(January 15, 2019 / JNS)
Today marks 14 years since Mahmoud Abbas, also known as “Abu Mazen,” became rais (“president”) of the Palestinian Authority. Fourteen years is a long enough time to sum up a term in office, even if we don’t know how long he will remain there. As befits an Arab leader, we must not forget that Abbas believes in elections only when they can give him a victory, and if that’s not certain—neither is the election itself.
Abbas was a loyal follower of former PLO leader Yasser Arafat, in every sense. Like Arafat, Abbas’s relations with Israel stemmed from his own basic anti-Semitism. Even when he was picked out as a possible successor to Arafat, the Israeli left tried to hide Abbas’s’ simmering hatred of Jews. Special effort was devoted to making people forget that Abbas is a bona fide Holocaust-denier.
The doctoral thesis Abbas completed in the communist USSR was characterized by “scientific” discoveries that we know and condemn. Jews, the man who would later lead the P.A. wrote, invented millions of victims, and the Zionist leadership even encouraged the Nazis to kill Jews so they could get “the land of Palestine” in compensation. After he was appointed head of the P.A., the Russians took care to have his doctorate classified so he would not be publicly embarrassed if it were published.
Over the past 14 years, one aspect of Abbas’s worldview has changed —he now blames the Holocaust on the Jews themselves, the same Holocaust he used to claim never took place. In a speech to the Palestinian Legislative Council in May 2018, Abbas used colorful language to describe how the Jews’ social behavior and tendency to work in banking and finance were what brought upon them the horrors of the Holocaust.
Even if we stick to pragmatic issues, we will discover that the end of Abbas’s term is no different than the beginning. Under his leadership, the P.A. continues to excel only at things that a normal person would be ashamed of: encouraging terrorism, inciting hatred, and corruption. Under Abbas, the P.A. has pushed its financial support for terrorism to new heights. No less than 7 percent of its budget goes to stipends for terrorists and their families. Terrorists are commemorated in P.A. institutions, and children are urged to follow in their footsteps and become shahids (“martyrs”).
Abbas and his cohort continue to exploit the aid money collected for them around the world to get rich. Arab businesspeople complain that no project can get off the ground in the P.A. unless the rais’ sons or their associates get a cut. For the general population, Abbas is an economic disaster. For the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria, tying themselves to the Israeli economy is the only thing that staves off starvation and ensures they can make a living. Israeli economic growth, along with jobs in Israel and in Jewish settlements, have brought the Palestinian GDP up.
The human-rights situation in the P.A. is even worse than the economy. The P.A. acts like a typical Arab dictatorship. On the U.K.-based Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, the Palestinian Authority is ranked 109 in the world, far behind even semi-democratic regimes. The years of Abbas’s rule have proven destructive in all aspects of life, for both Arabs and Jews. After 14 years in power, even his most loyal followers are hoping he steps off the stage of history.
Ariel Bolstein is the founder of the Israel advocacy organization Faces of Israel.