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January 21, 2020 1:38 pm

World Leaders Are Wrong to Meet With Abbas While in Israel for Holocaust Memorial Ceremonies

avatar by Ron Agam

Opinion

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.

The news that 46 major world leaders — including presidents, prime ministers and US Vice President Mike Pence — will convene for the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Thursday to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is both welcome and heartening, given the rise of antisemitism around the world.

What is not welcome or heartening is the news that Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prince Charles will exploit the opportunity to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during their visit.

It is, in fact, shameful, intolerable and unimaginably disrespectful for them to do so during an event intended to commemorate the Holocaust, because Abbas is one of the Arab world’s most prominent Holocaust deniers.

In an article at The Tower, Israeli scholar Edy Cohen analyzed Abbas’ book The Other Face of the Secret Connections Between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement, and concluded that it proves Palestinian “antisemitism and Holocaust denial comes from the top.”

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Cohen points out that Abbas makes no bones about his belief that the Holocaust either did not happen or was wildly exaggerated.

Cohen points out that, in his book, Abbas wrote, “The number of Jewish victims is supposed to be six million. But it was likely much smaller, perhaps less than a million.”

At another point, Abbas claimed, “Many researchers judged the issue of the number of dead — six million — and arrived at extraordinary conclusions, according to which the number of Jewish victims numbered in the hundreds of thousands.”

Regarding the gas chambers, Abbas treats the claims of one of the world’s most famous Holocaust deniers as fact, writing, “These rooms are said to have been intended for killing Jews. The scientific research published by French professor Robert Faurisson rejects [the claim that] these chambers [were used] for the rumored purposes, that is, for the murder of living people, and posits that they were intended only for the cremation of corpses due to the fear of spreading disease in the surrounding areas.”

That Abbas cites Faurisson as a legitimate source and calls his claims “scientific research” says it all. In fact, Faurisson was a Holocaust denier so toxic that the French authorities eventually prosecuted and convicted him for racist incitement. Yet Abbas engages in precisely the same incitement, citing Faurisson himself, without any consequence whatsoever.

The world leaders currently flocking to meet with Abbas would no doubt say that his book is a youthful indiscretion of sorts, and the Palestinian leader is now a trustworthy moderate.

But Abbas has continued to make viciously antisemitic statements about the Holocaust up to the present day.

In a speech delivered in May 2018, for example, Abbas gave what he called a “history lesson” in which he said the Holocaust was caused by the Jews’ “social behavior, [charging] interest and financial matters.”

To meet with Abbas during a Holocaust memorial ceremony of all times is therefore stunningly disrespectful to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, as well as the entire State of Israel. It amounts to a kind of secular blasphemy, implying that commemorating and denying the Holocaust are somehow equally legitimate and should be treated with equal respect.

Indeed, if he were a French professor, Abbas would likely meet with the same fate as Faurisson. Instead, he is allowed to not only continue to spew his racist hatred, but be treated with honor and respect by some of the world’s most powerful leaders.

This is an unacceptable situation, and Israel should officially protest to the governments that have allowed it to occur. Anything less would be a betrayal of the victims of the Holocaust their leaders have ostensibly gathered to commemorate.

Ron Agam is a leading French-Israeli artist and activist.  

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