Holocaust ‘most heinous crime’ in modern era

Palestinian president’s comments seen as bid to ease tensions after collapse of peace talks

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas: comments on Holocaust seen as an attempt to ease tensions sparked by the collapse of peace negotiations. Photograph: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas: comments on Holocaust seen as an attempt to ease tensions sparked by the collapse of peace negotiations. Photograph: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 01:00

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has said the mass killing of Jews in the Holocaust was “the most heinous crime” against humanity of the modern era, in his strongest ever condemnation of the Nazi genocide .

His comments, hours before Israel commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day, were seen as an attempt to ease tensions sparked by the collapse of peace negotiations after last week’s decision by Mr Abbas’s Fatah movement to reconcile with the Islamist Hamas.

However, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejected Mr Abbas’s statements and accused him of supporting Hamas efforts to carry out another holocaust.

Suspended peace talks

“The main difference between the Jews’ helplessness during the Holocaust and their situation now

is that we now have a sovereign state with a strong military that protects us from those who seek to harm us,” Mr Netanyahu said. “Hamas denies the Holocaust while trying to facilitate another one by destroying Israel.”

Israel suspended peace talks with the Palestinians last week following the decision by Fatah and Hamas to set up a unity government, paving the way for elections in the West Bank and Gaza later this year.

Mr Abbas said the unity government will be committed to the peace process but Hamas officials in Gaza denied reports the organisation was about to recognise Israel.

Israeli officials in the past accused Mr Abbas of being a Holocaust- denier, citing passages in his 1982 doctoral thesis which allegedly questioned the figure of six million Jewish victims and highlighted examples of contacts between the Nazis and certain Zionist officials.

‘Sad commemoration’

Yesterday’s statement, released in Arabic and English, expressed sympathy for the families of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis. “What happened to the Jews in the Holocaust is the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era,” Abbas said.
“On the incredibly sad commemoration of Holocaust day, we call on the Israeli government to seize the

opportunity to conclude a just and comprehensive peace in the region, based on the two-state vision.”

Yad Vashem of Israel’s national Holocaust museum welcomed Mr Abbas’s statement, saying it may signal a change from the Holocaust denial and revisionism prevalent in the Arab world.