Last Sunday, during a two-hour speech in Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas declared that “Israel is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Jews“.
The declaration, made at a meeting of the PLO’s leadership, was not only incorrect but was just one in a long list of inflammatory lies made by Abbas regarding Israel.
In his speech, Abbas denied any evidence of Jewish history in the land of Israel claiming, “Colonialism created Israel to perform a certain function. It is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism, but rather used the Jews as a tool under the slogan of the Promised Land”. Not only were the Palestinian President’s claims false, but it seems as though he is once again attempting to rewrite history.
The people of Israel have an intimate and well-documented history with Eretz Yisrael or the Land of Israel. A few examples of this history include the Merneptah Stele, an ancient Egyptian inscription dated to the 13th century B.C.E. and the first non-biblical text referring to the “people of Israel.” Another being the “Dead Sea scrolls”, ancient Jewish writings found in eleven caves near the Dead Sea, dated back to the 2nd-century B.C.E.
When Abbas fabricates stories about preserving colonialist interests by sending Jews to Israel, he blames both Great Britain for the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and Holland, for sending their fleet to Israel while carrying thousands of Jews. Regarding the first claim, the Balfour Declaration was actually the exact opposite of Colonialism. With the growing acknowledgment of self-determination rights, which was influenced by anti-imperialistic movements, Britain decided to support the right of the Jewish people to self-determination as a political group in a now growing project of Zionism in Israel.
Regarding Abbas’ accusation that Holland collaborated with British colonialism in order to strengthen its interests in the region–there is simply no evidence that corroborates the claim.
Abbas has also created some more new “facts” about the Zionist narrative regarding Theodor Herzl, who is considered the father of modern Zionism. According to Abbas, when visiting the land of Israel, Herzl saw the people living there, and was quoted as saying, “We must wipe out the Palestinians from Palestine so that Palestine will be a land without a people for a people without a land“. Abbas fabricated this quote. It does not exist.
This is not the first time Abbas has tried to manipulate history for his own benefit. In March 2016, Abbas claimed, “The Bible says that the Palestinians existed before Abraham”. The Bible itself refers to a group called the Philistines who lived along the southern coast of modern-day Israel. The name Philistine, has its etymological roots in the Hebrew word Peleshet, meaning intrude or invade.
Abbas also asserted that in the 1940s the Zionist project was failing, since its leaders couldn’t persuade any Jews to come to Israel. He suggested that Europe’s Jews would rather remain in Europe than emigrate, even in the face of the Holocaust. In fact, during those years, the British mandatory authority prevented Jewish immigration to Israel, at the behest of Arab authorities in the Mandate. Following the 1939 St. James conference between Jewish, Arab and British leaders, in which the Arabs demanded prohibition of Jewish immigration and of land purchases by the Jews, Britain published the White Paper of 1939. In this paper, they outlined a five-year plan for Jewish immigration, allowing only about ten thousand Jews to enter Israel per year. Even during the Holocaust, the British forces strictly enforced these quotas.
Abbas’s claims about the Holocaust once again illustrate the problematic, anti-Semitic beliefs of the leader who has demonstrated a gleeful willingness to change history in order to benefit his own narrative. Abbas’s doctoral dissertation The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism is notorious for its Holocaust denial. It’s clear that these perceptions have not changed.
Eventually, Mahmoud Abbas referred to the failed peace talks with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, claiming their failure was only the result of Olmert insisting on a 40 year-long Israeli rule over the Jordan River. In 2009, Abbas’s only explanation for his rejection of Olmert’s offer was that “The gaps were wide.” This according to an interview he gave to The Washington Post.
Abbas’s speech might have some influence on Israeli-Palestinian relations, as well as US-Palestinian relations. Unfortunately, this speech, filled with lies and deception, hasn’t received the appropriate coverage in the media, which would have surely discovered its falsehoods. Once again, as he has done throughout his career, Abbas exploits his status and education in order to create, ex nihilo, a new history that suits his political goals.
This post was contributed by CAMERA intern Noa Zinman.