JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the Holocaust “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era.”
The statement, made in advance of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah, was published Sunday by Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency.
It also featured a call on the Israeli government “to conclude a just and comprehensive peace in the region” that was rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The statement follows a meeting last week in Ramallah between Abbas and U.S. Rabbi Marc Schneier, the founder and president of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding,
Abbas also expressed his “sympathy” to the families of the victims of the Holocaust. It reportedly was the first time that a Palestinian leader had offered such condolences, according to The New York Times.
He called on the world to “fight racism and injustice,” and on Israel to reach a “comprehensive peace” in the region.
“The Palestinian people, who suffer from injustice, oppression and 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, according to Wafa.
“On the incredibly sad commemoration of Holocaust Day, we call on the Israeli government to seize the current opportunity to conclude a just and comprehensive peace in the region based on the two states vision, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.”
In rejecting the statement, which was published in English and Arabic, Netanyahu said on Sunday before the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, “Instead of issuing statements designed to placate global public opinion, Abu Mazen [Abbas] needs to choose between the alliance with Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel and denies the Holocaust, and a true peace with Israel. We hope that he will disavow this alliance with Hamas and return to the path of true peace.”
Abbas’ Fatah party, which rules the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, reached a unity accord last week. Israel and the United States consider Hamas a terrorist organization.
Holocaust Remembrance Day begins in Israel on Sunday night.