During a speech to the Fatah Revolutionary Council, Palestinian dictator Mahmoud Abbas claimed that Adolf Hitler’s destruction of European Jewry was not an act of antisemitism but rather that it was prompted by “social functions … related to money, and usury.” From “Hitler’s point of view,” Abbas went on, it was the Jews who “were sabotaging, and therefore he hated them.”
Now, I’m not sure what kind of interest rates those Jewish kids who ended up in gas chambers were charging Germans, but Abbas — who, granted, usually has a better grasp of “Hitler’s point of view” than most — is spreading gross historical inaccuracies and engaged in nefarious victim blaming. still, Abbas’s Holocaust denialism came as a great shock to many of our top Middle East experts. They are simply flummoxed.
“I have been despairing about how to respond to Abu Mazen’s profoundly anti-Semitic diatribe,” tweeted Martin Indyk, “Distinguished Fellow in International Diplomacy” and former executive vice president of Brookings Institute, calling Abbas by his preferred Arabic name. “How could someone who has treated me as a personal friend for three decades at the same time harbor such hateful views of my people?”
How, indeed. If Indyk didn’t know that Abbas, a man who pays the families of terrorists who murder Jewish civilians stipends, was an antisemite, what does that say about his expertise? The media’s go-to expert on the Israel-Palestinian situation did not despair in 2018, when his close personal friend said virtually the exact thing at the Palestine National Council in Ramallah, arguing that a “social role” in “usury” had caused Hitler to target the Jews. Even the customarily Israel-critical New York Times editorial board wrote, “Let Abbas’s Vile Words Be His Last as Palestinian Leader.” Does the distinguished fellow of international diplomacy not read the paper of record?
For that matter, Indyk’s BFF spent decades being mentored by the father of modern terrorism, Yasser Arafat. It is no accident that Abbas makes numerous appearances in Robert Wistrich’s masterful history of antisemitism, “A Lethal Obsession.” “Abu Mazen” was likely one of the masterminds behind the Munich Massacre of Israeli athletes in 1972.
Abbas has also long championed Arthur Koestler’s discredited 1976 book, The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and its Heritage, which contends that Ashkenazi Jews are actually descendants of the Khazars, a nomadic Turkish people who set up a medieval Eastern European kingdom and then converted to Judaism. For Abbas, this fiction is meant to stress that European Jews have no real ties to Israel, a claim that has been disproven not only by rudimentary reading of history but science, as well.
Did Indyk ever ask Abbas about Koestler or Munich or, for that matter, about his 1982 Ph.D. dissertation, written when Abbass was a fresh-faced 47-year-old? The thesis questioned not only the number of Jews killed but the existence of gas chambers — which he contends were merely for “incinerating bodies, out of concern for the spread of disease and infection.” Say what you will about the Nazis — they were hygienic.
You need not, however, go back too far in time. This summer, Abbas revived calls for a unity government with Hamas, an entity that “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine” and insists, “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them.” This is the unity government that would end up running a Palestinian state that the Biden administration wants Israel to create next door. Well, until Hamas starts defenestrating Fatah officials and takes over.
Now, I don’t want to cast aspersions on the sacred bond of friendship, but a cynic may speculate that Abbas needed Indyk because he’s exactly the type of Middle East diplomat who will keep the funding spigot for his corruption racket going while pressuring Israel into never-ending concessions. Indyk has always been far more likely to be critical of Israel than the authoritarian Palestinian regime. Abbas had to deny the Holocaust for 45 years for Indyk to say anything — and even now, he despairs at the very thought.
The media loves to quote this “veteran Mideast diplomat,” yet never once did he bring anyone closer to peace. Quite the opposite. By the time Obama tapped him to serve as the U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli–Palestinian Negotiations in 2013, his greatest claim to fame was being the “first serving U.S. ambassador to be stripped of government security clearance.” By any genuine standard, his career in diplomacy was a complete disaster. Though, to be fair, his career in accumulating Washington think tank titles was wildly successful.
Then again, the fact that Indyk is confused about how a lifelong Holocaust denier and third-world strongman could treat him as a close personal friend while engaging in antisemitism says everything you need to know about his expertise.