The US Ambassador to Israel on Tuesday censured Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for suggesting a day earlier that the Holocaust was caused by the “social behavior” of European Jews, saying the PA leader had “reached a new low.”
In a tweet, David 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.
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 long-winded speech 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 the Jews’ “social behavior, [charging] interest, and financial matters.”
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
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 the theory oft-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 therefore had “no historical ties” to the Land of Israel.
“From the 11th century until the Holocaust that took place in Germany, those Jews — who moved to Western and Eastern Europe — were subjected to a massacre every 10 to 15 years,” he said. “But why did this happen? They say ‘it is because we are Jews’.”
The “proof” that it was not because they were Jews, he asserted, “is that there were Jews in Arab countries. Why wasn’t there ever one incident against Jews because they’re Jews?” he asked. “Not even once. Do you think I’m exaggerating? I challenge you [to find] even one indecent against Jews in over 1,400 years — because they were Jews in Arab lands.”
Abbas 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.”
Abbas also repeated and elaborated on his previous claim Israel was a European project from the start.
In a speech in January, Abbas had indicated that European Jews during the Holocaust chose to undergo “murder and slaughter” over emigration to British-held Palestine. On Monday, he said, “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.”
He then added that European leaders such as the United Kingdom’s Lord Arthur Balfour restricted the immigration of Jews to their 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.
“Those who sought a Jewish state weren’t Jews,” Abbas 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.
Abbas on Monday also claimed that Adolf Hitler, whose Nazi regime was responsible for the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust, facilitated the immigration of Jews to Israel by reaching a deal with the Anglo-Palestine Bank (today Bank Leumi) under which Jews who moved to the British Mandate of Palestine could transfer all their assets there through the bank.
The Palestinian leader has a long 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 again preemptively rejected 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.”
Abbas appeared to dismiss media reports quoting Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as saying the Palestinians should stop complaining and accept what they are being offered by the Trump administration.
He did not refer to those reports specifically, but said he has been assured that Saudi Arabia remains supportive of the Palestinian positions. “We hear lots of rumors,” he told the delegates. “Don’t believe them.”