The Abbas Mythology
A recent article in The Atlantic about “The Tragedy of Mahmoud Abbas” noted: “In him, the world saw a reformist, a leader who could get the Palestinians to the table and possibly clear the hurdle of the two-state solution.”
Only now, according to the same article, has the world woken up to the realization that Abas has “morphed into a bureaucratic tyrant at home, hostile to America and downright incendiary towards Israel.”
The truth is that Abbas was never a moderate, never recognized as a leader of the Palestinians and never willing or able to reach a peace agreement with Israel.
Today, polls show that most Palestinians want Abbas to resign. He has failed to achieve anything to improve the lives of his people, and he has proven a corrupt megalomaniac, who repeatedly cancelled elections to effectively make himself president for life. Little publicity is given to the fact that he has been so unpopular that he can hardly travel outside Ramallah. I don’t believe he has ever been to Gaza, at least not since Hamas took over, even though roughly 40% of his constituents live there.
He also appears to have become unhinged with age and frustration. As The Atlantic noted, he gave a speech last month that, “deployed antisemitic tropes, undercut the Jewish connection to Israel, and blamed everyone from Oliver Cromwell to Napoleon to Winston Churchill for Israel’s creation.”
The magazine said that Abbas is revealing his “true colors.”
Those who follow the issues were already aware he is an antisemite, but peace processors and other wishful thinkers give him a pass on the pretext that “peace can only be made with your enemies.” Thus, for example, his Ph.D. thesis questioning the veracity of the Holocaust and comparing Zionism to Nazism are overlooked as youthful indiscretions.
More recently, however, the magazine noted, “he’s accused Israeli rabbis of supporting the poisoning of Palestinian water wells [a blood libel], claimed Jews had ‘fabricated’ history, and insisted he ‘would never recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel.’
Abbas is also a proven liar, and he told some whoppers in his February speech before the UN Security Council. He claimed, for example, that the creation of Israel produced six million Palestinian refugees who live in exile. The actual number of refugees resulting from the Arab invasion of Israel in 1948 was fewer than 650,000; furthermore, most Palestinians live within the boundaries of historic Palestine, not in exile. The fact that he refers to the war as the Nakba (catastrophe) is also an indication that he considers all of Israel “occupied territory” — not just the West Bank.
Abbas also repeated the canard that the Palestinians are “descendants of the Canaanites” to suggest that the Palestinians have a better claim to the land because they were there before the Jews. Of all the people who lived in the area in ancient times, only the Jews remain. The Palestinian Arabs are aboriginal to Arabia.
This Abbas statement should have had delegates laughing in the aisles: “Our national institutions are recognized by international organizations for their merit and work, which is based on the rule of law, accountability and transparency, and empowerment of women and youth in an environment of tolerance, co-existence of civilizations and nondiscrimination.”
Equally comical was his claim to pursue peace. He insisted Israel’s intransigence has caused the failure of all peace initiatives dating back to Camp David. It was Yasser Arafat, however, who turned down statehood at Camp David, and Abbas who rejected Ehud Olmert’s two-state solution, and Abbas who has refused to negotiate with Israel’s prime minister for the last eight years.
Abbas predictably railed against settlements, but he should be taking credit for their expansion. Thanks to his intransigence, the population of the West Bank has grown. He has the power to stop the settlements by agreeing to a peace agreement. Absent negotiations, Israel has no obligation to halt their growth.
Some on the far-left have hailed Abbas for laying out a peace initiative at the UN, despite the fact it contained the usual nonstarters — a call for an “international peace conference,” recognition of “the state of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, establishing East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, “implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative,” and the demand that Palestinian refugees be allowed to overrun Israel.
Abbas’ fans have also refused to acknowledge his turn to Islamism. They ignore the Palestinians’ abandonment of the goal of creating a “secular democratic state.” This was always propaganda expressed in English to Western audiences that was contradicted by what the Palestinians said in Arabic. The hoax became clear when the Palestinians drafted a constitution making Islam the state religion.
It is more difficult for Abbas to get away with doubletalk today because translations of his Arabic statements are now readily available. Still, those invested in the idea that he is Israel’s “peace partner” ignore what he says in Arabic.
I saw no coverage, for example, of his speech at the prestigious Islamic Al-Azhar University in Cairo, except for a column by Dr. Reuven Berko in Israel Hayom, which noted that it “was for all intents and purposes a blatant call for religious war against Israel.” In the speech, Abbas reiterated his frequent entreaty for the Islamic world to “liberate Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Palestine, from the hands of the occupier.” Abbas, Berko says, believes that the Palestinians “are charged with the godly mission” of destroying Israel.
Western supporters also willfully ignore Abbas’ support of terror, from the days when he was the number three man in the PLO during its terrorist heyday until today — when he provides financial incentives to kill Jews through his “pay-to-slay” policy.
Abbas had the chutzpah to tell the UN Security Council that he is “committed to fostering a culture of peace” and “rejection of violence” — all while glorifying martyrs and educating young Palestinians that all of Israel is Palestine.
He said this with a straight face, while increasing payments to the families of suicide bombers and Palestinians in Israeli jails for attacking and murdering Jews. During his Al-Azhar speech, Abbas praised the 30 shahids (martyrs) who died attacking Jews since the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Abbas still has fans in the West, especially those who believe in the Arabist view that Israel needs to be saved from itself. One of the traits of Arabists is that their convictions cannot be shaken by evidence. Therefore, they continue to assert that Abbas is a partner for peace and that America should not only support him, but pressure Israel to capitulate to his demands.
The more appropriate response is to dismiss Abbas as a demagogue and encourage the Palestinians to select a successor who rejects radical Islamist ideology, and who is prepared in word and deed to demonstrate a commitment to peace with Israel.
Dr. Mitchell Bard is executive director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise and author/editor of 24 books including “The Arab Lobby” and the novel “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”