Change happens subtly and sporadically. For those who seek peace, progress too often seems elusive, equivocal, ambiguous and vague. All the more reason to shine a bright light on seemingly innocuous developments reported in the middle sections of newspapers. They may very well signal a significant shift in the tectonic plates of our search for an enduring peace.
Yes, there is all the predictable political posturing, official denials and feigned outrage on the surface. But, something significant happened this week and our long-suffering world may have reason for genuine hope.
In conjunction with Yom HoShoah, the Day of Remembrance, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority issued a formal statement calling the Holocaust “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era” and expressing sympathy with victims’ families.
This is profoundly significant for a number of reasons. Mr. Abbas had been vilified as a Holocaust denier because in his doctoral dissertation, published as a book in 1983, he challenged the number of Jewish victims and argued that Zionists had collaborated with Nazis to propel more people to what would become Israel.
Mr. Abbas had already backtracked from the book, saying in a 2011 interview that he did “not deny the Holocaust” and that he had “heard from the Israelis that there were six million” victims, adding, “I can accept that.” Get this… these words came from someone a senior Israeli minister has denounced as “the most anti-Semitic leader in the world.”
But the statement published on Sunday by the official Palestinian news agency, goes further than Mr. Abbas’ previous retractions, describing the Holocaust as “a reflection of the concept of ethnic discrimination and racism, which the Palestinians strongly reject and act against.” This all has to be profoundly significant and reason for hope.
The center for Holocaust research in Jerusalem, recognized that Mr. Abbas’s statement “might signal a change” from a situation in which “Holocaust denial and revisionism are sadly prevalent in the Arab world.” They appropriately asked that the new approach to be reflected in Palestinian websites, school curriculums and public discourse.
Of course, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel had to respond with bravado, bluster and political posturing. He publicly dismissed Mr. Abbas’s overture, telling his cabinet that “Hamas denies the Holocaust even as it attempts to create an additional Holocaust by destroying the State of Israel.” But, clearly, Mr. Netanyahu and the Israeli cabinet have recognized the import of Mr. Abbas’s statement in giving such a full-throttle response!
Our political processes are excruciatingly slow and seemingly inept in fostering peace. But there is more at work here! Governments and politicians need not paralyze people of good will. There remains the stubborn, irreconcilable animosity between Palestinians and Israeli officials. Yet, each and all of us have the capacity to foster inter-faith dialogue and understanding.
Perhaps, our greatest God-given hope for peace – in Jerusalem, which means “City of Peace” – resides in Christians, Muslims and Jews around the world learning to value, respect and love one another. If we lead, our leaders will follow!
That would be a profound shift in tectonic plates – one for which we must all pray… and work!
I am dependent on a fine article by Jodi Rudoren in the New York Times for my information: [link]