Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs Gaza, has officially condemned a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp by a member of the Palestinian Authority.
Ziad Al-Bandak, who laid a bouquet of flowers to commemorate those who died in the Nazi concentration camp in a trip late last month, is an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who runs the West Bank.
“It was an unjustified and unhelpful visit that served only the Zionist occupation," said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman.
Barhoum also repeated Hamas’ belief that the Holocaust was a fabrication, by claiming that the visit by Bandak was “a marketing of a false Zionist alleged tragedy."
Barhoum also alleged that the journey to Auschwitz overshadowed the “true Palestinian tragedy".
An editorial in Filastin, a Hamas-controlled newspaper, also blasted Bandak’s appearance at Auschwitz.
"What is the wisdom in such a simple step that supports the Jews and their crimes?... Neither the Jews nor we believe that Hitler killed six million Jews," it stated.
In 2009, Hamas rejected attempts by the United Nations to provide lessons on the Holocaust at UN-run schools in Gaza.
Hamas not only denies the Holocaust, but also rejects the existence of the state of Israel and has criticized peace accords between Israel and Abbas’ more moderate Fatah organization that governs the West Bank.
Hamas’ ally, Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly characterized the holocaust as a “myth.”
Of the 6 million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis, about one million are believed to have perished at Auschwitz, which is now located in Poland. Another 500,000 people, comprising Poles, Russians, Gypsies and others, also were killed at the death camp.
Holocaust denial is widespread in the Muslim world, where many view it as part of a conspiracy that justified the creation of the state of Israel.
Ed Husain, a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council of Foreign Relations, wrote recently on the ‘Arab Street’ blog: “Last week I visited the West Bank and Israel, where I met people from varied walks of life. In conversations with young Arabs, I was saddened to hear that Holocaust denial continues to be part of the normative mindset among so many in such an important part of the world. Their grievances with the modern State of Israel are real, but this does not give them the mandate to rewrite history. “
Husain added: “These are not fringe conspiracy theories. I’ve heard similar rejections of the Holocaust from political leaders in the Middle East, academics, youth leaders, and imams. The virus is so widespread that it impacts Muslims living in Europe. For several years, the Muslim Council of Britain refused to attend Holocaust Memorial Day.”
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.