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History Lessons from Abbas

1:33 PM, Apr 23, 2012 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
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The situation of the Palestinian Authority is grim. Its diplomatic offensive against Israel in the United Nations did not win it statehood, there are no serious negotiations with Israel because the PA refuses them, Hamas controls Gaza, and Palestinian elections keep getting postponed despite the “Arab Spring” and the wave of elections in Arab countries. Internally, relations between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad were recently so poor that for several days Abbas apparently refused even to speak to Fayyad.

abbas and obama

So what is on Abbas’s mind right now? The Jews of Iraq, and they way they were driven out of that blessed land … by the Zionists. Here in Arabic, and here in English translation from MEMRI, is his text from an article published April 4th. 

In his article, Abbas claims that Iraqi Jews were “forced and compelled to leave.” Here is his explanation: “This is what happened to the Iraqi Jews, who were relocated to Palestine as the result of a tripartite Zionist-British-Iraqi conspiracy. The role played by Ben Gurion in this [conspiracy] has already been exposed: he sent his emissaries [to Iraq] to intimidate the Jews, and they harmed and killed [Jews]. Then they left it to the media to spread rumors that extremist Arabs had been behind the despicable acts.” 

Why did the wicked Zionists do this? Because European Jews were not coming to Israel in sufficient numbers. So, he recounts, “the Zionist movement turned to the Jewish communities in Iraq, Yemen, North Africa, Egypt and Syria, urging them to emigrate, though these [communities] had no motivation to leave, for they all enjoyed high standards of living, as well as civil and political rights that the European Jews had not even dreamt of for centuries.”

In this context it is probably impolite to mention Abbas’s 1982 doctoral dissertation in Moscow, in which he argued with respect to the Holocaust that “the number of Jewish victims might be 6 million and might be much smaller – even less than 1 million.” Nor perhaps is it charitable to harp on his assumption that the Jews in Arab lands “all enjoyed high standards of living.” In any event it should not be necessary to go over the well-known history of what happened to Jewish communities in Arab countries after the establishment of the state of Israel: the riots and pogroms, the theft of property, the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist legislation, which led a million Jews to flee to Israel. 

Abbas is not, then, a very reliable commentator on Jewish history, in Europe or in Arab lands. What is more remarkable is that he would choose this moment to publish such ‘reflections’ on the subject. On March 19, President Obama and President Abbas spoke, by telephone, for the first time in six months. Perhaps in their next conversation Mr. Obama—who appeared at the Holocaust Museum in Washington today—might tell Mr. Abbas to knock off the history lessons if he wishes to salvage what tarnished reputation he has left.  

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