Mahmoud Abbas claimed on Monday that the behaviour of Jews was responsible for the Holocaust – the latest example of the antisemitism regularly perpetrated by the president and the Palestinian Authority.
Addressing the Palestinian National Council in Ramallah, Abbas said Hitler’s murder of six million Jews was not caused by antisemitism but by the “social behaviour” of Jews, including “[charging] interest, and financial matters”.
In what was described as a “long and rambling” speech, the president also attempted to disprove the Jewish people’s connection to the land of Israel.
Terming it a “history lesson”, Abbas referenced a series of antisemitic conspiracy theories. He suggested that Ashkenazi Jews – diaspora Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe – are not descendants of the ancient Israelites and has “no historical ties” to the land of Israel.
The president instead argued that the state of Israel resulted from European colonialism, blaming the British government for encouraging Jewish immigration to Palestine during the mandate period.
“Those who sought a Jewish state weren’t Jews,” Abbas said.
In reality, Britain operated a highly restrictive policy, and effectively stopped European Jews from entering Palestine in 1939.
The president also claimed that Jewish immigration to Palestine was facilitated by the Nazis, who, he asserted, made an agreement with the Anglo-Palestine Bank by which Jews moving to Palestine could transfer their assets through the bank.
Abbas’ speech follows a widely criticised address in January in which he also peddled a series of antisemitic fictions.
Perhaps the most explosive was his suggestion that Jews were so hostile to the establishment of Israel that they preferred to remain in Europe rather than emigrate, even as the Nazis embarked upon their wholesale murder.
“The Jews did not want to emigrate even with murder and slaughter. Even during the Holocaust, they did not emigrate. By 1948, Jews in Palestine were no more than 640,000, most of them from Europe,” he said.
In that speech, too, Abbas also appeared to deny the Jewish people’s historic connection to the land of Israel and asserted instead that Israel’s creation was simply a “colonial project”.
“Colonialism created Israel to perform a certain function. It is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism, but rather used the Jews as a tool under the slogan of the Promised Land,” the president claimed.
As The Tablet magazine’s Yair Rosenberg wrote in 2014: “One of the less savoury aspects of … Abbas’s biography is that he has a PhD in Holocaust denial – literally.” The president’s 1982 doctoral dissertation, entitled “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism”, suggested that the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis in order to increase Jewish immigration to Palestine. “The Zionist movement,” it argued, “led a broad campaign of incitement against the Jews living under Nazi rule, in order to arouse the government’s hatred of them, to fuel vengeance against them, and to expand the mass extermination.” The Zionists, he claimed, were Hitler’s “basic partner in crime”. It also asserts that the figure of six million dead has been exaggerated for political gain, and suggests one million as a more reasonable estimate. “Abbas has never unreservedly repudiated the document, and has in fact regularly reaffirmed its core argument,” Rosenberg noted.
“Here’s a man who started his career denying the Holocaust and now, at the latter stages of his career, seems to be engaging in rewriting the history of the Holocaust and classic antisemitism,” suggested the Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt .
Unfortunately, Abbas’ antisemitism pervades public discourse in the Palestinian Authority. Last month, for instance, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, a senior adviser to Abbas, asserted that Zionism was a European scheme to get rid of the Jews because Jews were damaging European society.
“After World War II ended, the colonialist states wanted to get rid of the presence of the Jews of Europe, who had a monopoly over the economy and capital. Therefore, they supported these claims and helped them establish their state on the land of Palestine at the expense of the Palestinian people, who are still suffering from this crime,” Al-Habbash said in a lecture in Sudan which was reported in the PA’s official daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida.
Aside from being highly offensive, it was, suggested Palestinian Media Watch, “a particularly absurd accusation following WWII, and the destruction of most of European Jewry in the Nazi concentration camps”.
Similarly, in November, official PA TV screened an interview with PLO Executive Committee member Saleh Rafat in which he argued that: “Jews were brought and expelled from Europe to Palestine, in order to get rid of them. Germany wanted to get rid of them, [as did] Britain, France, and Italy. All of Europe wanted to get rid of the Jews and expel them so that the West would have a permanent base in the Middle East.”
Last May, the PA’s TV channel rebroadcast a sermon by Imad Hamato, appointed by Abbas as dean of Gaza Al-Azhar schools in October 2016, in which he labelled Israel a “cancerous tumour” and said Jews “control the money, the press, [and] the resources”.
These are not isolated examples.
The PA’s state media is littered with cases of gross antisemitism. In early April, for instance, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida ran an op-ed which described Israel as a “colonialist satanic plant” established by European countries “to get rid of the problem of the Jewish ghetto”. It has previously run articles which claim Israel is a “colonialist investment project” and which refer to Jews controlling “the communications and media as well as the financial arteries of the large companies”.
Over the past year, PA television has broadcast programmes saying that Jews are “wicked”, “oppressors” and “evil”, and “evil … satans”, and that Israel is a “cancerous entity” and “everyone knows [the Jews] have no right to this land”.
Children’s television programmes sound similar themes. In the wake of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration late last year, official PA TV screened a programme in which a young girl is shown saying: “Balfour, you vile person, what did you do to our people? Is your conscience quiet? Go in your grave toward the blazing fire. You are the one that expelled us, do not ask for help. You drank our blood from a goblet, and brought this fate down upon us … You brought to our people those who orphaned small children. You have turned the best of our people into Martyrs and prisoners. Why did you bring the Jews to us, who defile Jerusalem and its great mosque?”
Other programmes have called Jews “barbaric monkeys” and the “most evil among creations”; have had children recite poems in which Jews are said to be “doomed to humiliation and suffering” and described as “Satan with a tail”; and have said of Jews that “treachery has been inherent in them from the days of Moses until today”.
Thanks to the efforts of the PA, 82 year-old Abbas’ antisemitism is likely to live on in yet another generation of young Palestinians.