Who is responsible for the Holocaust?
It’s a question that had long lingered in the mind of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who used his 1982 doctoral dissertation to question the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis and to argue that the Final Solution was secretly agreed upon by Hitler and the Zionist leadership eager for a way to justify its colonialist project.
You would think that the years would’ve mellowed Mahmoud. You would think that the Palestinian leader Pope Francis hailed as “an angel of peace” might’ve changed his tune and learned to recognize, as angels of peace should, the truth and validity of observable, documented reality.
Alas. Appearing yesterday in Ramallah before the Palestinian National Council, Abbas delivered a long and delirious speech he called “a history lesson,” which included the following observations:
— The Holocaust had nothing to do with anti-Semitism, and was instead caused by the “social behavior” of the Jews, including “charging interest” and “financial matters.”
— The state of Israel was “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism,” agitated for by European governments who wanted to control the Middle East.
— Hitler himself encouraged the emigration of European Jews to Palestine by cutting a deal with the Anglo-Palestine Bank (known today as Bank Leumi) which allowed any Jew who so wished to transfer his or her assets to the Third Reich and board the first boat to Haifa.
— But, being ever more fond of their money than their lives and the lives of their children, Europe’s Jews refused the deal and instead embraced, of their own free will, the Nazi “murder and slaughter.”
It’s pointless, of course, to dwell on these mad conspiracy theories. What Abbas believes hardly matters; what does is that the Palestinian president clearly has no grasp on reason and no need for evidence, which puts him in a category of people that most societies find beneficial to secure in closely guarded wards where they may receive the help they so clearly need.
None of which, sadly, matters to Abbas himself, a despot who continues to brutalize and torture his own people with no regard to the norms of democratic rule. Everyone else, however, should know better. The next time the Pontiff—or a former American president, or another former American president—praises the Holocaust denier from Ramallah, it would be up to us to insist that they belong right up there with Abbas, somewhere cozy where the walls are padded and words mean nothing at all.
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.