A Belgian Jewish newspaper urged European leaders to condemn a false statement by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose June 23 speech in Brussels about rabbis seeking to poison water wells sparked outrage in Israel.
The Joods Actueel monthly on Monday published an open letter on the matter by its editor-in-chief, Michael Freilich, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In his speech before the European Parliament, Abbas said: “Just a week ago, some rabbis rose up in Israel and explicitly announced and demanded of their government that it poison the water in order to kill the Palestinians.”
Abbas’s office later apologized for the reference to wells, which a probe by Israeli media showed was false. The anger was in part over the fact that the theme of poisoning wells was frequent motif in medieval blood libels against Jews, which often led to deadly pogroms. Freilich also branded Abbas’ speech a “blood libel.”
European Parliament President Martin Schulz and the EU coordinator for the fight against anti-Semitism, Katharina von Schnurbein, both failed to correct Abbas before or during the speech, for which Abbas received a standing ovation. They have also yet to distance their institutions from the claims, Freilich wrote.
“Painfully, Martin Schulz even published a tweet calling Abbas’ speech ‘inspiring,’” Freilich said.
The Joods Actueel editor wrote to Merkel after Schulz’s office told the paper: “The content of the address is a total responsibility of the state leaders and the European Parliament is not in a position to censure or to control it.“
— Ex EP President (@EP_PresSchulz) June 23, 2016
Belgian Jews seek neither control nor censorship, Freilich wrote, but they do require an “unambiguous rejection of this anti-Jewish incitement in the heart of Europe.”
Merkel’s office confirmed its receipt the letter but will not reply, said Freilich, who subsequently set up an online petition demanding action on Merkel’s part.