The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

World News

April 27, 2014

Abbas calls Holocaust 'most heinous crime'

(Continued)

RAMALLAH, West Bank —

"The Palestinian people, who suffer from injustice, oppression and (are) denied freedom and peace, are the first to demand to lift the injustice and racism that befell other peoples subjected to such crimes," he said.

Abbas' statement came as the latest U.S. attempt to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal was on the verge of collapse. At the start of negotiations in late July, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had set an end-of-April target date for a peace deal. He later lowered expectations, calling for the outlines of an agreement and, in a last attempt, for a deal on extending the talks.

However, none of Kerry's objectives appear within reach, since no progress has been made. Instead, the two sides have been bogged down in mutual accusations.

Last week, Israel suspended negotiations in response to a reconciliation deal between Abbas and his political rival, the Islamic militant Hamas. At the time, Israeli leaders alleged Abbas preferred peace with the militants, who have called for Israel's destruction, to peace with Israel.

Hamas has traditionally refrained from acknowledging the Holocaust and in 2009 protested against the subject being taught in United Nations-run schools in Gaza. Hamas and Israel are bitter enemies. Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in militant attacks and Israel routinely targets it in airstrikes and military operations.

Abbas himself has been accused of minimizing the scope of the Holocaust in a doctoral dissertation in the 1970s, though in recent years he's edged toward acknowledging Jewish suffering. In 2003, he said that "we do not ignore the sufferings of the Jews throughout history," but that "in exchange, we hope that the Israelis will not turn their backs on the sufferings of the Palestinians."

Speaking Sunday before a Cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to play down the importance of Abbas' latest comments.

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