The New York Times’ editorial board has called for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s ouster after he attributed the genocide of Jews during the Holocaust to their “social behavior” in what the US paper called a “vile speech” earlier this week.
In Wednesday’s editorial titled “Let Abbas’s vile words be his last as Palestinian leader,” the paper called his remarks “a new low,” even for a leader who has shown “anti-Semitic tendencies” in the past.
In an unusual rebuke of a foreign leader, the paper said Abbas’s remarks in front of hundreds at a rare session of the Palestinian National Council in Ramallah fueled anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and demonstrated that Israel does not have a trustworthy peace partner in the PA president. “Feeding reprehensible anti-Semitic myths and conspiracy theories,” it said, “Abbas shed all credibility as a trustworthy partner if the Palestinians and Israelis ever again have the nerve to try negotiations.”
In a rambling speech on Monday, Abbas gave what he called a “history lesson” claiming that Jewish connections to Europe’s finance and banking sectors had bred hostility against them.
Abbas claimed that the Holocaust was not a result of anti-Semitism, but instead the Jews’ “social behavior, [charging] interest, and financial matters.”
Abbas also portrayed the creation of Israel as a European colonial project, saying “history tells us there is no basis for the Jewish homeland.”
The speech has prompted outrage in Israel and around the world, with the US, EU, UN, Germany and others issuing condemnations. On Wednesday, an aide to Abbas asserted that his remarks, which were televised, had been distorted by Israel.
The New York Times noted that Abbas’s failed effort to mend the rift with political rival Hamas, the dwindling prospects for renewed peace talks with Israel, Arab nations’ lack of interest in the conflict, a lack of support from his people, and a perception that US President Donald Trump’s administration favors Israel have left the Palestinian leader in a desperate position.
“Even in this gloomy climate, however, Mr. Abbas’s vile speech was a new low. No doubt he feels embittered and besieged on all sides,” the paper declared. “But by succumbing to such dark, corrosive instincts he showed that it is time for him to leave office.”
The editorial concluded with a declaration urging a change of Palestinian leadership.
“Palestinians need a leader with energy, integrity and vision, one who might have a better chance of achieving Palestinian independence and enabling both peoples to live in peace.”
Abbas, 82, has been leader of the Palestinian Authority since November 2004. The last Palestinian parliamentary elections were in 2006 and there have been no presidential elections since 2005. The aging Palestinian leader has not designated a successor.
Monday’s speech was not the first time Abbas has been accused of anti-Semitism. In 2016 he gave apparently unscripted remarks to the European Parliament in which he said that “a number of rabbis in Israel made a clear declaration and asked their government to poison water to kill the Palestinians.”
He gave no source for the accusation, but said it was part of a wider Israeli campaign of incitement against Palestinians. His office later admitted the claim was baseless and retracted it.
In January, Abbas told PA officials that European Jews opted for “murder and slaughter” in the Holocaust over emigration to British-held Palestine. He also asserted that Israel was created to safeguard European interests as “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism.”
Abbas’s 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.