Tuesday, May 14, 2024
Homemiddle eastAntisemitic comments by Palestinian leader cause uproar

Antisemitic comments by Palestinian leader cause uproar

JERUSALEM – Video has emerged of Mr Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, recently asserting that European Jews were persecuted by Adolf Hitler because of what he said were their predatory lending practices, rather than their religion.

Mr Abbas’ false claim drew swift condemnation from Israeli and European officials. It also fuelled accusations that Mr Abbas – an architect of interim peace agreements between Israelis and Palestinians in the 1990s – is not genuinely committed to resolving the ongoing conflict.

In a speech late in August, Mr Abbas said: “They say that Hitler killed the Jews because they were Jews, and that Europe hated the Jews because they were Jews.”

“No,” Mr Abbas added. Jews were persecuted, he continued, because of “their social role, which had to do with usury, money and so on”.

Mr Abbas also repeated a widely discredited theory that European, or Ashkenazi, Jews have no ancient roots in the Middle East. Instead, Mr Abbas claimed that European Jews were the descendants of a nomadic Turkic tribe that converted to Judaism during the medieval period, and therefore were not victims of antisemitism.

Mr Abbas’ comments were broadcast live on Palestinian television two weeks ago, in a speech to members of his secular political party Fatah.

The remarks were brought to a wider audience on Wednesday when the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington-based monitoring group that mainly translates extremist comments by Arab and Iranian leaders, distributed a subtitled version of Mr Abbas’ speech.

Mr Abbas has a long history of antisemitic remarks. He made similar comments in 2018 about usury and Ashkenazi Jews, and in 2022 he accused Israel of committing “50 Holocausts” against Palestinians.

“This is the true face of Palestinian ‘leadership,’” Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Gilad Erdan, wrote on social media in response to Mr Abbas’ latest speech.

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The European Union said in a statement that Mr Abbas’ “historical distortions are inflammatory, deeply offensive, can only serve to exacerbate tensions in the region and serve no one’s interests”.

The statement added: “They play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution, which President Abbas has repeatedly advocated for.” NYTIMES

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