[The interviewers forgot to inform their readers that Abu Mazen’s Ph.D. remains a text for study in the schools of the Palestinian National Authority today]
… Abu Mazen wrote his doctorate in 1982 in Moscow, at the Institute for Oriental Studies. The institute was headed by Yevgeny Primakov, a Jew, an Arabist, an avowed friend of Saddam Hussein and other Arab rulers, and eventually the prime minister of Russia. Of all these qualities, Abu Mazen emphasized mainly Primakov’s Jewish origin.
The heading of his doctoral thesis was: “Zionist leadership and the Nazis.” The introduction dealt, among other topics, with a loaded issue: How many Jews perished in the Holocaust. In the Soviet period, especially in the anti-Israel institute that Abu Mazen attended, they often dealt with such questions. The Soviet Union, more than any other country, was addicted to Holocaust denial. The victims were not recognized by their origin, but rather by their nationality.
And this is what the diligent researcher Mahmoud Abbas wrote: “World War Two caused the death of 40 million people from different parts of the world. 10 million Germans, 20 million Soviets, and more… Rumors at the end of the war said that 6 million of the world’s Jews were among the victims in the war of extermination that was waged against the Jewish people and later on against other peoples. The fact is that no one can confirm this number or deny it. The number could be 6 million, but it could be much smaller, perhaps even smaller than one million. The controversy over the number must not divert us from the severity of the crime committed against the Jewish people. The murder of a human being is a crime that the cultured world must not accept.”
“Many researchers who discussed the number reached the unconventional conclusion that it is no more than several hundred thousand.” Later on, Abu Mazen quotes a Holocaust denier who claimed that “at first the Zionists spoke about 12 million Jews who were killed in the death camps. They later narrowed the number down to 6 and to 4 million. It is not possible that the Germans murdered more Jews than existed in the world at the time.” He quotes another Holocaust denier who counted 896,000 Jewish victims in all.
On Wednesday, in his office, Abu Mazen placed the photocopy of the problematic page of his paper on the table and said: “I am not a Holocaust denier. I have never been a Holocaust denier. I discussed the numbers, but I said: It is not a matter of numbers. Any murder is a heinous crime.”
“I wrote this in 1982. We were enemies then. What do you expect of me, as a historian? To accept the numbers as they are written in the books?”
If we were Abu Mazen, we would say: I made a mistake, and I am sorry for it.
This piece ran on May 30, 2003 in Yediot Aharonot