Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called the Holocaust "the most heinous crime" in modern history. The statement came ahead of Israel’s annual commemoration of the extermination of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany.
Published by the official Palestinian news agency, the comments from Abbas seemed to be an attempt to reach out to Israelis during an impasse in the Middle East peace process. Abbas made the comments ahead of Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day, from sunset Sunday through sunset Monday.
"What happened to the Jews in the Holocaust is the most heinous crime known to mankind in the modern era," Abbas told a visiting rabbi Sunday. "The world must do its utmost to fight racism and injustice in order to bring justice and equality to oppressed people wherever they are," he added. "The Palestinian people - who suffer injustice, oppression and are denied freedom and peace - are the first to demand to lift the injustice and racism that befell other peoples."
The UN commemorates the Holocaust on January 27, which marks the Allied liberation of Auschwitz in 1945. Israel remembers it on the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nissan, a week before the country's independence celebration. On Sunday, Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator for the Palestinian side in the Middle East peace process also made a strongly worded statement against the Holocaust.
"How could this civilized world burn people, just because they are Jews and commit this horrible evil Holocaust, killing more than 6 million people simply because they are Jewish and then go home and drink champagne and listen to Beethoven symphonies," he told Israel's ynet news site on Sunday. "This was the most evil chapter in human history, and we stand tall as Palestinians to condemn it and to condemn it and to condemn it and to condemn it," Erekat added.
'The finger pointer'
Talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials have stalled since Abbas struck a deal with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, to form a unity government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demands that Abbas back out of that deal before talks continue. Israeli Cabinet ministers have said the country will not negotiate with a government that includes a group that does not recognize Israel's right to exist, referring to statements made in the past by members of Hamas.
"Either Hamas disavows the destruction of Israel and embraces peace and denounces terror or president Abbas renounces Hamas," Netanyahu said Sunday on the CNN program "State of the Union." "If one of those things happened, we could get back to the peace negotiations," Netanyahu added. "I hope he renounces Hamas and gets back to the peace table. The ball is in his court."
Abbas says he will form a government of technocrats who follow his platform of peace negotiations, not violence. The terms Abbas himself has laid out for extending the negotiations toward a two-state solution include a settlement freeze and the release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel.
Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, said "the prime minister of Israel must stop being the fault finder and the finger pointer and the blame assigner" and accept a two-state solution that restores to a new Palestinian state land lost in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt.
mkg/mz (Reuters, AFP, dpa)