Mahmoud Abbas’s Jewish problem

by Clifford D. May

Why the Palestinian leader can’t make peace with Israelis.

(JNS) Once upon a time, Mahmoud Abbas inspired hope.

Elected president of the Palestinian Authority after Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, he wore a tie and jacket, not battle fatigues. He was a nationalist, not a jihadist. He denounced terrorism “by any party and in all its shapes and forms.” A year earlier, Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s prime minister, had called him “a responsible man.”

Turns out, it was a fairy tale.

Addressing the Revolutionary Council of Fatah last month, Abbas asserted: “They say that Hitler killed the Jews for being Jews, and that Europe hated the Jews because they were Jews. Not true.”

The hatred that led to genocide, he contended, was not based on race or religion. Rather, Europeans “fought against these people because of their role in society, which had to do with usury, money dealings and so on. Even Hitler said he fought the Jews because they were dealing with usury and money.”

Abbas further claimed that David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, “forced” Jews to flee to Israel from Arab countries (where they had lived for centuries) “by means of pressure, coercion and murder.”

As for European Jews, they “are not Semites,” he said, citing the discredited theory that Ashkenazi Jews are descended not from ancient Israelites but from Khazars, a medieval Turkic kingdom.

The State of Israel, he told his audience, was “invented” by “Britain and America—not just Britain. “I am saying this so that we know who we should accuse of being our enemy,” he added.

Among the questions few in the media will ask: Has Abbas always seen “these people” in the same light as did “even Hitler”? Or have his views changed over the 18 years since his first election—which has turned out to be his only election?

Perhaps the image so many world leaders have had of him was based on wishful thinking. After all, the only serious alternative to Abbas has been Hamas, which rules Gaza, having forced out the P.A. after Israel’s withdrawal from that territory in 2005.

Hamas, a designated terrorist organization backed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, doesn’t equivocate. “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad,” declares Article 13 of the Hamas Charter.

So Abbas has been the only game in town. And one could hope that with American help—including more per-capita aid than Europe received under the Marshall Plan—the quality of life for the average Palestinian would improve, which would lead Abbas to conclude that coming to terms with Israel was in the Palestinian interest, not to mention his own.

That hope did not pan out, as should have become obvious in 2008. Then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed the establishment of a Palestinian state on 100% of Gaza and 94% of the West Bank. Both the Jewish state and the Palestinian state would have their capitals in Jerusalem.

Abbas flatly rejected the offer. Israeli and American leaders were mystified.

Were they unaware of Abbas’s ideological roots? In 1982, after a period of study in Moscow, he was awarded a doctorate for a dissertation titled: “The Relationship Between Zionists and Nazis, 1933-1945.”

In it, he accused Zionists of aiding and abetting “the annihilation of the Jewish population in European countries occupied by Nazi Germany to implement the Zionist ideal of mass colonization of Palestine and create a Jewish state on its territory.”

He contended that Zionists remain “shrewd and dangerous enemies of socialism and the national liberation movements,” as well as “storm troopers of world imperialist reaction” led by the United States.

He later published a paper building on his dissertation, casting doubt on whether gas chambers were used to exterminate Jews and claiming that the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust might be “even less than a million.”

His explanation for the alleged deception: The Zionists would achieve “greater gains” when it came time to “distribute the spoils.”

In Tablet magazine earlier this year, Izabella Tabarovsky, a writer who grew up in the Soviet Union, explained that Abbas was echoing the Soviet Communist Party line, which equated Zionism with Nazism and portrayed Israel as “irreparable and irredeemable.”

If you take that view, it follows that no form of “resistance” is unjustifiable. And if the result should be a second genocide of Jews in less than a century? Well, once again the Zionists would be to blame, wouldn’t they?

Abbas is 87 years old. What I suspect most concerns him now is his legacy—that his portrait should hang alongside that of Arafat, two leaders of the “resistance,” the long war against Zionists, Israelis, Jews and “their role in society.”

It has long been convenient to support the “Palestinian cause” without defining that phrase. We know that to Tehran and its clients it means replacing the Jewish state—that illegitimate, apartheid, racist Zionist entity!—with a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

Or as Israel’s enemies like to chant: “From the River to the Sea Palestine Will Be Free!” Free of Jews, that is. The word the Nazis used was judenrein.

If Abbas holds such views, no end to the conflict is possible so long as he’s in office, no matter what concessions Israelis and others offer.

Will this fact now be acknowledged by the many U.N. officials who spend their days (and Americans’ dollars) defaming and de-legitimizing Israel, by the blame-Israel-first caucus in the U.S. Congress and by those within the Biden administration intent on thawing relations with Abbas and chilling relations with Israel?

I think not. But then, I don’t believe in fairy tales.

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