Abbas: Ashkenazi Jews ‘are not Semites,’ Hitler killed them for their ‘social role’

Repeating antisemitic canards he’s previously invoked, Palestinian leader claims European antisemitism the result not of ‘enmity’ toward Jews but to their role as moneylenders

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a Nakba Day event at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, May 15, 2023 (Ed Jones/AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a Nakba Day event at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, May 15, 2023 (Ed Jones/AFP)

In a recent speech, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas repeated a number of antisemitic canards he has made over the years, including unfounded claims about the the origins of Ashkenazi Jews and that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had Jews slaughtered because of their “social role” as moneylenders, not because of enmity toward Judaism.

Speaking last month at his Fatah party’s Revolutionary Council, Abbas outlined the baseless theory that Ashkenazi Jews are not descended from ancient Israelites but an ancient Turkish people known as the Khazars, who according to a discredited theory converted to Judaism en masse.

“The truth that we should clarify to the world is that European Jews are not Semites,” Abbas said, according to a translation of his remarks by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “They have nothing to do with Semitism.”

“So when we hear them talk about Semitism and antisemitism, the Ashkenazi Jews, at least, are not Semites,” he added.

Abbas has previously claimed publicly that Ashkenazi Jews are the descendants of Khazars, including a 2018 speech in which he charged that Jews’ “social behavior” caused the Holocaust, another assertion he reiterated in his recent speech.

“They say that Hitler killed the Jews because they were Jews and that Europe hated the Jews because they were Jews. Not true. It was clearly explained that [the Europeans] fought [the Jews] because of their social role, and not their religion,” Abbas said in August. “Several authors wrote about this. Even Karl Marx said this was not true. He said that the enmity was not directed at Judaism as a religion but to Judaism for its social role.”

“The [Europeans] fought against these people because of their role in society, which had to do with usury, money and so on and so forth,” he continued.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs the 11th session of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council on August 26, 2023 in Ramallah (Thaer Ghanayem/via WAFA)

Abbas then appeared to repeat the stab-in-the-back myth that Hitler subscribed to after World War I, blaming the Jews and others for Germany’s loss in the conflict.

“Everybody knows that during World War I, Hitler was a sergeant. He said that he fought the Jews because they were dealing with usury and money. In his view, they were engaged in sabotage, and this is why he hated them,” Abbas said. “We just want to make this point clear: This was not about semitism and antisemitism.”

“As for the eastern Jews, they are Semites,” he added, referring to Jews from the greater Middle East.

Abbas also launched a fresh diatribe against the Balfour Declaration, the 1917 document issued by the British government declaring support for a “national home” for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, which he charged America was a party to at the time.

“Who invented the [Jewish] state? It was Britain and America, not just Britain,” he claimed. “I am saying this so that we know who we should accuse of being our enemy, who has harmed us and took our homeland away, and gave it to the Israelis or the Jews.”

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan ripped into Abbas on Wednesday, after the translation of the PA leader’s remarks was published.

“This is the true face of Palestinian ‘leadership,'” Erdan wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Just as Abbas blames the Jews for the Holocaust, he also blames the Jews for all the Middle East’s issues. While he spreads this pure antisemitism he also pays Palestinian terrorists for murdering Israelis and publicly commends Palestinian terrorism.

“The world must wake up and hold Abbas and his Palestinian Authority accountable for the hatred they spew and the ensuing bloodshed it causes. There must be zero tolerance for Palestinian incitement and terror!” the envoy added.

Abbas has a history of making antisemitic claims and incendiary comments about the Holocaust, including saying in May that Israel “lies like” chief Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Last year in Germany, he accused Israel of perpetrating “50 holocausts” at a press conference alongside Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Israel, Germany, and the US reacted to the statement with shock and outrage.

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