Adviser: Abbas 'doesn't personally' believe remarks about European Jews

In a long speech on Monday in front of a top PLO body in Ramallah, Abbas said Jews were not killed in Europe over the years because of their religion, but rather their social role.

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May 2, 2018 19:17
2 minute read.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's antisemitic speech from April 30, 2018. (Reuters)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's antisemitic speech from April 30, 2018. (Reuters)

 
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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not personally maintain that Jews were massacred in Europe for centuries because of their “social role related to usury and banks,” a senior Palestinian official said on Wednesday.

In a long speech on Monday in front of a top Palestine Liberation Organization body in Ramallah, Abbas said Jews were not killed in Europe over the years because of their religion, but rather “their social role related to usury and banks.” The PA president said he was referencing the writings of Karl Marx and two other Jewish authors.

“President Abbas does not personally hold that Jews were killed because of their social role related to banks. He was merely stating the opinion of Marx and other Jewish writers,” Mahmoud al-Habash, the PA president’s religious affairs adviser, told The Jerusalem Post.

When asked why Abbas made the statement, if he does not personally believe it, Habash said: “There are two narratives: One narrative is that Jews were killed because of their social role and another is they were killed because of their religion. We are not adopting either of these narratives, but rather leaving it to historians to determine the truth.”

When asked why Abbas only cited one of the “two narratives” for why Jews were killed in Europe, Habash repeated: “Abu Mazen is not stating his personal perspective, but rather a historical narrative that he has not adopted.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the European Union, several Israeli politicians and non-governmental organizations sharply criticized Abbas for his comments.

“The speech Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered on 30 April contained unacceptable remarks concerning the origins of the Holocaust,” The EU’s foreign service said on Wednesday. “Such rhetoric will only play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution, which President Abbas has repeatedly advocated.”


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Abbas of delivering an antisemitic speech.

“Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, gave another anti-Semitic speech…The Palestinian president again recited the most contemptible anti-Semitic canards,” Netanyahu tweeted on Wednesday.

JStreet, a lobby group in Washington, D.C., condemned Abbas’s remarks on Tuesday, saying they featured antisemitic tropes, and the Anti-Defamation League lambasted his comments, calling them “antisemitic assertions.”

Habash argued that Abbas does not condone the massacres of Jews in Europe.

“We consider all the massacres that the Jews were subjected to in the west as massacres against humanity and absolutely unacceptable. We do not accept any aggression against anyone because of their religion or their social role. We do not justify any such acts,” he said.

Abbas’s comments on Monday marked the second time in several months that he spoke about his perspective of Jewish history before a PLO audience. In January, Abbas delivered a speech to the PLO Central Council, in which touched on his take of Jewish history and called Israel "a colonial project with no relationship to Judaism." Following the speech in January, Israeli officials accused Abbas of antisemitism.

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