Saturday, April 13, 2024

PhD in Holocaust denial: Abbas' doctoral dissertation revealed in full - Ariel Bulshtein


​ by Ariel Bulshtein

For years, there have been rumors circulating about the research work authored by Abu Mazen in Moscow and his recruitment by the KGB • Now, the entirety of his work, with its outright antisemitic lies, has been exposed.


PhD in Holocaust denial: Abbas' doctoral dissertation revealed in full

Mahmoud Abbas' PhD dissertation | Photo: Courtesy of MEMRI

If Abu Mazen, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority since 2005 – or the President of Palestine, as his friends in various capitals call him – only knew about the bombshell buried in an abstract  Jerusalem office, just a few kilometers from his Muqata compound in Ramallah.  

We shouldn't have any illusions about Abu Mazen. His proven track record includes many years of terrorist activity, direct incitement to murder Jews, and generous funding of murderous terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons, as well as their families. But the world doesn't really take issue with all that. If even the crimes of an arch-terrorist like Yasser Arafat were forgotten and swapped for an especially embarrassing Nobel Peace Prize – what's to be surprised about whitewashing his deputy, who was always the second fiddle?

"Due to his gray personality and lack of popularity, Mahmoud Abbas – Abu Mazen, by his familiar moniker in the Middle East – did indeed lag behind, but with one exception, in which he deserves the title of champion," Yigal Carmon, the founder, and president of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), who previously served as a counter-terrorism advisor to Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin, says as he lays a plainly bound book on the table before me. "Champions usually take pride in the records they set. Not so Abu Mazen – he actually did everything to conceal his record. Let's help him and present this record in full for the first time, albeit belatedly, after 40 years."

Carmon is right: People tend to publicize their deeds, all the more so when it comes to writing an academic paper to obtain an advanced degree. Abu Mazen's name does appear in Russian on the cover of his doctoral dissertation lying before me, but just above it is written "For Organizational Use Only" – a Soviet code for classified material forbidden from being taken out of a narrow circle of confidants. The Soviet patrons knew full well why they were consigning the "scientific achievement" of the freshly minted Dr. Abu Mazen to eternal safekeeping in a closed, KGB-monitored library. The author himself probably knew too...

The agent

"The close connection between the communist USSR and the Palestinian terror movements began immediately after the Six-Day War, starting with Arafat's secret visit to Moscow in July 1968. It was already clear that within a few months, he would become the head of the PLO, and that the PLO would become an umbrella organization for all the terrorist groups," recounts Professor Michael Laskier , a Middle East expert on the Arab world and its relations with the superpowers.

"The Soviet leadership was persuaded by the efforts of Egypt's ruler Nasser to begin providing aid to the PLO and its member organizations, mainly Fatah. At first, it was light weapons, and later the aid grew to heavier weapons and issues beyond weaponry. Previously, the PLO had mainly enjoyed the support of China, but under Arafat's leadership it became the primary client of the USSR."

He notes that the Palestinian organizations did not appear revolutionary enough in the eyes of the Soviets. Arafat and his bloodshed comrades lacked a communist ideology. 

Nevertheless, Leonid  Brezhnev and the other Soviet leaders concluded that they could be turned into tools to promote Soviet influence in the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East. It was part of the superpower competition against the US. Unsurprisingly, the mission to aid the terrorists was assigned to the KGB, the all-powerful Soviet secret service.

"In addition to weapons, the Soviets provided money to the PLO, specifically to groups like Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They took care to train them, either themselves or through client states in the socialist bloc," adds Professor Laskier.

"They hosted the operatives of the terrorist organizations in Moscow, so they could study there in institutions of higher education. The Patrice Lumumba University of Peoples' Friendship, the KGB's university, was the most prominent among them. They taught them propaganda there, and other things deemed useful in the struggle. One of the drives guiding the USSR, as KGB chief Andropov wrote to Brezhnev in a top-secret report, was to control and influence the activity of the terrorist groups and channel it according to its needs, sometimes restraining and sometimes intensifying, in order to promote its interests in utmost secrecy."

The "Mitrokhin Archive" is the name given to a collection of documents from a Soviet defector that was published in Britain a decade ago. It was described as "the most important single intelligence source ever obtained." There, amid the pages, it was revealed that Abu Mazen was recruited during his stay in Moscow in the early 1980s to be a KGB agent. From then on, he appeared in the organization's files as "Agent Krotov."

Abu Mazen's name did indeed appear at that time on the list of graduate students at Lumumba University. The result of his studies was a doctoral dissertation titled "The Connection between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement 1933–1945" prepared by the student Abu Mazen at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

At the head of the Institute in those years stood Yevgeny Primakov, an Orientalist by day and a KGB man for special missions by night. Primakov personally appointed his right-hand man, Vladimir Kiselev, as Abu Mazen's academic advisor. Apparently, he was also the one who decided to lock Abu Mazen's "glorious" dissertation behind censorship bars immediately after its submission, so that outside eyes would not discover the views of one who was shaping up to be a Soviet protégé.

Despite the advent of the Soviet "glasnost" (openness) period in the late 1980s and its collapse in the early 1990s, access to Abu Mazen's dissertation was not allowed even then. It is not impossible that this is related to Primakov's appointment as deputy head of the KGB and chief of the post-Soviet Russian foreign intelligence service that arose from the KGB's ashes.

As Abu Mazen subsequently rose in the hierarchy of the Muqata'a in Ramallah, oversight of the explosive dissertation only intensified. Unlike the author himself, the Russians understood that the blood libels stuffed between its pages held the potential for great embarrassment at best, and indictment for Holocaust denial in several European countries at worst. Carmon's undisclosed efforts led to the dissertation's rescue from the secret Moscow basement, and now – to its first full exposure in Israel.

A deal with the devil

Anyone who sits down to read Abu Mazen's full doctoral dissertation would do well to take a hefty dose of anti-nausea medication beforehand. It won't take long - 119 pages of large-font text, including 14 pages of introduction, indicate that the PLO doctoral student was not too industrious, but you'll find there all the antisemitic tropes of Holocaust denial that were invented before him, and some that the future Palestinian Authority chairman can patent himself. A champion, as we said?

"The conclusion that the author leads to is that the Holocaust of the Jews was a joint project of the Nazis and the Zionist movement he so despises," summarizes Carmon. It is worth noting that Kiselev testified in his memoirs that he was in shock after first hearing from his student the subject of the dissertation. "It seemed to me completely unreasonable that there could have been ties, and even, as it later turned out, cooperation, between opposites such as Nazism and the Zionist movement, whose goal was to build a homeland for Jews in the form of a Jewish national home, and later a Jewish state," he wrote years after that meeting.

But Kiselev apparently did not appreciate the full scope of the propaganda skills that Abu Mazen acquired in the lecture halls of Lumumba University, or perhaps he was just naive. The Soviet propaganda arsenal contained diverse tools, and Abu Mazen dove into it with gleeful delight. 

Manipulation was his primary tool," observes Carmon. "A significant part of the dissertation deals with the 'Transfer Agreement' – an agreement signed in the summer of 1933 between the Nazi authorities and the Jewish Agency to allow Jews in Germany to sell their real estate, goods, and other property under Nazi rule before being expropriated by the Nazi authorities, and transfer the proceeds to Palestine in goods purchased in Germany.

"The agreement sparked intense controversy at the time it was made and raised difficult moral questions. Circles within the Zionist movement and outside it opposed it, but it takes great manipulation and audacity to present it as cooperation between the Nazis and the Zionists. This is cooperation between a rapist and the raped, or between a hangman and his victim, who seeks to postpone the end. Even after the persecution against them began in 1933, German Jews had difficulty realizing that the future held annihilation in store for them, and hesitated to emigrate from Germany because Nazi laws prevented them from taking property. The 'Transfer Agreement,' with all the moral dilemmas of a deal with the devil, allowed them to leave. Without this agreement – how many thousands of German Jews would have remained there until the gates closed on them?"

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas holds up a Vision for Peace map while speaking at the United Nations Security Council on February 11, 2020, in New York City (Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

A few pages after the distortion of the "Transfer Agreement," Abu Mazen employs the opposite manipulation: This time he claims that in late 1942, the possibility arose to rescue 70,000 Transylvanian Jews by shipping them on ships under Vatican flags. According to Abu Mazen, all that was required was a payment of $50 per person, totaling $3.5 million, but the American Zionists denied the existence of the offer and prevented the funds from being raised to redeem their brethren.

Here too, Abu Mazen's factual claims are pulled out of thin air, but that is not the main point. What matters is that through them one can see his way of thinking and his view of the Jewish people: If the Zionists pay money to their persecutors to redeem their brethren – in his view this is cooperation with the murderers. If they do not pay the money – according to Abu Mazen, this is again cooperation with the murderers. That's how it is when you have predetermined to vilify Zionism – the facts will not stop him.

Abu Mazen sprinkles vague hints and statements throughout the text, implying that the Zionists could have saved the Holocaust victims had they wanted to – he just does not specify how. Instead, he fabricates an outrageous false claim, writing the following: "Zionist emissaries were given free access to the concentration camps in order to find suitable people, and abandon other unsuitable people who were not supposed to leave the concentration camps alive." The naive reader is left with the impression that the Zionists conducted the selections in the Nazi camps and decided who would live and who would die, and that the Nazis themselves assisted them in organizing the emigration of young Jews suitable for settling in Palestine. Of course, nothing of the sort ever happened.

In order to reinforce for the reader the sense that the Zionists had an interest in increasing the suffering of their brethren –he invents another story, claiming that in 1943 "the opportunity arose to send food, medicine and clothing parcels to the Jewish ghettos in Europe." The rest of the story is not hard to guess. Abu Mazen claims that the Zionists derailed the initiative, even though the International Red Cross was willing to undertake it.

This outrageous accusation, of course, does not accord with historical research. The only place the Nazis allowed parcels to be sent was the Theresienstadt ghetto, the showcase of Nazi propaganda, which was intended to mislead world public opinion – and indeed the delegations of the International Red Cross fell into the trap when they visited it. They were impressed by the Nazis' smokescreen of lies, and returned after being convinced that the Germans were not harming Jews – and certainly not exterminating them.

The Soviet Submarine

This is not the only example of Abu Mazen's lies in his attempt to "prove" the conspiracy that the Zionist movement – with its various factions – hatched, according to him, against the Jewish people. Other lies amount to actual blood libels. Abu Mazen tried to develop a thesis that the Zionists deliberately murdered Jews who tried to flee the Nazis as part of the illegal immigration to the Land of Israel, which the Zionists themselves organized. To reach the desired conclusion, Abu Mazen chooses two incidents in which the sailing of refugee ships ended in tragedy: the Patria disaster in Haifa and the Struma tragedy in the Black Sea.

This is not the only example of Abu Mazen's lies in his attempt to "prove" the conspiracy that the Zionist movement - with its various factions - plotted, according to him, against the Jewish people. Other lies amount to actual blood libels. Abu Mazen tried to develop a thesis that the Zionists deliberately murdered Jews who tried to flee the Nazis as part of the illegal immigration to the Land of Israel, which the Zionists themselves organized. In order to reach the desired conclusion, Abu Mazen chooses two incidents in which the sailing of refugee ships ended in tragedy: the Patria affair and the Struma affair.

The Patria affair occurred in November 1940. The British authorities loaded Jewish refugees who arrived in the country without permits onto the ship in Haifa, intending to deport them to Mauritius. To prevent the deportation, it was decided in the Haganah organization to plant a bomb on the ship to disable it. Unfortunately, the timing and force of the explosion were not calculated correctly. The explosion tore a hole in the ship's hull, and it tilted to the side and sank quickly. Most of the people on deck were rescued, but many others – between 260 and 300 people – perished in the disaster.

MEMRI President Yigal Carmon (Photo credit: Efrat Eshel)

The Struma disaster overshadowed the Patria tragedy in its scope. The Struma set sail for Palestine from Constanta, Romania on the Black Sea in December 1941, with nearly 800 Jewish refugees on board. Due to engine failures, the ship was stopped and towed from place to place by the Turkish authorities, until on February 24, 1942, a Soviet submarine fired a torpedo at it and sank it with all its passengers, who all perished except for one survivor.

These are the facts about the two horrific tragedies. However, for Abu Mazen, they become a conspiracy. In the paper he wrote, he is convinced and tries to convince his readers that the Zionists deliberately sank both ships. It is clear that in the Soviet Union of the 1980s, it was forbidden to mention the Soviet responsibility for sinking the Struma, even though all the information about its fate was in the hands of the Soviet authorities shortly after the event. Yet there was the false blaming of the victims – the Zionists who led the Struma's rescue journey from occupied Europe – while whitewashing the true perpetrators requires outright diabolical cynicism.  

Cynicism alone is not enough, as even Abu Mazen could not ignore a logical flaw – why would the Zionists want to sink the ships after they had made efforts and taken risks to launch them on their way and bring them to the Land of Israel? To overcome this, Abu Mazen invents an "explanation" that in other circumstances would be laughable. According to him, on the Patria and the Struma, there were "improper Jews" who were not chosen by the Zionists and did not fit their plans for the settlement of the Land.

Abu Mazen was familiar with the pseudo-scientific rules that prevailed in the Soviet Union, and which were enforced even more strictly on doctoral students who came to Moscow from the Third World. As expected, his dissertation includes selected quotes from Karl Marx and Lenin (without which no academic work could exist in the Soviet reality), but not only theirs.  

The doctoral fellow in Holocaust denial understood quite well which side his bread was buttered on. Primakov and his organization provide you with patronage, supply weapons, and money, and arrange a doctorate for you? You must return the favor to Primakov. And so, we find Abu Mazen citing the following false quote from Primakov, whom he calls a "Soviet researcher": "During World War II, the Zionists did not take an active part in the struggle against fascism. History has no facts about the mass recruitment of Zionists to fight German fascism."

What about the many uprisings in the large and small ghettos, most of which were led by Zionist youth? What about the mass enlistment of members of the Jewish community in the Land of Israel in the British army, precisely at a time when many in the Arab population of the country, and certainly its leaders such as the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, sided with the Nazis?

"The myth of Jewish passivity and cowardice in the face of destruction was cultivated in the Soviet Union, which sought to instill in its citizens the idea that the Jews could only be saved thanks to the Soviet proletariat that came to their aid," Carmon explains. But Abu Mazen not only turns a blind eye to the Jewish resistance, which was based on Zionist movements of all streams. In the end, he fabricates another conclusion and claims: "The leaders of the Zionist centers aspired to conceal the facts of Jewish resistance from public opinion," and in the same breath writes that the Zionists did so in order to participate in post-war peace negotiations. Their goal, he claims, was to demand their share of the spoils of the Allies' victory. Did you miss the all-too-familiar antisemitic motif that Jews will do anything for money? You got it from Abu Mazen.

Distorting Hilberg

"Although the dissertation ostensibly deals with the Holocaust of the Jews, from Abu Mazen's point of view it was impossible not to include another motif from Soviet propaganda – the claim that denies the uniqueness of the Holocaust and seeks to explain that the Nazis treated everyone the same way," Carmon adds. "Perhaps Abu Mazen drew on this from other Soviet propagandists, but here he writes in his dissertation, in black and white, 'The entire population of areas occupied by the Nazis (Jews and non-Jews) was under the influence of the same cruel Nazi military machine'."

Carmon draws my attention to the fact that denying the Holocaust never prevented Abu Mazen from claiming that Israel is committing a holocaust against the Arabs of the country. Just this past summer of 2022, Abu Mazen said that Israel carried out "50 massacres in 50 Palestinian villages, 50 holocausts." A similar statement appears in the dissertation, further seasoned with a hint of an international conspiracy in the style of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. "The policy of genocide against the Arab people of Palestine, conducted by the Zionist Israeli government, with the support of the United States and international Zionist centers, in fact, reenacts the Nazis' crimes against Jews during World War II, and is aimed at establishing its own empire in the Middle East – Greater Israel," he wrote then.

Is Abu Mazen's doctoral dissertation simply a collection of false clichés from the Soviet propaganda mill, and nothing more? The document suggests that he went much further, or rather – sank much deeper. True, most of the components in the work are a rehashing of familiar Soviet lies, but Abu Mazen could not restrain himself and wove into them lies of his own. One of them deals with a favorite topic of Holocaust deniers – the number of Jews annihilated by the Nazis and their accomplices. Soviet propaganda at least did not try to claim that the Jews inflated the number of victims. Abu Mazen, on the other hand, does hint at this, and in an especially devious and wicked way.

"There are no accurate statistical data or well-researched scientific findings regarding the number of these victims," Abu Mazen opens dryly as if regretting that the Nazis did not record all the Jews before shooting or burning them alive for his statistical conclusions. He immediately moves on to an outrageous sentence: "According to data of the English researcher R. Hilberg, who specialized in the study of the Holocaust issue, the number of victims of Hitler's genocide among Jews during World War II was 896 thousand people."

A footnote he added at the bottom of the page purports to cite where Raul Hilberg wrote this: on page 670 of his book "The Destruction of the European Jews" – a seminal work in Holocaust research. I did not hesitate and opened the book to the said page. There was no such number there. Not there, and not in any other source in the book.  

Abu Mazen clearly wanted to convey to his readers the message that the number 6 million is inflated, and in order to lend this false message credibility – he fraudulently attributed it to an authoritative source. And not just any authority: Raul Hilberg, a Holocaust survivor born in Vienna, was one of the greatest historians of the Holocaust. 26 members of his immediate family were murdered by the Nazis. Hilberg himself admitted that this enormous number was one of the motivations for him to study the Holocaust in particular and not another historical topic.

Hilberg's motivation was also influenced by what happened in 1947, when he was a student at Brooklyn College, and he happened to attend a lecture by historian Hans Rosenberg. "The most horrific crimes against a civilian population in modern times were committed during the Napoleonic conquest of Spain," the lecturer claimed at one point, and the young Hilberg, who had already been exposed to the atrocities of the Nazis during his service in the American army at the end of the war, could not remain silent. 

"How can you skip over the murder of 6 million Jews?" he shouted at Rosenberg. Hilberg passed away in 2007 after an illustrious academic career, unaware that Abu Mazen had tried to base his vile lie on him –  precisely him, the man who understood the magnitude of the catastrophe that befell the Jewish people soon after it occurred.

Nevertheless, the similarity between Abu Mazen's exposed doctoral dissertation and some propaganda "works" from the Soviet era raises the hypothesis that Abu Mazen simply lifted portions of the dissertation from his fellow propagandists, with or without their knowledge. Entire passages in the dissertation are identical, word for word, to passages in various articles by his advisor, Kisilev.

"Perhaps in addition to a PhD in Holocaust denial, Abu Mazen also deserves a degree in plagiarism," Karmon quips. "This aspect should have been examined by the committee for advanced degrees in the Soviet Union, but its members undoubtedly received instructions from the higher-ups to award Abu Mazen the degree without unnecessary questions, and to allow him to return to his daily occupation of terrorism as quickly as possible."

"In any case, the hypothesis that the work was partially copied does not absolve Abu Mazen of responsibility for the disgraceful things that appear in it, which should have landed him in the dock on charges of Holocaust denial. Abu Mazen's statements over the years since writing his doctoral dissertation, and especially in recent years, prove beyond any doubt that these are his true and consistent views and that he still stands by them today."

Ariel Bulshtein


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