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  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Jul. 19, 2003
    On Holocaust denial and peace-making,
    By Isaac Herzog

    There is a tentative plan afoot to invite Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to visit the Knesset. This has aroused big hopes. Undoubtedly, if the visit comes off, it will be an important step in building trust between the two sides. It will strengthen Abu Mazen and promote the political process.
    A visit alone is, of course, not enough. The process has to be strengthened by active, daily gestures and measures to ease the lives of the Palestinian population. One mistake by either side can destroy the delicate fabric created in the last weeks.

    One bold gesture is better than another desperate outburst.

    The budding relationship between the Israeli establishment and Abu Mazen is a very important part of stabilizing the situation and bolstering the political process. After all, he is a proud leader, one of the heads of the Palestinian national movement and a member of its founding generation. He also projects credibility and moderation. The general feeling is that he is a Palestinian leader with whom we can, and should, make peace.

    But I would like to touch upon a sensitive and painful point from Abu Mazen's past which I feel should be sorted out especially now when the sides are entering an apparently growing and positive relationship. I am referring to Abu Mazen's very problematic attitude toward the Holocaust.

    The simple facts are that Abu Mazen's 1982 doctoral thesis, written for his studies in Moscow under the dubious title The secret ties between the Nazis and the leadership of the Zionist movement and published two years later in Jordan, contains very grave assertions about the Holocaust.

    Basing himself on the work of well-known Holocaust deniers, Abu Mazen argues that the Zionist movement sought to inflate the numbers of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. He further asserts that the Zionist movement was actually the Nazis' secret accomplice in increasing the mass murder of European Jewry. He goes on to claim again quoting Holocaust deniers that the number of Jews actually killed was much less than six million, and may have been no higher than one million.

    He concludes that the murder of any person is indeed a crime unacceptable to humanity and the modern world. But his main theory undermines the historic consensus about the Holocaust, and levels an intolerable accusation against the Zionist movement.

    WHEN ABU MAZEN was recently asked by journalists about his attitude toward the Holocaust, he explained in a somewhat apologetic tone that his words were written in the heat of the confrontation between national movements at the time (the early 1980s during the Lebanon War and the conflict between East and West), and that he probably wouldn't write the same thing today.

    But I believe this is not a matter that can be brushed under the carpet, because at issue is a moral question whose importance cannot be overstated.

    The Holocaust is surely the Jewish people's greatest pain. It is at the heart of our ethos as a state founded by survivors. In the more than two years since the outbreak of the intifada a hostile wave of anti-Semitism has washed over the world, especially Europe. It seeks to undermine Israel's legitimacy and repress the lesson of the Holocaust as the basis for international recognition of Israel's existence as the state of the Jewish people.

    For these reasons and others we must insist on the basic principle of rejecting Holocaust denial of any kind.

    I would therefore suggest, with all due respect, that the organizers of the Palestinian prime minister's proposed visit to the Knesset see to a parallel visit by him to Yad Vashem. Such a visit could be completely private, and at the end of it he would make an appropriate apology and correction.

    I would suggest, too, that the organizers of Abu Mazen's forthcoming visit to the White House also see that he visits the Holocaust Museum there.
    As someone who views himself as part of the Israeli peace camp I would expect Abu Mazen to understand the real need to erase that heavy stain.

    The Holocaust and its remembrance should be above dispute. They must not be used as weapons in the hands of the opponents of the road map.

    This is a basic moral position that comes from the heart of our national consensus, which yearns for a political settlement and expects a clarification and correction from the Palestinian leader with whom, God willing, we might yet make peace.

    The writer is a Labor MK.

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