Palestine's president, Mahmoud Abbas, denounced the Holocaust as the "most heinous" crime against humanity Sunday. But Israel's leaders say the statement sends mixed signals as it comes just days after Abbas signed a unity deal with Hamas, a group many Western nations have labeled a terrorist organization.
The Holocaust statement is a rare acknowledgement of the genocide by an Arab leader, as the Holocaust has often been either avoided or even denied by leaders across the Middle East. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made news by condemning the genocide shortly after his election in 2013. (Via PBS, CNN)
The Palestinian news agency WAFA writes that Abbas shared his sympathy with the victims and their families, and said that "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 then compared the plight of the Palestinians to that of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, both suffering from "injustice, oppression and denied freedom and peace."
The BBC writes Hamas, the group Abbas recently partnered with, has traditionally refrained from acknowledging the Holocaust, and that in 2009 there was a protest against the topic being taught in some Gaza schools.
And according to CNN, Abbas wrote about the Holocaust in a dissertation saying, "'The Zionist fantasy, the fantastic lie that six million Jews were killed' and that only 890,000 Jews were killed by Nazis." He reversed his position in 2011, though, saying that he could accept that there were, in fact, six million victims.
Sunday's statement received mixed reactions in Israel with Time writing that his comments appeared to be "aimed at reaching out to Israeli public opnion at a time of deep crisis in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts."
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unmoved by the acknowledgement during a CBS "Face the Nation" interview, where he brought up the Hamas unity deal from Wednesday.
"In fact what I say to him very simply is this – President Abbas tear up your pact with Hamas. Recognize the Jewish state. Make peace. I hope you do that. But you can't have both Hamas and peace with Israel."
Businessweek adds that John Kerry is putting his timeline for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on indefinite hold. Those talks had been derailed after Israel failed to go through with a scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners, the announced new Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem.