Palestine chief Mahmoud Abbas says Holocaust the ‘most heinous crime’
The Palestinian president called the Holocaust "the most heinous crime" of modern history, voicing a rare acknowledgment of Jewish suffering shortly before Israel held its annual memorial for victims of the Nazi genocide.
President Mahmoud Abbas' announcement on Sunday appeared to be aimed at reaching out to Israeli public opinion.
While Israel's national Holocaust memorial said Abbas' comments might be a step in the right direction, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brushed them aside.
He said the Abbas' renewed attempts to reconcile with the Islamic militant movement Hamas raised doubts about the Palestinian leader's intentions. Hamas has questioned the Holocaust and blocked the subject from being taught in schools in the Gaza Strip.
"President Abbas can't have it both ways. He can't say the Holocaust was terrible but at the same time embrace those who deny the Holocaust and seek to perpetrate another destruction of the Jewish people," Netanyahu told CNN.
Palestinians fear that if they acknowledge the Holocaust, they will diminish their own claims based on years of suffering, including their uprooting during Israel's 1948 creation and decades under Israeli occupation.
Abbas himself has been accused of minimising the scope of the Holocaust in a doctoral dissertation in the 1970s, though in recent years he has edged towards acknowledging Jewish suffering.
Abbas' office said he discussed the Holocaust in a meeting with an American rabbi, Marc Schneier, who visited Abbas' headquarters in Ramallah last week.
Abbas told Schneier that "what happened to the Jews in the Holocaust is the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era", according to comments carried by the Palestinian news agency WAFA on Sunday.