Palestinians Deserve the Leaders They Have | Opinion

It was said when Israel pulled out of Gaza. It was parroted when the halcyon days of Oslo crumbled into the bombed-out ruins of Israeli restaurants and discotheques. When democracy first came to the Palestinian territories. When Hamas diverted humanitarian aid to build terror tunnels or install weapons caches embedded within civilian areas. When the Palestinian Authority continued its policy of "pay for slay," supporting the families of terrorists during their imprisonments.

And you can hear that same broken record playing again now...

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently continued this sordid tradition, revealing his shocking hatred of Jews in the very country that gave the world the Holocaust. When asked in Berlin about this year's 50th anniversary commemoration of the Munich Olympic massacre, Abbas seized upon the question as an excuse to accuse Israel of committing "50 Holocausts" since its inception in 1948. Such outré comments might normally trigger the collapse of a government, but not in Ramallah.

Abbas, after all, got his Ph.D. in Russia in the 1980s with the trenchant dissertation, "The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism," arguing that Zionists collaborated with Nazis. That didn't deter Palestinian voters then, and it wouldn't deter them now. What is now doing in Abbas, politically, is instead endemic corruption.

Palestinians now overwhelmingly support Abbas' main partisan rival, the terrorist organization Hamas. Hamas uses terms such as "Jews" and "Zionists" interchangeably in its long-time open call for the destruction of Israel. Sounding remarkably like Abbas, Hamas' infamous organizational charter notes that "in their Nazi treatment, the Jews made no exception for women or children," insisting that "the Zionist Nazi activities against our people will not last for long."

This isn't a new phenomenon.

Jeffrey Herf's remarkable essay in Tablet two months ago chronicled the deep ties that early Palestinian leaders established with the Nazis and with Hitler himself. Going well beyond the grand mufti's infamous handshake with Hitler, the proto-Palestinian leadership proactively worked with the Third Reich-era German Foreign Office, contributed to Nazi propaganda, and collaborated with Heinrich Himmler and the SS. There is a direct line from the ideology of the grand mufti to that of Hamas today.

Nor is this murderous sentiment limited to Palestinian religious fundamentalists.

Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization pioneered plane hijackings and terrorism; paraplegic elderly Jews were also shot and thrown off cruise ships for the "sin" of merely being Jewish. It was Abbas' Fatah operatives that spearheaded the Munich Olympic terrorist attacks of 1972, leading to the massacre of Israeli athletes. Arafat's poisonous thought leads directly to Abbas, whose calls for elections, despite now closing in on the second decade of his alleged four-year term, ring hollow.

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, speaks to the media with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (not pictured) following talks at the Chancellery on August 16, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Abundant polling data demonstrates that Palestinians leaders broadly represent the values found on the Palestinian street. The infamous 2013 Pew poll on the attitudes of Muslim extremist groups found that 62% of Palestinians either sometimes or often believed suicide bombings to be justified. An additional 12% believed it to be "rarely" justified, thus bringing the spectrum of total Palestinian support for suicide bombing to nearly three-quarters of those polled. These poll numbers well outpaced those from neighboring countries, such as Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.

The following year, in the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) global survey of antisemitic attitudes, residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip topped the list with 93% of those polled holding anti-Jewish beliefs. The ADL's questionnaire asked respondents their views of classical antisemitic themes, such as dual loyalty and conspiratorial Jewish power. For many Palestinians—right up to Abbas himself—that also comes with rampant Holocaust denialism in tow.

Little has changed in the intervening years. Domestic polling from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research published in 2019 found that a majority of Palestinians still supported armed struggle against Israel, as opposed to democratic or political initiatives.

Holding Palestinians to the "soft bigotry of low expectations" will get us more of the same: a negative feedback loop whereby our low expectations excuse bad leadership. Hamas and Fatah are the most accurate political representatives of the Palestinian people; according to reputable public polling, they capture the sentiments of the Palestinian street.

It was long ago hoped that good leadership would transform the Gaza Strip into a "Singapore of the Middle East," but that never happened. We should stop dreaming of such fantasies because, simply put, a century of history has shown otherwise. The dream for a democratic and pluralistic "State of Palestine" will remain where it always has been: in the collective imagination of idealists always just over the next hill, and around the next bend.

History doesn't always repeat itself, but it at least rhymes—and not necessarily always to the tune that we may hope.

Ari David Blaff is a Canadian journalist and a writer at Deseret. His writings have also appeared in Tablet, Quillette, and National Review.

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