How Holocaust Denial Shaped Mahmoud Abbas’ Worldview

Edy Cohen

Edy Cohen

Chairman, Kedem Forum for Middle East Studies; author, The Mufti and the Jews

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~ Also by Edy Cohen ~

From the Blog

Global leaders hope that the longtime president of the Palestinian Authority can reach a peace agreement with the Jewish state. But his historical beliefs about Israel’s founding—and the Zionist movement’s alleged complicity in the murder of millions of Jews—may call that into question.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry posted a video on YouTube last December in which it accused the Palestinian Authority of using Nazi propaganda against Israel. The video shows racist caricatures created by Goebbels and Hitler in the 1930s and ‘40s that are now used by the Palestinians to incite terrorism against Jews and attack the legitimacy of the state of Israel.

The images presented in the video are horrifying, but this is by no means the first time the Palestinians have used Nazi propaganda against Jews and Israel. Palestinian and Arab media in general are saturated with anti-Semitic images, conspiracy theories, and libels. The Palestinians regularly downplay the significance of the Holocaust and sometimes deny it ever happened at all. When they do admit it, they blame it on the Jews themselves.

This anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial comes from the top. Although it is either unknown or denied in the West, PA President Mahmoud Abbas is profoundly fascinated by Nazi propaganda and has employed it in his own writings, particularly in his doctoral dissertation on the subject of the Holocaust, “The Other Face: The Secret Connections Between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement,” which he wrote in Moscow in 1982. Two years later, Abbas published a book based on his dissertation. It is written in Arabic and, tellingly, has never been translated into any other language.

There is a reason for this: The book is inspired by and based on the work of Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust. While he was a fugitive in Argentina, Eichmann formulated and disseminated Nazi propaganda according to which the Holocaust was a Jewish-Nazi conspiracy that sacrificed Jewish lives in order to create a Jewish state in Palestine. In his book, Abbas adopts this worldview wholesale, and the result is the subject of this article, which is, I believe, the first in-depth examination of the book to appear in English.

The first edition of The Other Face was published in Amman, followed by a second edition in May 1984, in which a minor change was made to the title. It became The Other Face of the Secret Connections Between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement. Originating as a doctoral thesis submitted to the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, and including the core and long-established obsessions of Soviet anti-Jewish propaganda, the book consists of four parts, 16 chapters, and 252 pages, with no bibliography. I found the first edition in the Israel National Library in Jerusalem, though it is possible to read the book online at Abbas’ website. It is not a coincidence that, although the site contains 17 other books, most of which are scanned and can be read online, The Other Face is the only one that has not been translated.

At the beginning of The Other Face, Abbas deals with the nature of this eponymous “other face,” which is, he says, an other truth, different from the accepted “narrative” of the Holocaust. This other face is contained in the question: Who was the additional collaborator in the crimes committed in World War II?

The Western nations formulated a plan for the aftermath of World War II.…Regarding the crimes committed, they defined a description of the criminals and their victims after they appointed themselves as judges and gave themselves the right to determine these crimes. They used these crimes as they wished, and ignored what they wanted to ignore.
In the end, they accused the Nazi leaders of all crimes committed during the war, and pursued those among them who remained alive with no statute of limitations. The Nuremburg bandwagon continues to roll, consuming tyrants and murderers, while the fundamental collaborator in the fundamental crime committed during the war remains in the shadows. [The Western nations] defined the crimes and the criminals, as well as the prosecutors, the prosecuted, and the witnesses…within a narrow frame, from which it was not permitted to deviate. Thus, these states dealt with only half the truth, and omitted—intentionally—the other half.

What is this “other half” of the truth? According to Abbas, it was this: Zionism and the leaders of the Zionist movement were the “fundamental collaborators” with Nazism and were responsible for the Holocaust. In effect, they aided and abetted in the extermination of a third of the Jewish people.

Ostensibly, the book deals with the relations between the Zionist movement and Nazism following the “Ha’avara (Transfer) Agreement” of August 1933, in which Jewish property was transferred from Nazi Germany to the land of Israel in order to facilitate the rescue of approximately 60,000 Jews. But this is not the case. The book is, in fact, a screed against Zionism in general. Throughout the entire work, Abbas presents a blanket indictment of Zionism and its leaders, from David Ben-Gurion on down. In effect, Abbas charges that they are war criminals who collaborated with the Nazis and those responsible for the Holocaust. He further claims that the Zionists encouraged anti-Semitism in Europe in order to increase Aliyah to the land of Israel and accelerate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. The Zionists took part in the slaughter. They intentionally thwarted many efforts to rescue Jews. They encouraged hatred of Jews so the Nazis and others would take revenge by expanding the scope of the extermination. And they did all of this in collaboration with the Third Reich. In effect, Abbas claims there was a Zionist conspiracy against the Jewish people. Moreover, he claims that this has never been revealed because all those who tried to expose the conspiracy were assassinated by the Israeli government.

Adolf Eichmann stands trial in Jerusalem. Photo: Huntington Theatre Company / flickr

Adolf Eichmann stands trial in Jerusalem. Photo: Huntington Theatre Company / flickr

It should be noted that there is no credible research or scholarship that supports Abbas’ thesis. It is, from beginning to end, pure fantasy. But it did not spring fully formed from Abbas’ head. Upon investigation, I came to the unequivocal conclusion that Abbas’ book is based on Nazi and neo-Nazi propaganda disseminated in Argentina by Eichmann and his friend, the pro-Nazi Dutch journalist Wilhelmus Antonius Sassen. They and other escaped Nazis published an anti-Semitic journal called Der Weg (“The Way”), whose goal was to “disprove” what it called “the myth of the six million.” Eichmann and Sassen claimed that the Holocaust was a lie, and that there were no gas chambers or crematoriums in Hitler’s Europe. In 1957, Sassen interviewed Eichmann on the subject, and their conversations eventually comprised 659 typed pages. As I will demonstrate, a significant part of these conversations present claims identical to those of Abbas.

First, however, it is important to reiterate Abbas’ fundamental accusations against Zionism and its leaders:

1. Nazi ideology is the same as Zionist ideology. (The illustration on the inside cover of the book demonstrates this clearly. It shows two soldiers wearing helmets, one bearing the Nazi swastika and the other the Star of David. These pictures leave no room for doubt that the message is that the Israeli soldier is the same as the Nazi soldier, and Nazi ideology is the same as Zionism. It must be pointed out that this illustration is not found in the internet version of the book.)
2. The leaders of the Zionist movement conspired with the Nazis against the Jewish people.
3. The leaders of the Zionist movement exploited the destruction of the European Jews for propaganda purposes and intentionally sacrificed them in order to create a Jewish state.
4. The Zionist movement intentionally and systematically thwarted the rescue of the Jews of Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Balkans, as well as the rescue of 3,000 children from Hungary.
5. The Jews of Arab lands who abandoned their countries did not suffer from any harassment or persecution, and the root of the conflict between them and the Arabs flowed from the privileges the Jews received from French and British colonialists.

All of these claims are lies, and were derived from the most virulent forms anti-Semitic propaganda, much of it formulated by former Nazis themselves.

It should be noted that, from the beginning of his book, Abbas does not shrink from outright Holocaust denial. For example, the preface to the book refers to the number of the victims of the Holocaust. Abbas emphasizes that there are “rumors” that the number of victims reached six million. But, he states, no one can confirm or deny this number:
The number of Jewish victims is supposed to be six million. But it was likely much smaller, perhaps less than a million. The controversy, however, does not in any way minimize the ugliness of the crime committed against [the Jews]. Because…killing a man—even one—is a crime that is impossible to accept in the civilized world. It is inhuman. It appears that it is in the interest of the Zionist movement to exaggerate the numbers of those tragically killed in the war for the sake of the [political] profits it received from making the number as large as possible. This was why the number [six million] was established: So [the international community] would feel pangs of conscience and sympathy for Zionism.

Abbas adds: “Many researchers judged the issue of the number of dead—six million—and arrived at extraordinary conclusions, according to which the number of Jewish victims numbered in the hundreds of thousands.” On the same page, Abbas cites Canadian Holocaust denier Roger Delorme:

There is no proof up to now that the number of Jewish victims in the Nazi camps reached four or six million. In the beginning, the Zionists talked about 12 million Jews exterminated in the camps. Afterwards, the number was reduced by half—that is, only six million—and after that it was reduced again and became four million. After all, it is impossible that the Germans killed or exterminated more Jews than there were in the entire world at that time. And the truth is that the number is much less than these millions that are claimed.

Further on, Abbas states: “The writer and historian Raul Hilberg, in his book The Destruction of the European Jews, on page 670, states that the number is not above 896,000.”

The source cited by Abbas is surprising, since Hilberg unequivocally states that the number of Holocaust victims was at least five million: “World Jewry lost one-third of its number. It declined from an all-time high of more than 16,000,000 people to about 11,000,000.” Because Abbas’ book is based on a doctoral dissertation, which by definition depends on exact scholarship, the likelihood that he is innocently mistaken is essentially zero. His claim, in other words, is a deliberate deception.

In regard to the gas chambers, Abbas continues to lean on the “facts” and “researches” of Holocaust deniers. He says on page three:

These rooms [the gas chambers], are said to have been intended for killing Jews. The scientific research published by French professor Robert Faurisson rejects [the claim that] these chambers [were used] for the rumored purposes, that is, for the murder of living people, and posits that they were intended only for the cremation of corpses due to the fear of spreading disease in the surrounding areas.

Robert Faurisson is one of the most famous Holocaust deniers in the world, as his prosecution and conviction for Holocaust denial caused a scandal in France during the 1980s and ‘90s.

Expanding on Faurisson’s denialism, Abbas states that the Zionist movement is responsible for the extermination of the Jewish people. He does not even bother to attempt to back this up with facts or research. He simply accepts it as an obvious truth and moves on. Thus, on page four, he asks, “How is it possible to believe that the Zionist movement, which set out to defend a people, became afterwards a reason for the extermination of this people?” His answer is that Zionism is essentially identical to Nazism.

When we judge…Zionist thinking, which the adherents of Zionism believe in with great conviction, we find that they believe in the purification of the Jewish race, just as Hitler believed in the purification of the Aryan race. [Zionism] calls for a fundamental and final solution to the Jewish question in Europe by means of immigration to Palestine. Hitler also called for and realized this [goal]. …David Ben-Gurion defined the Zionist movement as an immigration movement only, and everyone who does not immigrate is a heretic to the Torah and is therefore not considered a Jew.

Having thus displayed his undoubtedly rich knowledge of halakha, Abbas concludes on page five that the Zionist leaders saw the persecution of the Jews as desirable, because it would cause them to immigrate to the land of Israel, and believed in all necessary means of achieving this goal, including collaboration with Nazism.

It is well known that…anti-Semitism is the persecution and oppression [of Jews], and this is certainly something desirable to the Zionist movement. The conclusion…is that a green light was given to every racist in the world, first and foremost Hitler and the Nazis, to do whatever they wanted to the Jews, as long as it ensured immigration to Palestine. And [the Zionist movement] was not satisfied with giving this green light—it wanted more victims so they could be comparable to the [number of] victims of other peoples in the war. And this was because [Zionism] concluded that a rise in the number of victims would increase its rights at the end of the war when the spoils were divided up.

Abbas claims that this conspiracy was eventually revealed. He states that the Mapai party, which ruled Israel for its first 29 years, refused to grant any rights to its political opposition, because it had begun to expose the hidden collaboration with Hitler. And everyone who began to speak about or even hint at it paid with his life.

Abbas then goes even further with his conspiracy theory. He states on page six that Adolf Eichmann was captured in Argentina after the details of the Zionist-Nazi conspiracy were published in a letter by Eichmann to the American magazine Life. Abbas then “reveals” that the Zionist leader Israel Kastner was murdered by the Shin Bet because he dared to present details of the scheme in a court of law. This is a lie. Kastner was in fact assassinated by right-wing Jews in 1957 in the midst of a libel trial over his role in negotiating with Eichmann the rescue of nearly 2,000 Hungarian Jews from the Nazis. His assassins were eventually captured and sentenced to life imprisonment. Abbas even points to a third man named “Dr. Kirin”—without giving his full name or any date—who was supposedly a German journalist about to expose documents testifying to the Nazi-Zionist collaboration before he was ostensibly killed in his hotel room in Berlin. It seems likely that “Dr. Kirin” existed only in Abbas’ fervid imagination.

It is almost superfluous to note that these claims are completely baseless. First, in regard to the capture of Eichmann in Argentina, Abbas ignores the fact that Eichmann was one of the most prominent escaped Nazi war criminals and the primary architect of the Holocaust. In his book, Abbas portrays Eichmann as someone who was done an injustice, kidnapped after he gave testimony on the conspiracy between Zionism and the Third Reich. The monstrousness of such a claim should be self-evident.

Abbas’ assertion regarding a connection between Eichmann’s claims in Life and his capture in Argentina are patently untrue, because Eichmann was captured on May 11, 1960 and Life published the interview with Eichmann in November and December 1960. That is to say, after his arrest.

Abbas, in short, is clearly deceiving the reader, even as he attempts to ignore Eichmann’s crimes and present him as a victim. This is part and parcel of the methods Abbas employs throughout his book. He engages in demagogic rhetoric, lies repeatedly, and presents claims entirely unsupported by any documentation, all to justify the libel of a Zionist-Nazi conspiracy.

The second part of Abbas’ book deals with the Zionist movement’s stance toward the Holocaust. On pages 47-48, Abbas “reveals,” again without any reference to sources or documentation, the following supposed horrors:
[The Zionist movement] provided no aid, economic or otherwise, to the victims of Nazism, and did not allow them to receive aid from any other party.
[The Zionist movement] hid information from the ghettos and the concentration camps; information that shed light on what was really happening. When it was forced to publish anything, it did so while casting doubt on the information and minimizing its importance.
The Zionist movement adopted the Nazi principle of “selection” when it undertook actions to save Jews from the massacre. It turned itself into the arbiter of Jewish lives, deciding who deserved to live and who deserved to die.
[The Zionist movement] invested no efforts in convincing the Western nations to accept Jewish refugees who escaped…the Holocaust. It even placed obstacles in the way of all efforts undertaken by Christians, non-Zionist Jews, and a number of states who rightly sought to find a solution to this humanitarian problem.
The Zionist movement was not satisfied with all this, but also secretly undertook widespread incitement against Jews located in lands under Nazi occupation in order to provoke the Nazi authorities into taking revenge on them and expanding the mass extermination actions.

Abbas then claims, again without references, that the Jewish Agency intentionally thwarted various deals with the governments of Romania, the Balkan states, Slovakia, and Hungary that were intended to save the Jews in exchange for money or merchandise handed over to the Nazis. In a bizarre statement on page 52, he writes, “The European Jews in general, and the Jews of Eastern Europe in particular, did not adopt Zionism and did not believe in it. A Jewish national home did not interest them at all. Therefore, when the Holocaust hit them and the free world ignored their fate, the Zionists who lived in Jerusalem were blinded by the lust for power, so that they could not admit to the dark fate of the European Jews” and thus, apparently, did nothing. In addition, according to Abbas, the reason the Zionist movement refused to make deals to save thousands of Jews from these countries was their desire “to increase the number of victims, in order to receive privileges at the end of the war.”

It should be noted that this is a very characteristic line of thought among followers of Abbas’ Fatah movement. They analyze events according to their results. Thus, if the result of the Holocaust was the founding of the State of Israel, then the Zionist movement must have encouraged the Holocaust and wanted to increase the number of victims. Similar things can be seen in the work of other Arab writers. After the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, for example, there were many in the Arab world who hinted or outright stated that the Jews and the Americans planned the attacks in order to start a war with Iraq or further Israel’s interests.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas poses for a picture with a delegation of the Federation of Jews from Arab Countries in Ramallah, March 28, 2016. Photo: Hadas Parush / Flash90

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas poses for a picture with a delegation of the Federation of Jews from Arab Countries in Ramallah, March 28, 2016. Photo: Hadas Parush / Flash90

In the third chapter of the fourth and final part, on page 236, Abbas displays this way of thinking again, this time in regard to the question of anti-Semitism in the Arab nations. The title of the chapter is “Anti-Semitism in the Semitic Lands?” The title itself implies that it is all but impossible for there to be anti-Semitism in these lands. Indeed, having slandered the Jews of Europe, Abbas turns to slandering the Jews of the Arab nations, while ignoring the persecution and suffering they endured for decades. In fact, Abbas unequivocally claims that there is no anti-Semitism in Arab nations, and despite this, the number of Jews in these countries has been drastically reduced. Abbas does not mention what led to the exodus of these Jews, but rushes to claim it was not persecution or expulsion by the Arabs, which, of course, is precisely what it was. Between 1940 and 1970, hundreds of thousands of Jews were expelled from Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Algeria, and other Arab states. Hundreds were murdered only because they were Jews, and massive amounts of Jewish property were stolen and confiscated. Abbas simply ignores all of this.

Instead, Abbas blames Europeans for the expulsion of the Arab world’s Jews. He ends his book by citing two events that supposedly led to a worsening of relations between Jews and Arabs: The Damascus blood libel of 1840 and the granting of citizenship to the Jews of North Africa. According to Abbas, these events caused the ruling imperial powers—Britain and France—to grant privileges to Jews, which aroused Arab anger.

Abbas cites the Damascus blood libel even though it was an expressly anti-Semitic event. On February 5, 1840, a Christian priest was kidnapped along with his servant. A French investigation overseen by the Ottoman Empire concluded that a group of Jews kidnapped and killed them in order to use their blood for Passover matzahs. Dozens of Jews were imprisoned. But the Ottoman sultan Abed Alhamid succeeded in arguing that the Jews in general are revolted by blood and the suspects were therefore innocent. He overturned the verdict and did not hurt the Jewish community. Quite the opposite, in fact. He ordered heightened defenses for the Jews.

Palestinian Authority speaks to a delegation of the Federation of Jews from Arab Countries in Ramallah, March 28, 2016. Photo: Hadas Parush / Flash90

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to a delegation of the Federation of Jews from Arab Countries in Ramallah, March 28, 2016. Photo: Hadas Parush / Flash90

From this, Abbas concludes that the British—who were not involved in the incident at all—gave the Jews Palestine in order to defend them from such attacks. He further claims that the Jews benefit from false accusations and enjoy persecution and abuse. Moreover, he says, the Jews have gotten very positive results from discrimination.

In regard to the second event, Abbas claims that France granted citizenship to the Jews of Morocco in order to consolidate its imperial rule. Moreover, it gave the impression that the Jews needed protection from Muslims, which worsened relations between them and the Jews.

This is in fact the line Abbas takes throughout the entire book: The Jews desire harassment, enjoy persecution, and reap benefits from them. The Arabs are always wholly innocent of anything resembling anti-Semitism. And when they commit anti-Semitic acts, it is the Jews’ fault. Abbas repeatedly blames the victim, absolves Arabs and Muslims of any responsibility for their own actions, and whitewashes any and all crimes committed against the Jews.

On April 27, 2014, Abbas called the Holocaust “the worst crime ever committed against humanity.” This statement was published by most Palestinian and international media outlets. Abbas added that the Holocaust was the result of ethnic discrimination and racism, which the Palestinians reject.

The Other Face puts the lie to this. It is a book utterly without mercy for the victims of the Holocaust and for the Jewish people as a whole. This is conclusively underlined by its origins: The pro-Nazi propaganda of Adolf Eichmann. The book’s claims and conclusions about the Holocaust are lifted almost wholesale from Eichmann’s own attempts to deny and excuse his own horrendous crimes. Regarding these attempts, it is worth quoting Gideon Hausner, the prosecutor in the Eichmann trial, who knew the ex-Nazi as well as anyone. Hausner wrote of Eichmann’s interviews with Wilhelmus Antonius Sassen,

The Eichmann-Sassen conversations were undertaken in a friendly atmosphere and without restraint. In the book the two planned to write, they intended to present the facts of the Final Solution and to justify them. The premise of these claims was that the Jewish question was of paramount importance in Germany, but it was the Jews themselves who inflamed the conflict until the choice became: “Either the German people will exist or the Jews, there is no place for them together.” The source of this [conflict] was “international Jewry,” which undertook a demonic conspiracy to provoke the innocent German people until it had no choice but to destroy the European Jews. And why did the Jews do this? So the survivors could sue for a state of their own. This was “the sophisticated and demonic Jewish plan,” aided by certain “secret services,” so “Jewry would finally receive its own territory, after 2,000 years without a home. They were prepared to sacrifice themselves and their flesh for their national existence.”…In other words: The Jews caused their own destruction. International Jewry, and first and foremost Zionism, chose Europe as the “battleground” for national liberation. “The battlefield of this war was in the extermination camps,” claimed Eichmann.

The origins of Abbas’ book make its essence clear: It is a vicious, deceptive, unscholarly, and racist work derived from Nazi propaganda sources. It is saturated with anti-Semitic messages, both covert and overt. It both denies the Holocaust and, by the magic of cognitive dissonance, blames it on the Jews. It slanders and demonizes the Zionist movement and, by extension, its supporters, who include the overwhelming majority of the world’s Jews. It is, in short, a sustained experiment in hate speech, and as such, it has been remarkably successful.

Indeed, The Other Face is still sold in Arab countries and studied in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. This is not even to mention the thousands of readers who visit to the personal website of the man many see as the president of Palestine. And the culture of denial and hatred embodied in this book is typical of the Palestinians’ attitude toward the Holocaust in general. In reality, the PA shows no tolerance for those who identify with or even acknowledge the Holocaust. In the areas it rules—and in the majority of the Arab states—the Holocaust is not taught and every attempt to do so is boycotted. For example, a lecturer at the PA-connected al-Quds University, Professor Muhammad Aldajani, accompanied students on a trip to the extermination camps in Poland. Aldajani, who supports studying the Holocaust, was promptly forced to resign following pressure from the PA.

Finally, it is worth noting one of the most important reasons Abbas blames Zionism for the Holocaust, namely his desire to hide the crimes of someone who actually did collaborate with the Nazis: The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj-Amin al-Husseini. Husseini was the founder of the modern Palestinian national movement, the spiritual father of Yasser Arafat and Abbas himself. He lived in Nazi Germany from 1941-1945, endorsed the Nazis and their aims, recruited Muslim soldiers for them, incited against the Jews, and knew of and supported the Final Solution.

As a result, the truth about the Mufti threatens the Palestinian national movement with its own dark history of racism and violence. As such, Abbas must assert that the Holocaust may not have happened, or if it did, it was the Jews’ fault. He must deny the ethnic cleansing of almost a million Jews from Arab nations, who were forced out through anti-Semitic violence. He must lie and deceive in order to convince the reader of the patently racist claim that the Jews’ movement for national self-determination is somehow uniquely evil. And he must degrade and defame the victims of the Holocaust by exculpating their murderers, using the words and ideas of the architect of their genocide.

Perhaps most depressing, however, is the fact that Abbas’ claims are widespread among the Palestinians and the Arab states in general. As long as this persists, peace is all but impossible, because the Palestinians and the Arab world cannot make peace with the Jewish state without admitting, to some degree, the justice of its cause. To do this, it must acknowledge and sympathize with the terrible crime done to the Jewish people. Abbas, thus far, has proven unable to do so. We should hope that The Other Face is not, in fact, the true face of Mahmoud Abbas.


A campaign is underway to force Abbas to remove his book from his website. A link to the campaign’s Facebook page can be found here.

Banner Photo: Issam Rimawi / Flash90