With his adviser's visit to Auschwitz, Mr. Abbas has come full circle on the issue. In 1984, he published a book based on his doctoral thesis alleging that the Holocaust was exaggerated and that Zionists created ''the myth'' that 6 million Jews were murdered. But when he became Palestinian Authority prime minister in 2003, Abbas wrote that the Holocaust was an unforgivable crime against the Jewish nation and humanity. He said that he wrote the book when the Palestinians were at war with Israel and would not have made such remarks today.
''There is a competition over victimhood and suffering,'' says Hanan Ashrawi, the Ramallah-based spokeswoman for the Palestinian Liberation Organization. ''Many people feel 'Why should we recognize their suffering if they are still inflicting pain on us? We are not responsible for what happened to them. We are the victims and yet we are being blamed.' The feeling is 'Let them stop victimizing us now because their suffering in Europe is not something we're responsible for – but what's happening to us, the Israeli occupation is responsible for.'''
But Ms. Ashrawi herself says she supports Bandak's act, calling it a "human" gesture.
"You can never discount suffering and empathy with the suffering of the other, regardless of whether he is Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or atheist. The Holocaust is a horrible chapter in human history. It should never be repeated, and should never happen to anybody, and an expression of empathy and recognition of the horror is only human,'' she says.
Qais Abdul-Karim, a Palestinian legislator from the left-wing Badil party, termed the wreath laying ''a normal thing to do."
"I do not believe it will divert attention from the rights and agony of the Palestinian people. We do not deny the Holocaust or agree to any position that will try to minimize or justify the cruelty and barbarism embodied in the Holocaust," he says.
Bandak himself was traveling abroad and unavailable for comment.