There’s an irrational fear that Palestinians will find out that what their leaders and their media have been telling them about the Holocaust are outright lies. Once people realise this, who knows where such a realisation will take them?
Observers of Palestinian Authority (PA) affairs will be familiar with the two-facedness of Mahmoud Abbas’s regime. Of course, this dissembling tendency extends to (and to some extent originates with) Abbas himself. As described in this blog article from 3 years ago, the urbane and tolerant Abbas who travels abroad and speaks in English to the United Nations or national parliaments is very different from the demagogue who promotes Jew-hatred to his people.
It should come as no surprise that such insincerity can be seen in views on the Holocaust. Abbas has on occasion expressed unequivocal condemnation of the murder of six million Jews. However, far more often, he, his regime and the regime’s official media outlets promote claims that at the very least amount to Holocaust minimisation and sometimes, outright denial.
In a darkly amusing way, the regime’s unseemly rush to dismiss the idea that the six million who were murdered were victims leads it to constantly contradicting itself. There seem to be several trains of thought asserting that it didn’t happen, it happened but only a few Jews were murdered, lots of Jews were murdered but it was their fault, or it was the fault of other Jews.
It didn’t happen
Outright denial of the Holocaust by the Palestinian Authority (or its media) isn’t so common these days. However, there are still some figures (such as the writer, Hani Abu Zeid in 2018) who dismiss the Holocaust as “false” or a “lie” (1). Issam Sissalem, a professor at a university in Gaza has also featured regularly on Palestinian Authority TV claiming that no-one was murdered at Dachau or Auschwitz. (2) These claims go unchallenged and are treated as fact.
Minimising the number of victims
Claiming that the figure of six million is an exaggeration is a far more common means of dealing with the Holocaust in the world of the Palestinian Authority. One recent example from February this year comes from the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. In it, one writer claims that “Zionists” exaggerated the number of Holocaust victims of “in order to obtain the world’s sympathy and support for [Israel]” (3).
It could hardly be any other way when President Abbas himself has made identical claims in a dissertation he wrote in 1982 (4). When he was studying at a university in Moscow, he wrote “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism” in which he claimed that the number of Jewish victims of the Holocaust was hugely exaggerated for political gain. There’ll be more about this “work” later on in this article.
Drawing parallels between the mass murder of Jews and other historical or current incidents is another means of minimising the Holocaust. Once again, we have Mahmoud Abbas centre stage with his preposterous claim last August at a news conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Israel had committed “50 Holocausts” against Palestinians (5). He was roundly condemned in Germany and around the world but was praised in his own Palestinian Authority media.
Blaming the victims
A few years ago, the Fatah party (the main party in the Palestinian Authority) produced a video on the history of Jews in Europe claiming that Jews see themselves as superior to the rest of humanity (6). In an outrageous distortion of history, it asserted that the ghettos in which Jewish people were forced to live were set up by Jews themselves “in order to separate from other people out of arrogance and disgust for non-Jews.”
Once again, Abbas played his part in blaming the Jewish victims, claiming in May 2018 that the Holocaust and earlier antisemitic persecutions were the fault of the Jews themselves. Antisemitic atrocities were “Due to [the Jews’] social role that was connected to usury, and banks and so forth”, claimed the Palestinian president (6).
Not to be left out, a few months later, a preacher on Palestinian Authority TV claimed that Allah had sent Hitler to punish the Jews because of their “evil behaviour” (7). He also refers to earlier persecutions of Jews as being more evidence of punishments from Allah but comments that the Jews “haven’t learned from the events of history”.
Blaming other Jews
In the thesis mentioned previously that was written by Abbas in the early 1980s, he not only claimed that the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis was greatly exaggerated. He also argued that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis in order to encourage Jewish immigration to British Mandate Palestine (4).
“The Zionist movement,” he claimed, “led a broad campaign of incitement against the Jews living under Nazi rule, in order to arouse the government’s hatred of them, to fuel vengeance against them, and to expand the mass extermination.” This – according to Abbas – drove an exodus of European Jews and especially those from Germany. Thus, other Jews are to blame for the Holocaust, according to the Palestinian president.
As described in source 8 below, the “thesis” is a shoddy piece of work with no bibliography and consisting mainly of the rehashing of the writings of former Nazis along with baseless assertions and blatantly misrepresented sources. One can only assume that it was the book’s value to Soviet antisemitism rather than its value to academia that led to its being accepted by the Russian university. While it’s advertised on Abbas’s website, it is written only in Arabic and was never translated into any other language – perhaps to ensure a largely uncritical readership.
As recently as two months ago (9), Palestinian Authority TV researcher Aziz Al-Asa was claiming that the Nazis trained Jews in concentration camps and sent them to fight in the 1947-48 Arab-Israeli war to “carry out despicable acts of murder [against Arabs] without feeling anything.” The interviewer simply nods and doesn’t challenge this nonsense in any way.
An irrational fear of the truth
In 2014, Professor Mohammed Dajani of Al-Quds University led a group of his students to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. As described in this IIA blog article from a few months ago, “he was called a traitor and suffered intimidation and death threats”, being eventually forced to resign from his position. In response to his trips, members of Fatah attacked him saying that “normalisation [with Israel] is treason” (11).
What could possibly be wrong with allowing young people with enquiring minds to visit a site of enormous historical significance? More than anything else, this shows that what’s driving Palestinian Authority attitudes towards the Holocaust isn’t a desire to determine the historical truth but a desire to conceal it. There’s an irrational fear there that Palestinians will find out that what their leaders and their media have been telling them about the Holocaust are outright lies. Once people realise this, who knows where such a realisation will take them?
By Ciarán Ó Raghallaigh
- Palestinian incitement highlights Nazi themes – Apr 20, 2018 – Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)
- Muslim Anti-Semitism in Christian Europe: Elemental and Residual Anti-Semitism (Raphael Israeli, Routledge, 2017)
- PA Holocaust distortion: The Zionists “exaggerated” the number of Holocaust victims – Feb 19, 2023 – Palestinian Media Watch
- Mahmoud Abbas: Still a Holocaust Denier – Apr 27, 2014 – Tablet Magazine
- German police investigate Abbas’s ’50 Holocausts’ remark – Aug 19, 2022 – Euronews
- PA Antisemitism: Jews must be fought for Allah on behalf of all humanity – Jan 26, 2020 – Palestinian Media Watch
- Hitler was “sent by Allah to punish the Jews” (PA TV sermon) – Oct 22, 2018 – Palestinian Media Watch
- How Holocaust Denial Shaped Mahmoud Abbas’ Worldview – May 2016 – The Tower
- Nazis trained Jews “to carry out despicable acts of murder here without feeling anything” – Palestinian researcher distorts history – Feb 22, 2023 – Palestinian Media Watch
- Palestinian Students Condemned for Auschwitz Visit – Apr 1, 2014 – Haartez
- A Learning Moment: Arabs, Palestinians, and the Holocaust – Oct 28, 2015 – The Washington Institute