Palestinian Ambassador Draws Harvard Invite Despite a Sketchy Record on Antisemitism
Husam Zomlot has tried to explain away a comment denying the Holocaust, rationalized the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s policy of paying families of terrorists, and minimized rocket fire from Gaza that targets Israeli civilians. But to two Harvard University centers, Zomlot is the right person to discuss “The United States and Palestine: Defining Requirements for Change” on Thursday afternoon.
Zomlot leads the Palestinian Mission to the United Kingdom, and previously served in a similar capacity in the United States. An example of his reflexive hatred for Israel came last September, as the United States hosted a historic ceremony formalizing peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. When Zomlot appeared on a Sky News program that night, his first thought was to minimize the terrorist threat Israel faces.
“As I just arrived in the studio,” he said, “I saw in the news that there was a rocket coming from Gaza and sirens, and alarms were going all over Israel. What are they talking about? This is a media stunt.”
No, it was a real attack — with real rockets — that caused real injuries to two Israelis in Ashdod. It might have been worse, but Israel’s Iron Dome system intercepted one rocket before it could do any damage.
Zomlot’s immediate reaction was not to condemn the attacks. Rather, he derided Israel’s attempts to protect its citizens from Gaza terrorists trying to murder them as “a media stunt.”
Sadly, this wasn’t the first time the ambassador played down the genocidal ambitions shared by terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
Zomlot was accused of being a Holocaust denier after a 2014 BBC interview, in which he rejected the idea that the Islamist ideology fueling ISIS had anything in common with Palestinian terrorist movements. In doing so, he referred to “fabricating” the Holocaust. The interview took place just after journalist James Foley was beheaded by ISIS terrorists.
“They [Israelis] are fabricating all these stories about beheading journalists in Iraq,” Zomlot said. The anchor immediately challenged Zomlot, noting that Foley’s grisly murder was all too real.
“It happened somewhere else in Iraq,” Zomlot said, “as if they are fabricating also the story of the Holocaust that it happened in Europe. And not the story itself, but the reason why they are doing this, and using so many other examples to justify the murder of a nation that has been in [a] quest for self-determination and basic rights.”
When asked about the comments four years later in an interview with the Times of Israel, Zomlot insisted that he did not mean to say that the Holocaust was fabricated. Instead, “What I meant to say is that the Israeli right is fabricating the idea that Palestinians hold a similar ideology to that of ISIS or the Nazis. I meant to say that the Palestinian issue has nothing to do with erasing or massacring another people, and that a Palestinian state will not empower anyone who thinks or operates in the ways of ISIS and the Nazis.”
But that whitewashes the ultimate goals Palestinian terrorists have openly espoused. The Hamas and PIJ charters explicitly call for the killing of Jews and creating “a state of terror, instability and panic in the souls of Zionists and especially the groups of settlers, and force them to leave their houses.” Both groups see the land as an Islamic waqf, or “an endowed Islamic land no one has the right to renounce.”
Zomlot knows full well what these groups stand for. But getting them to renounce terror and accept Israel’s existence is not one of the “requirements for change” he has espoused.
To give Zomlot the benefit of the doubt on his Holocaust reference requires ignoring his other antisemitic positions, including support for the BDS movement that singles out the Jewish state alone, and for the PA’s policy of paying the families of terrorists either killed or imprisoned while trying to kill Jews.
In a 2019 interview with the Jewish Chronicle, he denied the terror payments provide an incentive for terrorists to attack, knowing that their families will be compensated. BDS is non-violent, he said. But Germany’s parliament disagreed that same year. It passed a resolution saying the “argument and methods of the BDS movement are antisemitic.” Targeting Israeli artists and slapping “Don’t Buy” stickers on Israeli goods “recall the most terrible phase of German history.”
Meanwhile, Zomlot’s boss, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, used his doctorate to question how many Jews died in the Holocaust in a work that carried this antisemitic conspiracy theory as its title: “The Connection between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement.”
Abbas has since said he accepts the reality of the Holocaust and its aim of eliminating European Jewry.
But on January 23, days before Holocaust Remembrance Day, the PA’s television station aired a program describing the Holocaust as the result of Zionist “conspiracies and wickedness.” According to the watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an unnamed host of “From the Israeli Archive” said the episode would focus on Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. Between 1929 and 1935, he said, “Zionism was diminished and nearly ended and disappeared … and this is the period in which the Zionist movement paid the price for its conspiracies and wickedness, there in the European states.”
And PA TV isn’t some independent outlet providing a range of views. It is the equivalent of state television.
PA officials say they do not question the Holocaust, but examples to the contrary just keep coming.
So for Zomlot’s Harvard hosts, if you want to hear from a PA official as an academic endeavor, step up and ask some pointed questions. Why does this antisemitic rhetoric from the PA continue? And why is the Palestinian vision of peace predicated on a plan that ensures Israel no longer exists as a Jewish homeland?
Steven Emerson is Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (www.investigativeproject.org)