Palestinian leader rejects allegation of Holocaust denial
Thursday May 29, 2003
The Guardian Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister, was forced yesterday to publicly confront allegations that he was a Holocaust denier.
Israeli critics have repeatedly accused Mr Abbas, better known as Abu Mazen, of saying that there could have been fewer than 1 million Jewish victims of the Nazis.
Muslim critics, meanwhile, have suggested that he is a member of the Bahai faith, which they see as heretical.
Abu Mazen, in his first major newspaper interview, said that in his thesis on the links between Nazism and Zionism, written in 1982 in Moscow, he did not address the question of the number of victims but cited historians who said the victims ranged in number from one million to 12 million.
"I have no desire to argue with the figures," he told the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz.
"The Holocaust was a terrible, unforgivable crime against the Jewish nation, a crime against humanity that cannot be accepted by humankind. The Holocaust was a terrible thing, and nobody can claim I denied it."
Last Friday leaflets were distributed around the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem accusing Abu Mazen of adhering to the Bahai faith. In the Ha'aretz interview Abu Mazen said there was no truth in the charge, which could damage his credibility among Muslims.
"I am a believing Muslim, the son of a family of believers, and committed to the religion's commandments," he said.
Abu Mazen said the Palestinian Authority was preparing to take responsibility for security in Gaza, despite the Israeli army's destruction of much of the security apparatus there.
"We have begun discussions, but the plan requires rebuilding the security apparatus. Without that we cannot overcome the deviant phenomenon on the Palestinian street."
The 14 reservations that Israel attached to the road map do not appear to worry him. He says the Americans have told him to ignore the 14 points. "We understand from the Americans that there are no changes in the road map," he said. "This is a historic opportunity to return to the path of normalcy."
Of the recent dovish noises from Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, he says: "I know him inside and out. I'll believe him only when he implements the road map."
©Copyright 2003, Guardian Unlimited (UK)
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