Even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s diplomatic friends condemned him.
Friends and foes alike blasted Abbas as an “antisemite” and a “Holocaust denier,” after he charged that the Nazis killed Jews in the Holocaust because they were money lenders.
“The Holocaust did not occur in a vacuum, it was the result of thousands of years of persecution,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said on Wednesday.
“This is why attempts to rewrite, downplay or deny it are dangerous.”
Mladenov along with the European Union, Sweden, Germany and US officials from both the Trump and Obama administrations spoke out sharply against Abbas’s words spoken Monday night to the Palestinian National Council in Ramallah.
Abbas chose to “repeat some of the most contemptuous antisemitic slurs, including the suggestion that the social behavior of Jews was the cause for the Holocaust,” Mladenov said.
Israeli leaders have long charged Abbas with antisemitism, but it is unusual for the UN to do so, given its strong support for the Palestinian cause.
Mladenov also took issue with the portion of Abbas’s speech in which he charged that Ashkenazi Jews did not have roots in the Middle East, as he again attempted to disconnect Judaism from Zionism and the rights of Jews in the Land of Israel.
“Denying the historic and religious connection of the Jewish people to the land and their holy sites in Jerusalem stands in contrast to reality,” Mladenov said.
The Palestinians tried unsuccessfully to walk back the speech.
PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA: “President Abbas has stressed frequently his respect for the religion of Judaism, and that our problem is with who occupies our land.”
Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro wrote, “It’s over for Mahmoud Abbas. What a disgusting note to go out on.”
The Israeli left-wing organization Peace Now, which typically accuses Israel of thwarting the peace process, said Abbas’s speech was “vile,” “completely unacceptable, thoroughly offensive, and damaging to efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
Germany Foreign Minister Heiko Maas took to Twitter to declare that it was Germany, not the Jews, who were responsible for the Holocaust.
“We reject any relativization of the Holocaust,” Maas tweeted. “Germany bears responsibility for the most atrocious crime of human history.”
The European Union, which has long lauded Abbas as a man of peace, said his speech “contained unacceptable remarks concerning the origins of the Holocaust and Israel’s legitimacy. Such rhetoric will only play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution, which President Abbas has repeatedly advocated.
Antisemitism is not only a threat for Jews but a fundamental menace to our open and liberal societies. The European Union remains committed to combat any form of antisemitism and any attempt to condone, justify or grossly trivialize the Holocaust.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, known for her strong support of the Palestinians, tweeted a statement against Abbas that was similar to that of the EU.
Sweden is the only Western European country that recognizes the “state of Palestine.”
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Abu Mazen [Abbas] gave another antisemitic speech. With utmost ignorance and brazen gall, he claimed that European Jews were persecuted and murdered not because they were Jews, but because they gave loans with interest.
Abu Mazen again recited the most contemptible antisemitic canards. Apparently the Holocaust denier is still a Holocaust denier. I call on the international community to condemn Abu Mazen’s severe antisemitism; the time has come for it to pass from the world.”
Former US secretary of state John Kerry, who served under the Obama administration, said that Abbas comments were “wrong, ugly, and unacceptable – anywhere from anyone – but particularly from anyone who says he wants to be a peacemaker.
No excuses for antisemitism: words to be condemned, not explained away.”
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was more circumspect, writing, “Abu Mazen has reached a new low in attributing the cause of massacres of Jewish people over the years to their “social behavior relating to interest and banks. To all those who think Israel is the reason that we don’t have peace, think again.”
Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon sent a letter to the Security Council and asked it to condemn Abbas’s “hateful” speech.
President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein also blasted the PA president’s speech.
The European Jewish Congress called on European officials to cease all contact with Abbas until he apologized.
“For far too long, European leaders have given Mahmoud Abbas the benefit of the doubt over his repeated incitement against Israel, the Jewish people and his denial of the Holocaust,” said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress.
“This must come to an end and he must be treated like any racist or antisemite and contact with him must cease until he apologizes.
It is clear what the course of action European leaders would take if this was a neo-Nazi or far-right leader.
The comments and ideology are seemingly identical so the treatment should be the same.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO, said, “With public speeches like these, it is not surprising that under Abbas’s leadership, the Palestinian Authority has failed to renounce and combat Palestinian antisemitic incitement.”
The Anti-Defamation League also slammed Abbas’s comments, saying, “laden with ahistorical and pseudo- academic assertions, the Palestinian president’s latest diatribe reflects once again the depth and persistency of the antisemitic attitudes he harbors.”
The World Jewish Congress denounced Abbas for his “so-called history lesson,” calling his speech a “repugnant litany of propaganda and conspiracies dripping of sheer antisemitic incitement and vile.”
“The World Jewish Congress unequivocally condemns Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s despicable and outrageous exploitation of the oldest antisemitic tropes in the book, going so low as to accuse Jews of bringing genocide upon themselves, in some twisted attempt to disprove the Jewish historical connection to the Land of Israel.”
Abbas said in his speech that Jews living in Europe had suffered massacres “every 10 to 15 years in some countries since the 11th century and until the Holocaust.”
Citing books written by various authors, Abbas argued: “They say hatred against Jews was not because of their religion, it was because of their social profession.
So the Jewish issue that had spread against the Jews across Europe was not because of their religion, it was because of usury and banks.”
Abbas’s views on the Holocaust have long been suspect.
In 1982, Abbas obtained a doctorate in history at the Moscow’s Institute of Oriental Studies in the then-Soviet Union. His dissertation, titled “The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement,” drew widespread criticism from Jewish groups, who accused him of Holocaust denial. It was published as a book in 1984. In the book, Abbas dismissed as a “myth” and “fantastic lie” that six million Jews had died in the Holocaust, writing that the at most “890,000” were killed.
Daniel Roth in New York and Reuters contributed to this report.
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