Ziad al-Bandak, advisor to Mahmoud Abbas, recently visited Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp. He was strongly denounced by Hamas, which has issued statements denying the Holocaust.

Ziad al-Bandak, advisor to Mahmoud Abbas, at Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp (Picture from Hamas' PALDF forum website, July 28, 2012).
Ziad al-Bandak, advisor to Mahmoud Abbas, at Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp (Picture from Hamas' PALDF forum website, July 28, 2012).


1. While in Poland, Ziad al-Bandak, political advisor to Mahmoud Abbas with the rank of minister,[1] paid a visit to the Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau on July 27, 2012. He viewed the prisoner barracks and gas chambers, and lit a candle and laid flowers at the memorial site. He was the guest of a private Polish organization whose objective is to promote tolerance (Al-Ayam, July 28, 2012). The visit received scant coverage in the Palestinian media. It is an extremely rare occurrence for a Palestinian public figure to visit a concentration camp. The last time a representative of the Palestinian Authority in Poland visited Auschwitz was in 2007, when he made a joint visit to the camp with the Israeli ambassador.

2. Ziad al-Bandak's visit was strongly denounced by Hamas. Sources within the organization severely criticized the Palestinian Authority for the gesture and represented it as an attempt to appease the international community and as a gesture to the so-called Israeli "occupation." The visit was exploited by Hamas once again to state that the Holocaust was "an Israeli invention," a ploy to receive international recognition (Hamas' Felesteen, July 29, 2012). The Hamas-affiliated Felesteen website posted an article by a journalist based in Qalqilya and affiliated with Hamas in Judea and Samaria, which represented the visit as "a stab in the back" of the Palestinian people.

3. In our assessment, al-Bandak's visit and that of the PA representative to Poland indicate that the PA under Mahmoud Abbas, as opposed Yasser Arafat, is an example of limiting the use of anti-Semitism as a political weapon. However, anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist incitement, which centers on delegitimizing the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, continues unabated and accompanies the PA's political campaign against Israel. Hamas, for its part, is unwavering in its anti-Semitic propaganda, anchored in its 1988 charter, which includes libelous myths from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Hamas propaganda includes Holocaust denial and minimization, which was the basis for its strident criticism of al-Bandak's visit to Auschwitz.[2]

Ziad al-Bandak visits Auschwitz (Picture from the PALDF forum website, July 28, 2012).
Ziad al-Bandak visits Auschwitz (Picture from the PALDF forum website, July 28, 2012).


Hamas Denounces Visit

4. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the visit did not in any way benefit the Palestinian cause, and only "the Israeli occupation, which spreads lies about the Holocaust" benefitted. He added that it had been proven that the Israeli version was a lie and that Israel "exaggerated" what happened during the Holocaust for the sake of international sympathy, which over the years became sympathy at the expense of the Palestinians (Hamas' Felesteen, July 29, 2012).

5. As to the Palestinian Authority, he said that its attempt to use the visit to appease the international community would not succeed because over the past decades the international community had manifested a consistent lack of fairness with regard to the Palestinian cause. He added that the PA's state of bankruptcy was what had forced it to take the step [of sending a representative to Auschwitz], and warned that such acts were liable to cause a genuine crisis because the PA offended the sensibilities of the Palestinian people (Hamas' Felesteen, July 29, 2012).

6. Fayez Abu Shamala, former Khan Yunis mayor, wrote a column condemning the visit, entitled "Ziad al-Bandak's tears on Jewish graves." In it he criticized the visit, saying that by sending his political advisor to Auschwitz, it was as though Mahmoud Abbas had himself visited the concentration camp. He was quick to note that al-Bandak had not yet paid a visit to his Palestinian brothers imprisoned in Israeli jails. He also called for him to be brought up on charges of "treason" (Al-Waqa website, July 28, 2012).

Holocaust Denial Article

7. Ziyad al-Bandak's visit to Auschwitz triggered a vituperous Holocaust-denial article, which was posted on Hamas' Felesteen website. Written by a journalist named Issam Shaur[3] and headlined "Ziyad al-Bandak stabs the Palestinian cause and people in the back," it asks what kind of twisted logic prompted such a visit, which supports the Jews and their crimes. He asked, "Who believes that Hitler murdered six million Jews? We don't believe it and the Jews don't believe it. The world lives with hypocrisy and the fraud called the Holocaust, and it is worse when a senior Palestinian figure cries over the remains of the Holocaust lie. By doing so, the PA nullifies all the crimes and injustices carried out against our Palestinian people by Israel the occupier, because when Ziyad al-Bandak cries, in private or in public, his tears emphasize the fact that the Jews are the victims" (Felesteen, July 29, 2012).

[1] Ziad al-Bandak, is a Christian engineer from Bethlehem. In July 2009 Mahmoud Abbas appointed him to the post of presidential advisor with the rank of minister of local and international relations with Christians (Wafa News Agency, July 19, 2012).

[2] For further information about Hamas anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, see the March 8, 2011 bulletin "The battle for the character of education in the Gaza Strip.

[3] Issam Shaur is a Qalqilya-based journalist known for his Hamas affiliation and his regular columns in the Hamas paper Felesteen. He was detained a number of times by the Palestinian Authority security services, primarily because his articles are particularly critical of the PA's policies.