"The bottom of the barrel"

When a traveling salesman showed customers samples of his wares, he was sure to show them his very best. After all, if the sample is not attractive who would buy the product? The simple law of business is that the sales person will always show you things in a better light than they are in reality. Would you buy a vacuum cleaner from a salesman who showed you one that did not function correctly? Would you buy a car if it were not drivable? Therefore, if one sees that the sample is not good, one must perforce conclude that the rest is even worse.

This brings us to the very interesting matter of the election of Abu Mazen as the new Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority. First, there is the fact that his name is not very propitious: his real name is Mahmoud Abbas but he goes by his nom de guerre, Abu Mazen. Why in the world does a man “committed to peace” continue to carry on this bellicose name?

Then there is this long history of a man who, although described as a “historian” by some, is in the category of a Le Pen, Haider or Franco Tudjman—all of whom in one way or another are Holocaust deniers. In a 1983 book, "The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement," he said the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis to murder Jews in a plot to gain sympathy for creation of the state of Israel. This obscene accusation coming from a son of a nation with a well documented record of collaboration with the Nazis is nothing short of preposterous. Playing with numbers and in dishonest fashion he attempts to reduce the number of Holocaust victims to 890,000 and attributes this number to Raul Hillberg. Abu Mazen's attribution of this figure to Raul Hillberg's The Destruction of the European Jews is false. Shoddy research and dishonest and propagandistic aims dominate this pseudo-scholar.

This man has long escaped the lens of criticism. As many commentators have noted , why was it so wrong when these statements were issued by Haider or Trudjman but they are ignored in the case of Abu Mazen? Michael Freund correctly asks, “Why was the late president of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman, barred from visiting Israel for writing an anti-Semitic World War II history book entitled Wilderness of Historical Reality, while Abu Mazen is hailed as a moderate for holding similar views?”

Denying the Holocaust is wrong because it suggests an elementary lack of sympathy for victims of carnage and inhumanity but also because it demonstrates a lack of moral fiber that is fundamental to the creation of peace alliances. That would have been enough to deny this man the epithet bestowed upon him by the world as a “moderate.” But, alas, the list is not over.

Now we hear that he may have been the financier who provided support for the terrorist attack that killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, according to Israeli attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center. Shurat Hadin claims it has contacts within the Palestinian Authority itself who point out the hypocrisy of Abu Mazen's insistence he has never been involved in terrorism.

This has come out of remarks made by the mastermind of the Munich attack, Mohammed Daoud Oudeh, or Abu Daoud. In his1999 French language memoir, "Palestine: From Jerusalem to Munich," and again in an interview last August with Don Yaeger of Sports Illustrated magazine, Abu Daoud comments on the irony that while he is still considered persona non grata in Israel, Abu Mazen is now considered "respectable" even though he also was involved in the Munich attack.

Just in case you may be thinking that this man, however immoral, may bring peace to Israel, we have statements from this man that make him “pragmatic” but not truthful or reliable. His “moderation” is only a pragmatic ploy rather than a sincere desire for peace and accommodation with Israel. A friend of Israel such as William Safire (NYTimes, May 1, 2003) was well fooled. Describing the political situation in the territories, he writes, “On one side is the quadriad of terror: Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Arafat's "martyrs" brigade. Their goal is to defeat Israel and drive the Jews out of the Middle East. On the other side is the Palestinian Authority, largely made up of Arabs who want a state of their own on all of the West Bank and Gaza, engaged in peaceful trade with Israel.”

The truth is that Abu Mazen’s opposition to Palestinian violence did not stem from a moral but rather a practical perspective. In principle, said Abu Mazen, "the militarization of the Intifada was a complete mistake because we entered into war with Israel at its strong points, and not at its weak points. The strongest thing [Israel] has is weaponry, which is the weakest thing for us." (Abu Mazen’s quotes are taken from the MEMRI article written by Yael Yehoshua, a Research Fellow at MEMRI.)

He supports the full right of return to all Palestinian “refugees” --the very point that destroyed the negotiations at Camp David in 2000 and is the real weapon for the annihilation of their “Zionist entity.” Why is this man a moderate while the others are regarded as extremists? He suggests clearly the usefulness of Israeli Arabs for the realization of the final Palestinian goals. "I have reservations about the participation of our Palestinian relatives – the Arabs of '48 – in the Intifada, despite my great appreciation of their sacrifice. This is because their participation was a very grave mistake. We refused to involve them in the first and second Intifadas, telling them: 'You have a unique quality; you have a different role than ours, an important role in bringing down [Israeli] governments and making governments succeed. Remain on that path. If you want to help us, do it by providing supplies [to the PA] and by [holding] peace demonstrations together with the Israeli peace movements.”

This architect of Oslo characterizes it as "the biggest mistake Israel ever made." Israel, he explained, recognized what it considered to be a terror organization, and the Palestinians gained much and gave up nothing. During his lecture in the Gaza Strip to Fatah commanders and leaders, Abu Mazen said: "Israel… made the biggest mistake of its life when it supported the Oslo accords.”

This “great new leader” of the Palestinians makes clear that his opposition to violence is not final. In an interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat he sought to clarify statements attributed to him in which he allegedly called for an end to anti-Israel terror.

"On the basis of the talks held in Cairo [between the Palestinian Authority and terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad], we agreed upon the freezing of Palestinian military operations for one year.... We did not say, however, that we are giving up the armed struggle... The intifada must continue."

If you thought that Abu Mazen’s supports even Oslo, listen to this: 'This right (of political discourse) was given to you in the Oslo agreement, and you must accept [the agreement] until the time and situation change.' Every situation will be examined in its time. No one knows what the future will bring."

Nevertheless, as one of the PLO architects of the Oslo Accords, Abu Mazen is regarded by Europe and the United States as the best hope to lead the Palestinians to renewed negotiations, known as the "road map" to peace.

Michael Freund warns us wisely that by ignoring Abu Mazen’s call for violence and his hypocrisy, world leaders will engage in delusions that “will only serve to cloud their judgment, causing them to see Abu Mazen not for what he is, but for what they wish him to be.”

It seems, however, that the larger problem is that if this man is their best hope, what does it say about all of them? If after looking for the best hope, thy come up with such a sample, what does it say about the product itself? When the salesman is scraping for the bottom of the barrel, you know it’s time to stop buying. Caveat emptor.


Rabbi David Algaze
          Rabbi David Algaze