Five years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took to the podium of the U.N. General Assembly to denounce those who, the day before, had stayed in their seats to listen to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, because of the Iranian President’s denial of the Holocaust.
I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency?
A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state.
What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations!
Yesterday, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Palestinian news agency reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had called the Holocaust “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era” and expressed his sympathy for the families of the Nazis’ victims. Given that Abbas wrote a thesis three decades ago minimizing the Holocaust, and given that Holocaust denial is common in the Arab world, you’d think that Netanyahu would applaud Abbas’ remarks.
But only if you didn’t know Netanyahu. Rather than offer even token appreciation, he immediately went into attack mode. “Instead of issuing statements designed to placate global public opinion, Abu Mazen [Abbas] needs to choose between the alliance with Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel and denies the Holocaust, and a true peace with Israel,” he said.
That was in line with Netanyahu’s refusal last September to show any appreciation when Ahmadinejad’s successor, Hassan Rouhany, called the “crime against the Jews” committed by the Nazis “reprehensible and condemnable.” Because Rouhani had previously declined to answer an interviewer’s question about the Holocaust, Netanyahu tweeted, “Just last week,
@HassanRouhani, like Ahmadinejad before him, refused to recognize the #Holocaust as an historical fact.”
It’s hard not to conclude that Netanyahu would prefer his adversaries to be Holocaust deniers. Perhaps he believes, in his heart, that that’s what they are. Perhaps he thinks it’s helpful to Israel for him to insist that they are. Either way, it’s stupid and counterproductive.
The cause of combatting Holocaust denial is only harmed when the acknowledgements of people like Abbas and Rouhani are dismissed as meaningless. And when Netanyahu dismisses them, it only makes Israel look like a country that can’t take yes as an answer.