UNITED NATIONS — The United States failed Friday to win United Nations Security Council backing for a statement rejecting as “unacceptable” remarks by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas about Jews that included “vile anti-Semitic slurs.”
Kuwait, a non-permanent council member that represents the Arab Group of countries, objected to the draft statement, arguing that Abbas had already apologized and that it was one-sided, diplomats said.
The proposed statement expressed the council’s “serious concern” about Abbas’s 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.”
It called on him to “refrain from anti-Semitic comments.”
Security Council statements are adopted by consensus of all 15 members.
The Palestinian leader triggered global outrage after he suggested that hostility toward Jews in Europe was not linked to religious intolerance, but stemmed from their “social function related to banks and interests.”
Abbas made the remarks at a meeting of the Palestinian National Council on Monday, but on Friday he offered an apology and said he condemned the Holocaust “as the most heinous crime in history.”
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman immediately rejected the apology and said Abbas was a “pathetic Holocaust denier.”
US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the council’s failure to agree on the statement “only further undermines the UN’s credibility in addressing” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Disgusting anti-Semitic statements from the Palestinian leadership obviously undermine the prospects for Middle East peace,” she said.
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.
The United Nations envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, on Wednesday accused Abbas of repeating “contemptuous anti-Semitic slurs.”
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.