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Abu Mazen – Arafat’s “Pragmatic” Protégé (english)
by Michael Freund
07 Apr 2003
What a difference a few years can make.
It was in February of 2000 that Israel’s government, then headed by Ehud Barak, was up in arms over the Austrian President’s decision to include Joerg Haider’s neo-Nazi Freedom Party in that country’s newly-formed governing coalition.
Haider’s inclusion, Barak said, should “infuriate all the citizens of the free world”. He promptly recalled Israel’s ambassador to Vienna, and convened a session of the cabinet, which issued a statement expressing “deep concern” over the Austrian move.
Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg also blasted the decision, calling it “a blemish on the Austrian nation”, and saying it was regrettable that “the Austrian people refuse to recognize the terrible tragedy that the racist Nazi ideology inflicted on humanity.”
But now, just three years later, after Yasser Arafat appointed Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian version of Joerg Haider, to serve as Prime Minister, the voices of indignation have suddenly fallen silent.
Haider, of course, came under fire after making a series of foul remarks in which he downplayed the evil of the Nazi regime, defending those who took part in its crimes even as he sought to minimize the lethal nature of the Holocaust. As a result, Haider was roundly and justifiably condemned, and deemed unfit to serve in a position of power.
Curiously, the same logic has yet to be applied to Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, even though his views on the Holocaust are even more odious and offensive.
As a doctoral candidate at Moscow’s Oriental College in 1982, Abu Mazen composed a thesis accusing the Jews of exaggerating the Holocaust for ulterior motives.
“The Zionist movement's stake in inflating the number of murdered in the war was aimed at ensuring great gains,” he said, asserting that “this led it to confirm the number [6 million] to establish it in world opinion, and by so doing to arouse more pangs of conscience and sympathy for Zionism in general.”
In his paper, later published under the title, “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement”, the Palestinian leader sought to deny the German use of gas chambers as instruments of death, and suggested that the number of Jews killed was less than one million.
He also went to great lengths to compare Zionism with Nazism, and accused Jewish leaders of conspiring with Hitler to annihilate European Jewry. “The Zionist movement,” Abu Mazen wrote, “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.”
Even Joerg Haider, in the ugliest of his demagogic outbursts, never made such horrifying claims. But despite professing such outrageous views, which he has never publicly retracted, Abu Mazen has nevertheless been hailed by the media and politicians alike, particularly since he was selected last month for the post of Palestinian prime minister.
A March 19 AP story called him “urbane” and insisted that he was “known as a moderate and a pragmatist” “He is a responsible man,” ex-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told Israel Radio on March 9. “He has the seriousness required of the job, as well as clear positions and intentions.”
US Secretary of State Colin Powell also praised Abu Mazen’s nomination, as did the usual European suspects.
And this is truly astonishing, for Abu Mazen’s record is far more egregious than Haider’s. Whereas the Austrian politician made inflammatory remarks regarding the past, Abu Mazen went one step further, threatening physical violence against Jews and Israel on more than one occasion.
In a March 4, 1990 interview with the London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat, Abu Mazen warned that Jews making aliyah from the former Soviet Union would be subjected to terror attacks if they made their homes in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. “No one can check the behavior of the Palestinian citizen in the occupied territories. No one can guarantee the results of this provocation,” he said.
In June 1996, shortly after Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister, Abu Mazen threatened that any change in Israel’s policy toward Oslo would cause the Palestinians to take up arms. “Any digression by Binyamin Netanyahu from the peace process,” he said, “will cause a return to the state of war which existed before September 1993” (The Jerusalem Post, June 14, 1996).
More recently, on January 26, 2003, Abu Mazen was asked by the Chinese news agency Xinhua about the prospects of halting terrorist attacks against Israel. His response was far from principled: “That depends on how Israel acts,” he said. “The Israeli side should stop its aggression against the Palestinians first.”
Similarly, on March 3, Abu Mazen again stressed his belief in the use of violence. In an interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat, he sought to clarify statements attributed to him in which he allegedly called for an end to anti-Israel terror. “On the basis of the talks held in Cairo [between the Palestinian Authority and terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad], we agreed upon the freezing of Palestinian military operations for one year.... We did not say, however, that we are giving up the armed struggle... The Intifada must continue.”
Thanks, but that is hardly the type of “pragmatism” which the Middle East needs right now. Indeed, the obvious question which comes to mind is: Why was Joerg Haider denounced for minimizing the mass murder of Jews, while Abu Mazen is not?
And why was the late President of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman, barred from visiting Israel for writing an anti-Semitic World War Two history book entitled Wilderness of Historical Reality, while Abu Mazen is hailed as a “moderate” for holding similar views?
The answer, it would appear, is that not all Holocaust-deniers are created equal, as one standard is applied to the likes of Haider and Tudjman, while an entirely different one is used for Abu Mazen.
Even more disturbing, however, is the willingness of many Israeli and American leaders to overlook Abu Mazen’s brazen calls for violence and his support for terror, all in the vain hope that he will prove more accommodating than his mentor, Yasser Arafat. Such delusions, however, only serve to cloud their judgment, causing them to see Abu Mazen not for what he is, but for what they wish him to be.
So let’s stop fooling ourselves. Abu Mazen is no “moderate”. Anyone who denies the Holocaust, equates Zionism with Nazism and advocates the use of violence against Jews is certainly not deserving of such a label.
Instead, let’s call him what he really is - just another petty anti-Semitic thug. And, more importantly, let’s start treating him as such.