'Fifty Holocausts' Remark Proves Palestinian Authority Head Must Go | Opinion

Sometimes a world leader's toxicity is clear for all to see. Such a moment arrived for the Palestinian Authority's (PA's) Mahmoud Abbas on Aug. 16, when standing alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, he outrageously claimed that Israel had committed "50 Holocausts" against the Palestinians. Granted that dictatorships habitually rule by misdirecting the misery of their subjects, but so gross a distortion—and in such a venue—had consequences. Scholz later tweeted: "I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. For us Germans in particular, any relativization of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust."

Although Abbas enjoys diplomatic immunity, German police launched a preliminary investigation after they received a formal criminal complaint for "inciting hatred." The Biden administration's envoy for fighting antisemitism warned such rhetoric "can have dangerous consequences and fuels antisemitism." The incident occurred despite reports that German officials met with Abbas's aides before the conference and urged Abbas to avoid rhetoric that would be unacceptable in Germany. Most shocking of all, Abbas' calumny was uttered in response to a German journalist asking if Abbas wished to apologize for the cold-blooded massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich in 1972 by Palestinian terrorists. He didn't.

Abbas, let us remember, was supposed to be the pragmatist, the moderate, compared to his predecessor. Yasser Arafat's essentially violent nature and strategy were well known to the world, as he had committed innumerable acts of terrorism and cruelty as the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) since 1969. The astonishing fact is that the world suspended disbelief—even handing him the most undeserved Nobel Peace Prize in history—until he shredded their illusions in the orgy of blood and thunder that was the Second Intifada, responsible for the violent deaths of more than 5,000 Palestinians and about 1,400 Israelis.

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority, speaks to the media with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz following talks at the Chancellery on Aug. 16, 2022 in Berlin. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

When Arafat died, and Abbas succeeded him as ruler of both the PLO and PA in 2004, it was hoped by many in the West that he would seriously govern as a moderate and pursue peace, yet already in his initial 2004-2005 campaign for PA president, Abbas said he would shield Palestinian terrorists from Israel and that he had no plans to crack down on them. Abbas won a four-year term in that election; 17 years later, no new election has ever been held. Unsurprisingly, the democracy monitor Freedom House rates Abbas's PA-run West Bank to be Not Free, noting that: "[t]he PA lacks an executive or legislature with an electoral mandate. Because the legislature has not functioned since 2007, new laws are introduced via presidential decree... The news media are generally not free in the West Bank; journalists are surveilled and repressed... Human rights groups regularly document allegations of arbitrary detention by PA security forces." In contrast, Freedom House designates Israel as Free, finding that "Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a multiparty system and independent institutions that guarantee political rights and civil liberties for most of the population."

In hindsight, perhaps the Holocaust denial of the dictator Abbas should not have been so shocking. In 1982, Abbas wrote a doctoral thesis at Patrice Lumumba University in Soviet Moscow, titled "The Secret Connection between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement," in which he asserted that under a million Jews had died in the Holocaust; a later 1984 introduction challenged the existence of the Nazi gas chambers. Horrifically, he alleges that Jewish Zionists joined forces with the Nazis to inflict the Holocaust on European Jewry. Perhaps when a famous Holocaust denier denies the Holocaust, he isn't telling us anything about himself we don't already know. Nevertheless, it is an important light in which to consider the consistent antisemitic incitement in Palestinian educational materials and public media.

For those who don't know—for instance, for those raised in regimes like the PA, which distort and deny the Holocaust—the Nazi Third Reich carried out an industrialized genocide of most of Europe's Jews, slaughtering 6 million Jews out of about 16 million then living in the world. Even according to the most optimistic interpretations, the Jewish population has never returned to that prewar peak. Meanwhile, by some estimates, the Palestinian population has increased by nine times since the Partition of the British Mandate. Somehow, this is supposed to be happening while Israel (according to Abbas) perpetrates 50 equivalents of the slaughter of the 6 million—which would mean killing approximately 300 million Palestinians, about the current population of the United States. The mind boggles.

Yet, in the Middle East of today, the mathematically, historically, and ethically challenged Abbas is allowed to masquerade as a statesman, a moderate, and a peacemaker. It surely helps him that his domestic opposition, Hamas, is dedicated by charter to Israel's destruction, while the violent Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is a pawn of revolutionary Iran, and the forces of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) attempt to "anti-normalize" the Israeli state. Yet these forces are as often allies as rivals in the poisonous stew that passes for Palestinian politics, as each supported Abbas's "50 Holocausts" comment—not only in spirit but in content. That should tell the world as much as one could hope to know about the prospects Israel has for peace with a Palestinian culture that has been brainwashed by decades of official Holocaust denial and antisemitic incitement. Israel has about as much of a chance of a peace agreement with this group of "leaders" as it does of a joint space program with moon landing deniers. For peace to materialize in the Holy Land, a whole new generation of Palestinian leadership must step forward.

Bassem Eid is a Palestinian human rights activist.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.