At more than eighty-two, Abbas is trying to show the Palestinians that he is standing up to Trump, Israel and their Arab allies, yet he is employing the wrong tactics. He has failed. Yet now, at a time when the challenges facing the Palestinian people could scarcely be greater, he is also turning his success in securing European support into failure by lecturing on an area of history in which he is not qualified and which it is not his business to examine.

Palestinians do not deny the Holocaust, they react with empathy. As one member of the Palestinian National Council wrote, "The Palestinians are the victims of the victims. The Nakba of 1948 is also a Holocaust for us. However, we condemn all forms of racism. Abbasʹs remarks are basically a historical narrative that was shared by Jewish thinkers and not by Abbas himself. Abbas and the Palestinians are not – and will not be – Holocaust deniers."

The fact, however, that both the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba occurred within the space of a few years during the 1940s, does throw up problems for Palestinians looking to come to terms with both. After all, the Holocaust has consistently been presented to the Palestinians through a Zionist filter, creating a direct link being the aftermath of the Shoah and the expulsion of Palestineʹs indigenous population.

Countering anti-Semitic discourse

Abbasʹ remarks may have focussed on the history of the Jews in Europe, but Palestinians and Muslims also need to recognise that the long-established and traditionalist Wahhabist school of Islam advocates against Jews in their textbooks. Wahhabist publications that do not differentiate between Jew, Israeli and Zionism continue to teach and implant confusion among young Muslims.

A typical manifestation were the chants against Jews that were heard in Berlin in early 2018. Although criticising Israel and its policies in the Middle East is not anti-Semitic, many Muslims, especially the young, still use Jews, Zionists and Israeli interchangeably. Educational curricula that differentiate between Jews, Israeli and Zionism are needed, as are those that teach the Holocaust as a human rights catastrophe, alongside other human rights catastrophes. Indoctrination or the justification of present or future human rights abuses can have no place in the classroom or – President Abbas – on the political stage.

The Palestinian people condemn ethnic cleansing, human rights atrocities and racism, whatever the origin.

Abdalhadi Alijla

© 2018

Abdalhadi Alijla is a Palestinian-Swedish academic and researcher. He is the executive director of the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies Canada (IMESC).

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