By Richard Cohen
28 April, 2014
Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day has passed. But then, as far as I’m concerned, it is always Holocaust Remembrance Day — a perpetual and frustratingly futile attempt to come to terms with murder so vast and incomprehensible it is like pondering what came before the big bang. And yet in a corner of the world, the Holocaust is considered no mystery at all. The Jews did it to themselves to foster the creation of Israel. This is what Hamas believes.
Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian leader, has made peace with Hamas — and it with him. Abbas had earlier acknowledged the Holocaust but recently called it “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era.” This sounds like a prosaic statement of fact, but coming from a man who once held the Jews complicit in their own near-destruction, it is significant. For Abbas to have elevated the Holocaust over the Palestinian Nakba — the forced and non-forced evacuation of Arabs from Israel — is an important concession.
Not surprisingly, Abbas’s rendezvous with history was dismissed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is Netanyahu’s default position when it comes to Palestinian concessions. Yet this time, he has a point. Hamas is indeed the terrorist organization Israel and the United States say it is. Its opposition to the mere existence of Israel is stated not just in the usual terms of Palestinian grievance or nationalism but also by a remarkable and stupendously stupid anti-Semitism.
In fact, according to the Hamas charter, it’s nothing less than a miracle that Hamas exists at all. Its enemy, ‘the Jews’ are so rich and powerful that “they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. . . . They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about.” The Jews had help, of course — and the Hamas charter names their allies: “Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others.” How the Elks and the Civil Air Patrol got left out is beyond me.
The charter does not stop there. The Jews, it says, “were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state.” In other words, the Holocaust — not that it happened, mind you — was a clever Jewish ruse to win the world’s sympathy and thereby establish the state of Israel. Mazel tov! It worked.
To our ears, this is all loony stuff. But history demands that attention be paid. In its tone, in its detail, in its sheer monumental idiocy, the Hamas charter is nothing but warmed-over Hitlerism. It is no crazier than what Hitler laid out in “Mein Kampf.” Yet this was a doctrine that helped make him Germany’s paramount leader and enabled the murder of 6 million Jews. Hamas proclaims its anti-colonialist bona fides yet it has swallowed whole European anti-Semitism.
The Hamas charter was adopted in 1988 and possibly no longer accurately reflects the thinking of the current Hamas leadership. If so, it should be repudiated — and not without fanfare. Anti-Semitism has come to reside in the Middle East. If Israel was always a diversion for the region’s rulers, then anti-Semitism is a useful explanation. It is the granddaddy of all conspiracy theories. It seems to account for the region’s poverty, its haplessness, its relative weakness vis-a-vis Israel and so much more. If the Jews were behind the French Revolution, then why not, too, the collapse of the Arab Spring?
Palestinians have legitimate grievances. They lost their land and the hurt is great. But they are not children and they should not be patronized. Europeans and others who find such unalloyed virtue and victimhood in Hamas and the Gaza it rules ought to demand a repudiation of the charter. How some of these sympathizers can go from the lands of the Holocaust itself to a place where anti-Semitism is official doctrine ought to trouble them. It doesn’t, I know — and that ought to trouble the rest of us.
If there is ever to be a lasting peace in the Middle East, Arab anti-Semitism must be repudiated. Instead, the Jew-hatred that was introduced to the region by Nazi agents has become semi-official or official doctrine — so much so that it was both brave and newsworthy for Abbas merely to acknowledge the primacy of the Holocaust. Now, though, he must take the next step and demand that his new buddies in Hamas purge their charter of its vile anti-Semitism. Palestinians would benefit more than Jews.