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EU, UN condemn 'unacceptable' Abbas Holocaust remarks

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, May 20, 2015.
(AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Abbas suggested that the Holocaust was a result of Jews’ 'social behavior and financial matters'

The European Union on Wednesday condemned Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas for "unacceptable remarks" he made in a speech linking the role of Jews in the banking sector to the Holocaust.

Abbas, who has faced accusations of anti-Semitism before, suggested in a rambling address to a rare meeting of the Palestinian National Council on Monday night that the Holocaust was a result of Jews’ “social behavior, [charging interest], and financial matters.”

"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. But why did this happen? They say 'it is because we are Jews'," he told the hundreds of delegates.

"The speech Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered on 30 April contained unacceptable remarks concerning the origins of the Holocaust and Israel's legitimacy," a spokesman for the EU's diplomatic service said in a statement.

“The Holocaust and World War Two have defined Europe’s modern history like no other event. Holocaust education remains central to building up resilience against all forms of hatred in our societies. Anti-Semitism is not only a threat for Jews but a fundamental menace to our open and liberal societies," the statement read, adding that "The European Union remains committed to combat any form of anti-Semitism and any attempt to condone, justify or grossly trivialize the Holocaust."

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, said in a tweet on Wednesday that Germany was responsible for “one of the worst crimes in history and therefore, we must respond resolutely to any anti-Semitic expression,” linking to Abbas' speech on Monday night.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, also slammed Abbas' remarks, saying he repeated anti-Semitic slurs.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chose to use his speech at the opening of the Palestinian National Council to repeat some of the most contemptuous anti-Semitic slurs, including the suggestion that the social behavior of Jews was the cause for the Holocaust."

"Such statements are unacceptable, deeply disturbing and do not serve the interests of the Palestinian people or peace in the Middle East. Denying the historic and religious connection of the Jewish people to the land and their holy sites in Jerusalem stands in contrast to reality," Mladenov added.

"The Holocaust did not occur in a vacuum, it was the result of thousands of years of persecution. This is why attempts to rewrite, downplay or deny it are dangerous. Leaders have an obligation to confront anti-Semitism everywhere and always, not perpetuate the conspiracy theories that fuel it,” the UN envoy's statement concluded.

In his speech on Monday, Abbas cited "three books" written by Jews as evidence that "hostility against Jews is not because of their religion, but rather their social function," adding he meant "their social function related to banks and interest."

He contrasted this with Jews in Arab countries, who he argued had not faced similar persecution.

Abbas' speech drew wide condemnation in Israel as well as the US.

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin said on Wednesday that the Palestinian President's remarks prove that he is not a partner for peace.

"How can a leader who expresses dark anti-Semitic ideas present himself as a partner for peace? Anti-Semitism does not create dialogue. There are no negotiations on anti-Semitism. Israel always seeks peace with its neighbors, but will never accept those who do not recognize its right to exist," Rivlin said.

Secretary General of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Dr. Saeb Erekat, rejected the widespread criticism aimed at Abbas on Wednesday. 

"We reject the Israeli accusations of anti-Semitism against President Abbas. He believes in peace and in living in peace alongside Israel," Erekat said. 

David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, said Abbas had reached a "new low" while Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump's special envoy to the Middle East peace process, said that "peace cannot be built on this kind of foundation."

ABBAS MOMANI (AFP)

Friedman, whom Abbas cursed as “a settler and a son of a dog” in another rambling speech in March, blamed the Palestinian leader’s rhetoric for the inability to make peace.

"To all those who think Israel is the reason that we don't have peace, think again," Friedman wrote on Twitter.

Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump's special envoy to the Middle East peace process, said the comments were "very unfortunate, very distressing & terribly disheartening," calling for them to be "unconditionally condemned by all."

Israel's foreign ministry accused Abbas of fueling "religious and nationalist hatred against the Jewish people and Israel."

"On live TV, [Abbas] made remarks that can’t be described as other than anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying, blaming the Jews for their Holocaust and extermination, while using stereotypes and blames taken from the lexicon of classic anti-Semitism," it said in a statement. "A national leadership with that spirit is intolerable, and it is a pity that the PA chairman again and again repeats his grave and unacceptable anti-Semitic comments."

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that Abbas's "anti-Semitism" was "all the more shocking considering that he presents himself as wanting to make peace with Israel."

Israel's Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein branded Abbas an "anti-Semite" and "small and irrelevant person" who "in his final days as head of the PA is revealing what he really thinks about the State of Israel and the Jews."

“The man, who funds families of terrorists who slaughtered and are slaughtering us, will be remembered in history books as a Holocaust denier, a racist and an inciter, if at all,” Edelstein wrote on Twitter.

The row comes as relations between the US and the Palestinian leadership have broken down over the controversial American plan to move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The move, which is due to be completed on May 14, sparked major protests by Palestinians, who consider east Jerusalem their capital, and led Abbas to cut off ties with Trump's administration.

AFP contributed to this story

Comments

(2)

Every one might have a go at Abbas but are they really going to do yes you’ve guessed it zilch

He inclusive negated theit own Quoranic mention to Israel, " people ojf the book " ALAH promise written in His own book, mention of Abraham, David, Salomon, and Jesus... So wad the prophet not well informed?

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