Mahmoud Abbas’s ‘50 holocausts’ remarks are essential to the Palestinian narrative

Promoting the claim that Israel has no right to exist is the Palestinian Authority’s highest priority.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, May 7, 2020. Credit: Flash90.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, May 7, 2020. Credit: Flash90.
Yossi Kuperwasser
IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He formerly served as director general of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence.

The uproar caused by Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’s recent remarks about the “50 holocausts” he alleged Israel has carried out against the Palestinians was almost universally supported by Palestinian institutions and on the Palestinian “street.” This echoed and intensified Abbas’s anti-Semitic message.

The Palestinians claim that criticism of Abbas’s allegation is an attack on the Palestinian narrative, which has faced many challenges in recent years. The mobilization to defend the narrative has once again exposed Abbas’s “seven pillars” of Palestinian misinformation.

They are:

  1. There is no Jewish people and therefore the Jews have no right to their own state.
  2. There is no history of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The Palestinian people, on the other hand, have “ancient” historical roots in the land of Palestine. Thus, the solution to the Jewish problem should not be in the Land of Israel. Moreover, Ashkenazi Jews are not descendants of the Jews who lived in the Land of Israel in the past, but rather of the Khazars.
  3. The Jews in general and Zionists in particular are intolerable creatures, which is why the Europeans tried to get rid of them. The cruelty and condescension that characterize Zionist policy toward the Palestinians, including the perpetration of “50 holocausts” and the establishment of an apartheid regime, are a clear expression of this.
  4. The Palestinians are the only victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As long as they have not achieved their goals and eliminated the injustice done to them—for example, by the return of the refugees—they must engrave on the world consciousness their suffering and perpetuate it, as Mahmoud Abbas did in his remarks. The criticism of Abbas’s lie threatens this right to absolute victimhood and the Palestinians’ ability to portray their suffering as one that justifies any action they may take—such as terrorism. Hence the outraged response to said criticism, which for a moment raised Abbas’s prestige at home.
  5. In light of all this, the Palestinians are committed to a multifaceted struggle against Zionism to the bitter end.
  6. The Palestinian struggle is national and Islamic simultaneously, and these two components are intertwined. Therefore, Israeli violations of the sanctity of Islam, especially at the Al-Aqsa compound, is also an expression of the dangerous nature of Zionism. The national component relates to the Arab nation to which the Palestinian people belong. This component suffered a severe blow because of the Abraham Accords. Still, the Palestinians refuse to accept the implications of this development.
  7. At this stage, recognizing their inability to reach the final goal of defeating Zionism, the Palestinians seek a state along the 1967 lines, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital and Israeli acceptance of the principle of the refugees’ right of return, as an interim solution. Under no circumstances can Palestinians accept Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and thus surrender the final goal of “liberating” all of Palestine.

To this end, Mahmoud Abbas promotes academic and political initiatives to derail the Zionist narrative and instill the Palestinian narrative, inter alia, through unilateral international recognition of a “State of Palestine” as a full member of the U.N. He also works to inculcate the Palestinian narrative among the youth, which is why he refuses to change Palestinian textbooks that teach it along with incitement against Israel. In fact, it is remarkable how much of the P.A.’s activity is dedicated to promoting the narrative even at the cost of neglecting other important issues.

Israel faces a difficult dilemma. The more the P.A. and its leader’s commitment to a hostile and anti-Semitic narrative is exposed, the more difficult it is for Israel to justify its willingness to engage in a cordial dialogue with him and his senior advisors. At the same time, Israel’s government and defense establishment are fully committed to dialogue with the P.A. Their primary consideration is to prevent an outbreak of violence, and they believe strengthening the P.A. furthers this goal.

However, as a result of its perceived support for Abbas, Israel is portrayed as compromising its dignity and long-term interests. Both Israel and the international community refrain from any action that might make it clear to Abbas that there is a price to be paid for adhering to his absurd and anti-Semitic narrative. Even now, the rage will subside, and the Israeli government will do nothing. Therefore, a frustrated Abbas will continue his efforts to promote his narrative while fostering the perception that Israel is a criminal state. This is liable to cause serious political, media and security damage in the medium- and long-term, and encourage terrorism in the short-term.

Perhaps the best way to deal with the dilemma is to recognize that the status quo is the least of evils and must be lived with. A gradual improvement in the situation may be achieved by directly encouraging the many Palestinians who do not promote the P.A. narrative and are not involved in terrorism. This can be done through measures that will improve their quality of life and do not harm Israel’s ability to ensure its security.

Such a policy should not present these steps as a gesture to the P.A., which is committed to its obnoxious narrative. It could be done while simultaneously promoting and expanding the Abraham Accords to show the Palestinians that the interests of the pragmatic Arab states entail freeing them from the grip of this narrative and, moreover, offering a path for them to improve their lot.

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was formerly director general of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.

This is an edited version of an article originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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