Outrage over Abbas’s antisemitic speech on Jews and Holocaust

German and Israeli officials have condemned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for comments he made about Jews and the Nazi Holocaust in a speech.

Mr Abbas said Adolf Hitler ordered the mass murder of Jews because of their “social role” as moneylenders, rather than out of animosity to Judaism.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN accused him of “pure antisemitism”.

“History is clear,” Germany’s Ramallah mission said. “Millions of lives were erased – this cannot be relativized.”

“We strive to promote a dignified and accurate memory of the victims.”

The German ambassador to Israel, Steffen Seibert, added: “The Palestinians deserve to hear the historical truth from their leader, not such distortions.”

Hitler used the Jewish people as a scapegoat for Germany’s ills. He also considered them an inferior race which had to be exterminated.

The Palestinian president, who is 87, has previously been denounced by Jewish groups as a Holocaust denier for his doctoral thesis on the Nazis and Zionism.

Yet over the years, he has continued to give long, rambling speeches expounding his offensive views.

His address to the Fatah Revolutionary Council was made last month and later aired on Palestine TV. His remarks were then translated and publicised by the Middle East Media Research Institute on Wednesday. The translation has been verified by BBC News.

“They say that Hitler killed the Jews for being Jews, and that Europe hated the Jews because they were Jews. No. It was clearly explained that they fought them because of their social role and not their religion,” Mr Abbas says at one point.

Later, he specifies that he was referring to the role of Jews involving “usury, money and so on”.

Mr Abbas also resurrected a long abandoned historical theory that European Ashkenazi Jews were not descended from the ancient Israelites but from 8th Century converts to Judaism among the Khazars, a nomadic Turkic people.

“The truth that we should spread to the world is that European Jews are not Semites. They have nothing to do with Semitism,” he said. “As for the Eastern Jews, they are Semites,” he added, referring to Sephardic Jews from the wider Middle East.

The president previously caused an international furore for making similar suggestions in 2018, during what he described as “a history lesson” at a rare gathering of the Palestinian National Council.

His aim on such occasions is to dispute the connection between the Jewish people and modern-day Israel. Rights to the land lie at the core of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and are entwined with the historical narratives of both peoples.

The content of the president’s latest speech was shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, by the Israeli foreign ministry and slammed by the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan.

“This is the true face of Palestinian ‘leadership’,” the envoy said. “Just as Abbas blames the Jews for the Holocaust, he also blames the Jews for all the Middle East’s issues.”

“The world must wake up and hold Abbas and his Palestinian Authority accountable for the hatred they spew and the ensuing bloodshed it causes. There must be zero tolerance for Palestinian incitement and terror!”

The European Union also condemned the speech, which it described as “false and grossly misleading”.

In a statement, it said: “Such historical distortions are inflammatory, deeply offensive, can only serve to exacerbate tensions in the region and serve no-one’s interests. They play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution, which President Abbas has repeatedly advocated for.”

“Moreover, they trivialize [the] Holocaust and thereby fuel antisemitism and are an insult to the millions of victims of the Holocaust and their families.”

In May, Mr Abbas was criticised for likening Israel to Nazi Germany in a speech at a UN event. He accused the country of lying “just like Goebbels”, referring to Joseph Goebbels, the chief propagandist of the Nazi party.

Last year, there was international outrage after he claimed Israel had carried out “50 massacres; 50 holocausts” during a news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin. The chancellor later said he was “disgusted by the outrageous remarks” and Israel and the US issued strongly worded statements.

Afterwards, the Palestinian leader issued a clarification on the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa. He did not explicitly apologise but said that the Holocaust was “the most heinous crime in modern human history” and that his comments had not been meant “to deny the singularity of the Holocaust”.

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