When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas finally says that "the Holocaust is the most awful crime every committed against humanity in the modern age" and accepts that Holocaust Remembrance Day is "an especially mournful day," the burden of proof is on him to show he's not just sputtering remarks to be left by the wayside. The Palestinian experience, you should know, has for years conveyed conflicting messages, sometimes even antitheses.
And it is within the framework of this existence that Abbas' rehashed Gaza partner puts on a children's play complete with ovens "showing how Israel burns Palestinians inside"; a crossword puzzle in the official PA newspaper defines Yad Vashem as "the center for perpetuating the Holocaust and such lies"; and even Jibril Rajoub, a popular interviewee in Israeli media, lets himself flip historical incidents from the Holocaust on their heads. The Fatah Central Committee deputy secretary -- and the hope of several asinine Israelis -- recently (April 4, 2014) went on the official Palestinian Authority TV channel and explained that "if Hitler were to visit, he would learn about human oppression from [the Israelis] ... the concentration camps and the mass extermination camps."
Israelis don't regularly engage with the Palestinian side throughout the workweek, but material provided by outlets such as Palestinian Media Watch, which has for years documented the widespread lies and incitement against Israel and Zionism within internal Palestinian discourse, casts doubt on any and all of Abbas' statements. The work of PMW and others has shown how Holocaust denial and its concomitant distortions of reality have become part and parcel of the Palestinian narrative.
Regarding such Holocaust denial, there's not even that much of a difference between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Palestinian education system expunges the Holocaust from the pages of history. While textbooks from the Palestinian Education Ministry certainly cover World War II at length, the Holocaust is relegated to near total disregard. East Jerusalem Palestinian residents who go on school trips to Auschwitz are a welcome minority, but they're little more than a "good news story," which does not reflect the norm.
When a Palestinian historian goes on a Palestinian network saying, "Neither Dachau nor Auschwitz ever existed," that "they were disinfection sites," and lo the skies don't come crashing down, it shouldn't be surprising that even "Hitler" doesn't bear the mark of Cain among Palestinians. Some Palestinians are even named "Hitler." Newspapers affiliated separately with both Hamas and Fatah have published paeans celebrating the Nazi dictator. Even Abbas' own doctoral thesis delved into "The Other Side: The Secret Relations between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement."
He who is hell-bent on printing maps of the area without any trace of Israel, calling Haifa, Lod and Acre settlements, does not leave much room for the imagination regarding his personal views. Abbas' comments will only be credible if the PA holds a discussion about Holocaust denial, and not just in France, and only if the PA integrates chapters on the Holocaust and the attempted annihilation of the Jewish people into its textbooks. Until that happens, everything Abbas' says must, at least, be subject to wide suspicion.