Mahmoud Abbas: Revisionist History’s Poster Boy

Mahmoud Abbas: Revisionist History’s Poster Boy

By Cynthia Zalisky

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who began the 14th year of his four-year term from 2005, is a liar. He is especially adept at changing historical facts to suit his purposes. He delivered a rambling two-hour speech recently in Ramallah stating, “Today is the day that the Oslo Accords end. Israel killed them.” He blamed it on the restrictions under which his Palestinian Authority operates and what he regards as Israel’s unrestrained occupation. “We are an authority without any authority and an occupation without any cost.” He went on to say that Herzl’s goal was to “wipe out Palestinians from Palestine.” The joke is that the world considers Abbas a moderate, at least compared to Yasser Arafat. But he has proven to be just as politically and diplomatically inflexible as his predecessor.

Abbas revisionist tendencies began years ago when he was justifiably accused of being a Holocaust denier by Israeli officials due to claims made in his doctoral dissertation published in a book titled The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and Zionism. And here he goes again attempting to rewrite history in a fashion that calls into question Israel’s right to exist anywhere in what was known as British Palestine.

Abbas is furious with President Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and for his decision to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority, which gives some of that money to terrorist families as a reward for killing Jews. “Any future negotiations will take place only within the context of the international community, by an international committee created in the framework of an international conference,” he said. “Allow me to be clear: We will not accept American leadership of a political process involving negotiations.” Benjamin Netanyahu responded by saying, “There is no substitute for the United States, so if he (Abbas) doesn’t want the US as a mediator, he doesn’t want peace.”

Abbas’ latest diatribe managed to accomplish what Israel has never been able to do

In his speech in Ramallah, Abbas uttered just about every anti-Semitic trope in the Palestinian nationalist playbook including that there was no Jewish connection to Israel, that Zionism was a European colonialist plot, that Jews preferred Hitler’s Europe to the fledgling Zionist project in Palestine, and the doozy of all doozies – that Israel is drugging Palestinian youth. These accusations are not new. Following the collapse of the 2000 Camp David talks, Yasser Arafat led the way with his claims that Israelis falsified archaeological evidence of a Jewish past in the land of Israel, and his wife Suha was infamous for her spurious allegation that Israel was somehow poisoning Palestinian youths. In response to Abbas’ accusations, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said, “He forgot many things and said exactly the things that led him to be accused years ago of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

His latest diatribe managed to accomplish what Israel has never been able to do. His remarks drew condemnation across the Israeli and US Jewish spectrum including from groups that have not hesitated to criticize the Israeli government for its stance in the peace process. The groups were especially outraged that Abbas rejected Jewish connections to the land of Israel and claimed that Zionism was “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism.”

The Israel Policy Forum statement said, “It is impossible to view Abbas as a viable negotiating partner when he continues to deny the right of the Jewish people to their own national movement, and when he continues to insist that the basic recognition of a homeland is the original sin of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition to discounting the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the region, Abbas counted out a role for the Trump administration in restarting the talks.”

Even the Reform movement was aghast. “We condemn unequivocally President Abbas’ recent statements rejecting the Jewish people’s connections with Israel, denying the legitimacy of a Jewish State of Israel and promulgating conspiracy theories about the creation of the State of Israel. Such statements and accounts undercut possibilities for a peace process that alone hold the path to a viable and independent Palestinian state.” J Street found the speech unacceptable. “Abbas’ frustration,” the group said, was “no excuse for calling into question either the Jewish connection to, or Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel or for language and proposals that justifiably earn widespread condemnation.”

Abbas is confident that most people have no recollection of Israel’s actual beginnings. In fact he is banking on it. We cannot let him distort the truth. It is important for us to be acquainted with the facts and not let Abbas’ tendencies to distort history succeed. It is said that if you say a lie often enough, it becomes an historical truth. The more Abbas and company babble that Israel has no right to exist in our holy land, the more people will tend to believe him. We need to promulgate the facts. They must be ingrained in our minds. They are as follows:

In November 1947, the UN Partition Plan was approved. The Jews accepted it and the Palestinians rejected it.

From December 1947 to March 1948, about 100,000 of 750,000 refugees left Palestine proper. They did so because of fear of war and because the Mufti of Jerusalem prodded them, telling them that they would be back in two weeks once the Arabs defeat Israel.

On May 14, 1948, the British Mandate ended and Israel declared Independence. The United States recognized Israel.

The next day, on May 15, 1948, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, backed by Saudi Arabia and Yemen, invaded the Jewish state.

Despite the accurate accounting, Abbas, in his usual revisionist style, describes the climate during 1947-48 as Israel’s attempt at ethnic cleansing of the land of Palestinians and the Arab countries simply joined the fray to stop it.

Last week, Abbas delivered a speech to the foreign ministers of the European Union’s 28 member-states in Brussels. He requested that the EU create an “alternative” to American sponsorship of the peace process.

Frederica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, called on those involved in the process to speak and act wisely with a sense of responsibility. Mogherini said, “I want to reassure President Abbas of the firm commitment of the European Union to the two-state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states.” But Mogherini said she still wanted to work with the United States on Middle East peace talks. Abbas’ call for the European Union to immediately and officially recognize the state of Palestine won little support at the meeting. Diplomats said, “That reflects EU’s dual role as the Palestinians’ biggest donor and Israel’s biggest trade partner.”

To add insult to injury, former US Secretary of State John Kerry came out from under his rock and met Hussein Agha, Abbas’ longtime associate in London. Kerry asked Agha to relate to Abbas that “he should stay strong in his spirit and play for time, and that he should not break and will not yield to President Trump’s demands.” According to Kerry, Trump will not remain in office for a long time; he said that within a year there was a “good chance that Trump would not be in the White House.” He went on to say, “Maybe it is time for the Palestinians to define their peace principles and present a positive plan.” He offered to help the Palestinians in that effort.

Mahmoud Abbas is 82 years old and in failing health. His hold on the Palestinian Authority is tenuous at best. With or without Kerry’s help – or maybe because of his desire to help – the chances for the peace process are now bleaker than ever.

Cynthia Zalisky is the Executive Director of the Queens Jewish Community. She can be contacted at