August 20, 2014
Abbas calls Holocaust 'most heinous crime'
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the Nazi Holocaust "the most heinous crime" against humanity in modern times, in an apparent bid to build bridges with Israel days after troubled peace talks collapsed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the overture, saying Abbas's Palestinian power-sharing deal with Hamas, which led Israel to suspend the negotiations on Thursday, put him in partnership with an Islamist group that denies the Holocaust and seeks the Jewish state's destruction.
"What I say to him very simply is this: President Abbas, tear up your pact with Hamas," Netanyahu said on the CBS news programme Face the Nation.
"President Abbas can't have it both ways. He can't say the Holocaust is terrible but at the same time embrace those who deny the Holocaust and seek to perpetrate another destruction of the Jewish people," Netanyahu said on CNN.
"I think what President Abbas is trying to do is to placate Western public opinion that understands that he delivered a terrible blow to the peace process," he said.
Abbas's message, published in Arabic and English by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, coincided with Israel's annual remembrance day for the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, and included an expression of sympathy for the families of the victims.
"What happened to the Jews in the Holocaust is the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era," WAFA quoted Abbas as saying at a meeting a week ago with an American rabbi.
By speaking in superlative terms, Abbas could risk a backlash from Palestinians who draw comparisons between their suffering at the hands of Israeli occupiers and that of Jews under Hitler's Third Reich.
Abbas has condemned the mass killings of Jews in World War Two before and challenged allegations, stemming from a 1983 book he authored, that he is a Holocaust denier.
But the timing of the publication of his latest comments gave them extra significance, a day after he signalled he remained committed to the peace talks and said a future Palestinian unity government would recognise Israel.