US asks UN Security Council to reject ‘vile’ Abbas Holocaust remarks
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US asks UN Security Council to reject ‘vile’ Abbas Holocaust remarks

Palestinian leader belatedly apologizes for saying that the Holocaust was not caused by anti-Semitism, but rather by Jews’ 'social behavior'

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Thursday, April 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Thursday, April 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

UNITED NATION — The United States on Friday asked the UN Security Council to reject the “unacceptable” and “deeply disturbing” remarks by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas about the Holocaust that included “vile anti-Semitic slurs.”

Abbas apologized over the remarks delivered in an address to the Palestinian National Council, but a US-drafted statement called on the president to “refrain from anti-Semitic comments.”

The proposed statement would express the council’s “serious concern” about Abbas’ remarks, which “included vile anti-Semitic slurs and baseless conspiracy theories, and do not serve the interests of the Palestinian people or peace in the Middle East.”

The draft seen by AFP urges “all parties to avoid provocations that make the resumption of negotiations more difficult.”

During a lengthy speech Monday in front of hundreds at a rare session of the Palestinian National Council in Ramallah, 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.”

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he chairs a Palestinian National Council meeting in Ramallah on April 30, 2018. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Abbas’s speech has been criticized as anti-Semitic by various political figures in Israel, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, the European Union and Germany, among others. The New York Times called for Abbas’s resignation in an editorial Wednesday.

“Disgusting anti-Semitic statements from the Palestinian leadership obviously undermine the prospects for Middle East peace,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said in a statement. “When the Security Council cannot reach consensus on denouncing such actions, it only further undermines the UN’s credibility in addressing this critical issue.”

The United Nations envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, on Wednesday accused Abbas of repeating “contemptuous anti-Semitic slurs.”

On Friday, Abbas apologized and condemned the Holocaust “as the most heinous crime in history.”

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman immediately rejected the apology and said Abbas was a “pathetic Holocaust denier”.

Council members were given until 4:00 p.m. (2000 GMT) to raise objections to the draft statement.

The incendiary content of Abbas’s speech, which was reported by The Times of Israel late Monday night, was not included in the official Palestinian news agency’s English press release about his address or in most initial international coverage of it.

Prior to his apology Friday, his senior aide Saeb Erekat sought to claim his words had been distorted by Israel.

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, “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.”

“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.

“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 act against Jews in over 1,400 years — because they were Jews in Arab lands.”

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.

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