It could have been a poignant, healing gesture. It turned into a mockery. When a PLO official laid a wreath at the Warsaw monument to Jews who perished in the 1943 uprising against the Nazis, the avowed purpose was to show the world that Palestinians were sensitive to the sufferings of the Jewish nation and had no animosity for Jews as a people. But the official went on to say: ''The Jewish people were victims of Nazism and Palestinians are victims of the new Nazis - Zionists and Israel.''
A more tactless and provocative injection of political rhetoric can scarcely be imagined. No wonder the Israeli government ordered its delegates to the anniversary celebration to return home.
The PLO should know that all that it accomplishes by such theatrics is a loss of public sympathy in the West. Not for the Palestinians, certainly, but for those who profess to speak in their name - and do so injuriously.