Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders condemned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday as an anti-Semite for a speech in which he suggested that the Holocaust was caused by the “social behavior” of European Jews.
Abbas “made another anti-Semitic speech,” Netanyahu said in a statement, accusing the PA leader of recycling “the most contemptible anti-Semitic slogans.
“Apparently a Holocaust-denier remains a Holocaust-denier,” Netanyahu said, alluding to Abbas’s 1982 doctoral dissertation, and called on the international community to condemn the speech and its expression of an anti-Semitism “whose time has come to disappear off the face of the earth.”
During a long-winded speech Monday evening in Ramallah in front of hundreds at a rare session of the Palestinian National Council, the 82-year-old PA leader alleged that the Holocaust was not caused by anti-Semitism, but rather by Jews’ “social behavior, [charging] interest, and financial matters.” The incendiary content of Abbas’s Monday speech, which was reported by The Times of Israel late that night, was not included in the official Palestinian news agency’s English press release about his address or in most initial international coverage of his speech.
The Foreign Ministry also reacted with contempt to Abbas’s speech.
“On live TV, [Abbas] made remarks that can’t be described as other than anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying, blaming the Jews for their Holocaust and extermination, while using stereotypes and blames taken from the lexicon of classic anti-Semitism,” it said in a statement. “A national leadership that is animated by such a sentiment is intolerable, and it is a pity that the PA chairman again and again repeats his grave and unacceptable anti-Semitic comments.”
“Abbas is drenched in anti-Semitism and racism from head to toe,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Jewish Home party. “He continues the tradition of his predecessors, the grand mufti [of Jerusalem] who was friends with Hitler, and [former PA President Yasser] Arafat, a mass-murderer of Jews.”
“He infuses the poison of anti-Semitism into the minds of the next generation,” Bennett continued in a statement. “Peace will come from the grassroots, not from a corrupt and anti-Semitic Palestinian Authority.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that Abbas had “repeated anti-Semitic poison that would be worthy of Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s propaganda minister.”
“[Abbas] explained that the persecution of Jews occurred because of their ‘social activities connected with charging interest in banks,'” he wrote on Facebook. “Do you understand? And this man is still perceived by the world as a legitimate leader of the Palestinian people.”
“The anti-Semite is out of the bag,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein charged on Twitter on Wednesday, calling Abbas a “small and irrelevant person” who “in his final days as head of the PA is revealing what he really thinks about the State of Israel and the Jews.
“The man, who funds families of terrorists who slaughtered and are slaughtering us, will be remembered in history books as a Holocaust denier, a racist and an inciter, if at all.”
One of Israel’s main criticisms of the PA is over its ongoing payment of stipends to the families of Palestinians killed in the conflict with the Jewish state — among them terrorists — or imprisoned by Israel on security charges, including terrorism.
Abbas touched on a number of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories during what he called a “history lesson,” as he sought to prove the 3,000-year-old Jewish connection to the Land of Israel is false.
He said his narrative was backed by points made by Jewish writers and historians, the first being a theory often criticized as anti-Semitic that Ashkenazi Jews are not the descendants of the ancient Israelites.
Pointing to Arthur Koestler’s book “The Thirteenth Tribe,” which asserts that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from Khazars, Abbas said European Jews had “no historical ties” to the Land of Israel. “Those who sought a Jewish state weren’t Jews,” he said, repeating a claim he made in January when he said that the State of Israel was formed as “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism” to safeguard European interests.
Said Abbas on Monday: “Their narrative about coming to this country because of their longing for Zion, or whatever — we’re tired of hearing this. The truth is that this is a colonialist enterprise, aimed at planting a foreign body in this region.”
Abbas claimed that European leaders such as the United Kingdom’s Lord Arthur Balfour restricted the immigration of Jews to their own countries while simultaneously promoting the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel. (The 1917 Balfour Declaration endorsed the idea of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.)
He went on to claim that the Holocaust was not the result of anti-Semitism but rather of the Jews’ “social behavior, [charging] interest, and financial matters.”
In his speech, Abbas also referred to the 1933 “haavara” agreement between the early Zionist leadership, the Anglo-Palestine Bank (today Bank Leumi), German Zionist leaders, and Nazi Germany to permit German Jews to emigrate to the British Mandate of Palestine with some of their assets. With the deal, claimed Abbas, Adolf Hitler, whose Nazi regime was responsible for the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust, facilitated the immigration of Jews to Israel.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Tuesday censured Abbas, referring him by his nom de guerre and saying he had “reached a new low.”
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.
— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) May 1, 2018
In a tweet, Friedman added, “To all those who think Israel is the reason that we don’t have peace, think again.”
US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the region, Jason Greenblatt, also weighed in, saying Abbas’s remarks were “very unfortunate, very distressing & terribly disheartening. Peace cannot be built on this kind of foundation.”
He called for widespread condemnation of the Palestinian leader’s assertions.
The Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt on Tuesday told The Times of Israel the speech constituted “classic anti-Semitism.”
President Abbas’ remarks yesterday in Ramallah at the opening of the Palestinian National Congress must be unconditionally condemned by all. They are very unfortunate, very distressing & terribly disheartening. Peace cannot be built on this kind of foundation.
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) May 1, 2018
The Palestinian leader has a history of Holocaust denial. His 1982 doctoral dissertation was titled “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism,” and he has in the past been accused of denying the scope of the Holocaust. The dissertation reportedly claimed that the six million figure of Holocaust victims was hugely exaggerated and that Zionist leaders cooperated with the Nazis.
Abbas, in his Monday address, made no mention of the Jews’ historic presence and periods of sovereignty in the Holy Land.
Abbas also reiterated his preemptive rejection of the peace plan that the Trump administration is working on, amid an ongoing and deep rift with the US.
He told the PNC that he plans to take unspecified “tough steps” soon against Israel and the United States.
Abbas told the hundreds of delegates that he was sticking to his rejection of any US proposals for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal following the Trump administration’s recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and a decision to move the US embassy there in mid-May.
“This is completely unacceptable,” he said. “We will not accept this deal, and we will not accept the US as the sole broker” of peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.