Abbas apologizes to those offended by speech, UN does not condemn him

Abbas had said that Jews were not massacred in Europe because of their religion but rather because their “social role related to usury and banks.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's antisemitic speech from April 30, 2018. (Reuters)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expressed remorse on Friday to people offended by a statement he made earlier this week, in which he said Jews were not massacred in Europe because of their religion but rather because their “social role related to usury and banks.”
“If people were offended by my statement in front of the PNC, especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologize to them. I would like to assure everyone that it was not my intention to do so, and to reiterate my full respect for the Jewish faith as well as other monotheistic faiths,” Abbas said in a statement, referring to the Palestinian National Council, a top Palestine Liberation Organization body, which convened between Monday and Thursday.
The PA president’s statement did not include a retraction of his remarks on his perspective of European Jewish history.
The United Nations Security Council decided not to issue a statement condemning Abbas’s remarks after Kuwait stepped in to block the proposed initiative.
The US-sponsored statement would have sharply criticized Abbas for what the Trump administration described as “vile antisemitic slurs and baseless conspiracy theories.”
Kuwait, which is a non-permanent member of the 15-seat council, said that the statement was not necessary after Abbas issued his apology, according to diplomats.
Statements issued publicly by the council must have the backing of all 15 members.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley fumed over the council’s inability to act, claiming the executive body’s silence severely damages its credibility.
“Disgusting antisemitic statements from the Palestinian leadership obviously undermine the prospects for Middle East peace,” she said in a statement. “When the Security Council cannot reach a consensus on denouncing such actions, it only further undermines the UN’s credibility in addressing this critical issue.”
Earlier this week, Abbas was widely condemned for his comments by the EU’s foreign service, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, many Jewish organizations, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov and several other foreign leaders and bodies.
Many of the groups that condemned Abbas accused him of being antisemitic.
Abbas was also slammed by The New York Times editorial board on Thursday, which called on him to resign, and former US secretary of state John Kerry on Wednesday, who described his comments as “wrong, ugly and unacceptable.”
In his statement on Friday, Abbas also said the Holocaust is the “most heinous crime in history” and denounced antisemitism.
“I would also like to reiterate our long-held condemnation of the Holocaust as the most heinous crime in history, and express our sympathy with its victims... Likewise, we condemn antisemitism in all its forms, and confirm our commitment to the two-state solution and to live side by side in peace and security,” the PA president said.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman rejected Abbas’s statement.
“Abu Mazen is a wretched Holocaust denier, who wrote a doctorate on Holocaust denial after which he published a book on Holocaust denial,” he tweeted, referring to the PA president by his nickname. “This is how he should be viewed. His apology is not accepted.”
In the 1980s, Abbas published a dissertation and book that questioned whether the death count of six million Jews in the Holocaust had been exaggerated.