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Abbas says Jews' behavior led to Holocaust, not anti-Semitism

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C) attends a meeting with the Revolutionary Council of the ruling Fatah party in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 01, 2018
ABBAS MOMANI (AFP/File)
Abbas' statements come just one week after reportedly expressing sympathy for families of Holocaust victims

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made controversial statements Monday evening suggesting the Holocaust was not due to anti-Semitism but rather to the Jews’ “social behavior, [charging interest], and financial matters.”

Giving his own “history lesson” of pogroms in Europe during the start of a four-day session by the National Palestinian Council in Ramallah, Abbas highlighted that “such pogroms did not take place in Arab nations, which had Jewish communities."

The PA president also discussed the failed peace process and his intention to reject any offers by the Trump administration due to the decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem in recognition of the disputed city as Israel’s capital.

“This is completely unacceptable,” he said. “We will not accept this deal, and we will not accept the US as the sole broker,” reiterating his attempts to involve other nations in the peace process, such as Russia, China, and European countries.

The council is the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that elects the PLO Executive Committee, acting as the parliament that decides all issues regarding Palestinians both within and outside the territories.

ABBAS MOMANI (AFP/Archives)

The 18-member council will apparently be refreshed in elections generally largely controlled by Abbas.

Abbas’ long speech on Jewish history during a rare meeting of the council was not novel coming from the Palestinian leader who has spoken and written at length, discounting the historical connection of Jews to the land of Israel.

Abbas reenforced his statements at the start of the year that “Israel is a colonial project that has nothing to do with the Jews,” explaining that the “Europeans wanted to bring the Jews here to preserve their interests in the region.”

While Israeli officials have branded Abbas a Holocaust denier, he has previously rejected the charge.

“Mahmoud Abbas says money-lending Jews provoked Holocaust, denied any Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, and again called the Jewish state a European colonial project. Now there’s a peace partner,” the former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, said in a tweet following the speech.

Abbas’s comments, however, come just one week after he issued a formal statement calling the Holocaust “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era”, for the first time expressing sympathy for victims’ families after a meeting with an American rabbi.

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum and research center was optimistic that Mr. Abbas’s statement “might signal a change” from the status quo in which “Holocaust denial and revisionism are sadly prevalent in the Arab world, including among Palestinians,” The New York Times reported.

But in his speech at the council opener, Abbas said that Hitler had practically contributed to Jewish immigration to Palestine by striking a deal with the Anglo-Palestine Bank (today Israel’s Bank Leumi) that simplified the process for Jews to transfer over their assets.

The remarks echo his doctoral thesis written in 1982 at Moscow University entitled “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism,” which questions the validity of the number of Jewish deaths in the Holocaust as 6 million and reportedly describes the cooperation between Zionist and Nazi leaders.

MAHMUD HAMS (AFP)

Abbas also discussed the conflict in Gaza over the last month in the “Great March of Return” protests that have resulted in the death of nearly fifty Palestinians and more than 1,500 injured.

While he reportedly praised Hamas for its peaceful resistance in Gaza, he warned about keeping children from the border in order to avoid a “handicapped” generation.

At least six of the dead have been aged 18 or younger.

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