Abbas spokesman claims PA chief was quoting academics when he used antisemitic tropes

Nabil Abu Rudeineh condemns ‘frenzied campaign’ against PA president, says his actual position is ‘full condemnation of the Nazi Holocaust and a rejection of antisemitism’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a conference to support Jerusalem at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, February 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a conference to support Jerusalem at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, February 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the PA leader’s recent statements using antisemitic tropes were in fact “academic and historical quotations.”

Abbas’s contentious comments were made during the Fatah party’s Revolutionary Council on August 26 but were only recently published in an English translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute, drawing a barrage of condemnations from Israel, the US and Europe.

In a statement published Thursday by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that “Mahmoud Abbas’s position on this matter is clear and unwavering, which is a full condemnation of the Nazi Holocaust and a rejection of antisemitism.”

“We express our strong condemnation and outrage at this frenzied campaign [against President Mahmoud Abbas] for just quoting academic and historical quotations,” Abu Rudeineh said, giving no further details.

Wafa said that Rudeineh was referring to work by unnamed Jewish and American academics.

In his speech, Abbas repeated a number of antisemitic canards he has made over the years, including unfounded claims that Ashkenazi Jews descend from the Khazars, a Turkic people who according to a discredited theory converted to Judaism en masse, and that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had Jews slaughtered because of their “social role” as moneylenders, not because of enmity toward Judaism.

“The truth that we should clarify to the world is that European Jews are not Semites,” Abbas said, adding that Jews from Arab countries, on the other hand, are considered Semites.

File: Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, speaks at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 5, 2017. (Flash90)

“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 continued, echoing allegations he has made in the past. “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.”

Abbas’s assertions have drawn widespread condemnation. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: “This is the true face of Palestinian ‘leadership.’ 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.”

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo stripped Abbas of the French capital’s highest honor after his remarks about the Holocaust that “repeated antisemitic tropes,” her office said Friday. Abbas could no longer hold the Grand Vermeil medal awarded to him in 2015 after he “justified the extermination of the Jews of Europe” in World War II, Hidalgo’s office told AFP.

Britain’s foreign ministry also condemned the Palestinian Authority president’s remarks, saying that “the UK stands firmly against all attempts to distort the Holocaust. Such statements do not advance efforts towards reconciliation.”

Those condemnations followed those made on Thursday by the United States and European Union. US Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt called Abbas’s remarks “hateful” and “antisemitic.” “The speech maligned the Jewish people, distorted the Holocaust and misrepresented the tragic exodus of Jews from Arab countries,” Lipstadt wrote on X.

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