No holds barred: Abbas the moderate

It took all of two sentences at the UN for the world to discover just what kind of moderate Mahmoud Abbas truly is.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It took all of two sentences at the UN for the world to discover just what kind of moderate Mahmoud Abbas truly is. Just after saying, “Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,” the Palestinian Authority president followed up with this: “In this year, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Israel has chosen to make it a year of a new war of genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people.”
Now if Abbas says that Israel is guilty of genocide he must be correct, right? He is, after all, an expert on the subject of genocide, having written a doctoral dissertation denying the Holocaust.
All of which exposes the farce of those Jewish organizations and leaders who have embraced Abbas over the past few years as a moderate interested in peace.
This is the man whose Fatah faction in 2011 named a town square after Dalal al-Mughrabi, the leader of a 1978 bus hijacking that murdered 35 Israelis. Had Netanyahu’s government unveiled a statue to Baruch Goldstein, would anyone claim it was interested in peace? Last week Abbas was given a warm welcome at Cooper Union’s Great Hall, packed with nearly 1,000 people, many of them students from New York University.
A large number were Jewish students.
Only two groups protested the appearance of the man who five days later would stand before the world and use the rostrum of the UN to propagate a modern blood libel against the Jews, accusing them of mass murder. One was a contingent of Jewish students from Rambam High School in New York. The other was five of my children, led by our son Mendy who is an undergraduate at NYU.
Mendy was outraged that Abbas – who has created a unity government with Hamas, a genocidal organization whose stated intention is the annihilation of the Jewish people and Israel – was facing no protest. Abbas, who has robbed the Palestinian people of democracy by refusing to face an election for a decade, was being greeted as a hero at an American campus. The president of the PA, who advocates ethnic cleansing, declaring that in a future Palestinian state no Jews will be allowed, was being cheered at a liberal arts university.
So he organized a protest. Unfortunately, few students and Jewish organizations on campus said they would participate. So Mendy went ahead with his protest anyway by calling his siblings – and it helped that he thank God has a few – to join his protest.
And there it was. From my second eldest daughter who served in the IDF and is visiting from Israel for the Jewish festivals, down through my two daughters who attend Yeshiva University’s Stern College for women, to my teen daughter at high school, to my son who just had his bar mitzva, Mendy had his protest. He and his siblings organized brilliant, factual and colorful signs protesting Abbas’ intolerance and partnership with terror.
A protest of five people. Did it make a difference? The media, spotting the protest, came to him in waves for interviews, in which he calmly, factually and resolutely explained the reason for his protest. A group of Palestinian students walked over to my daughter who served in the IDF and confronted her about her facts. She studies political science and Middle East history at an Israeli university. The media covered that exchange as well.
So five people provided a counterpoint to Abbas’ propaganda about Israel rather than Hamas being the obstacle to peace, even as Abbas and his sons are accused by the Palestinian media itself of wide-ranging corruption and theft from the Palestinian people.
My son later pointed out to me that President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, whom I hosted on a panel with Elie Wiesel last year at the very same hall at Cooper Union, attracted much more protest than Abbas, even though NYU has the single largest Jewish student population of any private university in America.
But more important than the media covering the event, it encouraged other Jewish students to take a stand.
The university campus is a place of intimidation for many Jewish students these days. I saw it when it began at Oxford in 1988 and it has gotten so much worse since. Every public act of support for Israel helps to bolster Jewish identity and rally support for the Middle East’s only democracy, where Arabs live with more freedom and rights than in any Arab nation.
My purpose in this column is not express parental pride – although my kids have made me proud – but to convey a much more universal point.
Like many Jews, I have tried to stand up for Israel. But of late my kids have witnessed as death threats have poured in over my public defense of Israel in the recent war in Gaza.
They saw the video of a man publicly attacking me at my speech in Seoul Olympic Stadium in front of 100,000 people. They see the odious anti-Semitic hate speech I face on social media each day.
And they also saw that I did not back down. Not because I am particularly courageous – I wrestle with irrational anxiety and fears every day of my life – but because, as the Mishnah says, “In a place where there are no men, stand up and be a man, and if not now, then when?” It’s 70 years after the Holocaust. The Jewish state is in a battle for its very survival. Surrounded by enemies on every side, they seek to delegitimize and make it impossible for the Jewish state to simply defend itself.
Will we sit by and watch it slowly succumb to the forces of genocidal hate? Or will we learn from the Holocaust that we have no one to rely on us but ourselves.
And when we fight to overcome fear and risk social ostracization to stand up for Israel, our children watch, copy, and slowly stand up themselves, giving us more pride as parents than we can ever imagine.
It’s the Jewish new year. We need many qualities to see us through the coming times with so many threats surrounding us. We need hope, we need fortitude, we need vision, and we need charity.
But above all else, we need courage.
In the coming year may we must all learn to stand up straight. Our children are watching.
The author, “America’s rabbi,” is founder of This World: The Values Network, the foremost organization influencing politics, media and culture with Jewish values. The international best-selling author of 30 books, he has just published Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.