Abbas Expected to Send Message of Condolence for Holocaust Victims

Palestinian leader to publish statement on Holocaust Memorial Day, says former World Jewish Congress vice president.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Rabbi Marc Schneier, April 20, 2014.Credit: Sasson Tiram

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to publish a special Holocaust Memorial Day message to the Jewish people next week, Haaretz has learned.

If the message is indeed published it will be the first of its kind ever issued by the Palestinian leadership.

Haaretz learned of the message from Rabbi Marc Schneier, former vice-president of the World Jewish Congress and head of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, who met with Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday.

The meeting, Schneier said, was aimed at discussing ways of bringing Jews and Muslim closer together, which is part of the Foundation's agenda.

Schneier pointed that even though the meeting was not meant to focus on the peace process, Abbas did express deep frustration about the current impasse in peace talks and also condemned the shooting near Hebron last week, in which an Israeli was killed.

During the meeting, Schneier mentioned to Abbas that next week Israel will be marking the Holocaust Memorial Day and that Israelis, as well as Jews worldwide would be very interested to hear what he had to say on the matter.

"President Abbas stopped me and said the Holocaust was the biggest tragedy in modern history," Schneier said. "Then he told me he is planning this year to issue a special statement for the Holocaust memorial with his condolences for the innocent victims who were murdered by the Nazis."

Abbas also told Schneier that several years ago he instructed Palestinian envoys in Poland, Russia and other countries to attend every Holocaust memorial event they were invited to. "I told him this is great but we need to hear from him personally on this issue," Schneier told Haaretz. "I heard what was said about his position on the Holocaust, but I was struck how clear he was on this subject."

Abbas' doctoral thesis from the University of Moscow, which he published as a book in the 80s, dealt with the cooperation between elements in the Zionist Movement and Nazi Germany in the years before the Holocaust.

Those contacts, which indeed occurred, brought about the signing of the 1933 Transfer Agreement (Ha'avara) signed by the Jewish Agency and the Nazi leadership. The agreement was instrumental in saving the lives of 50,000 Jews, most of them from Germany.

Abbas' book quoted several Holocaust deniers regarding the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II. Those quotes have motivated many Israeli leaders, the last of whom was Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, to maintain that Abbas is a Holocaust denier.

Rabbi Schneier said that he asked Abbas during the meeting to be more active regarding the efforts in several European countries to ban circumcision and kosher slaughter.

"I told him it was an attack on Jews and Muslims alike and that he has a responsibility to act," Schneier said.

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