued that the Holocaust had been exaggerated and that Zionists created “the myth” of 6 million murdered Jews, which he called a “fantastic lie.” He further claimed that those Jews who were killed by the Nazis were actually the victims of a Zionist-Nazi plot aimed to fuel vengeance against Jews and to expand their mass extermination.
Two years later, he reasserted these insidious views in his book, The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism.
While these lies and Holocaust denial, reversal and appropriation dressed up as facts and history are bad enough, the abuse of Holocaust memory was merely a weapon with which to bash his true target: Zionism and Jewish rights to the re-establishment of Israel in its ancestral homeland.
Over the years, many Palestinian leaders, including Abbas himself, have tried to hide or distance themselves from his views when speaking before international audiences.
Nevertheless, Abbas’s book falsely associating Zionists with Nazis is still taught in several West Bank Palestinian universities and remains proudly featured on his personal website.
Many had hoped that these views may have been those of a person from a different time and perhaps steeped in a former Soviet indoctrination. However, recent weeks have demonstrated clearly that Abbas’s hatred and targeting of Zionism, the Holocaust and the Jewish people have never disappeared. It just went largely ignored—tolerated in the spirit of giving Yasser Arafat’s successor a platform to achieve nationhood for Palestinian Arabs.
Nevertheless, Abbas’s blatant hatred has now become impossible to disregard, even for some of his former supporters in Israel and the international community.
In recent months, Abbas has called the return of the Jewish people to their eternal homeland a “catastrophe,” “racist” and “unethical,” fully denying the inalienable rights of the Jewish people to self-determination.
Recently, in a long and rambling address to a meeting of the Palestinian National Council in Ramallah, Abbas suggested that the root cause of the Holocaust was not so much the Nazis’ genocidal hatred of Jews as the Jews’ own conduct, specifically their “social behavior,” adding that he meant “their social function related to banks and interest.” This blatant anti-Semitism is outrageous and would not be tolerated if uttered by any other elected or anointed leader in the world; nor should it be overlooked as to Abbas. Abbas also once again provided fake history to deny the connection of the Jews to the Land of Israel, and claimed that the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa always lived well and unmolested under Arab rule—another lie.
It is abundantly clear that the failed leadership reign of Abbas, who has refused to have elections in the Palestinian territories for more than a decade, who teaches hate in the Palestinian schools, and who rewards and incentivizes terror must be brought to an immediate end. The entire region deserves better than the hateful, anti-Semitic, rejectionist rhetoric that spews forth from Abbas.
Meaningless and empty apologies cannot unring the bell of hate spewed forth from this man. His words, acts and encouragement of incitement and terror cannot be countenanced.
The Palestinian Arabs need and deserve new leaders who will set aside hate and terror as its modus operandi, and will focus on building a real future, health, education, welfare, prosperity, peaceful co-existence and cherished freedoms to which they aspire and are entitled to enjoy.
Abbas has proven utterly incapable of moving one inch towards peace and reconciliation, and has merely fermented hate and aggression towards Israel, Zionism and Jewish self-determination.
However, it is clear that we may well soon be in a post-Abbas era. Those of us who care about peace should learn the lessons of looking away when hate is spewed. Indeed, we should no longer turn a blind eye to incitement, rejectionism and the encouragement of heinous acts of terror as a means of accomplishing political goals.
The day might arrive when forthcoming peace initiatives might be achievable and thus bring all of the peoples of the region one step closer to a long-sought peaceful, secure and prosperous future.
It should be clear that this will not happen while Abbas remains leader. His repeated refusals to even meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, and U.S. envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, is further proof of his inability to provide the kind of leadership needed by the Palestinian people.
If we truly value peace, we must raise our expectations and not accept the bigotry of a Palestinian leader. The next leaders must not only adopt a peaceful and mutually respectful stance towards Israel, they must reject terror and Abbas’s hateful rhetoric and incitement, and open a new chapter in direct relations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Richard D. Heideman, who is senior counsel of Heideman Nudelman & Kalik, PC, the Washington, D.C., law firm which represents American victims of terror, also serves as president of The American Zionist Movement. The opinions expressed are his own and not attributable to any organization.