Holocaust row: Abbas accused of anti-Semitism – BBC News

Not helpful:

Remarks by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas about the Holocaust have been condemned as anti-Semitic by Israeli politicians and rights activists.

Mr Abbas told a meeting in the West Bank the Nazi mass murder of European Jews was the result of their financial activities, not anti-Semitism.

He described their “social function” as “usury and banking and such”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman said the remarks were “anti-Semitic and pathetic”.

Michael Oren, Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy, remarked in a tweet: “Mahmoud Abbas says money-lending Jews provoked Holocaust… Now there’s a peace partner.”

In New York, the Anti-Defamation League condemned Mr Abbas’s “anti-Semitic assertions”.

In its attempt to annihilate the Jews of Europe during World War Two, Nazi Germany murdered some six million of them, building death camps to expedite the mass slaughter.

Driven by fanatical nationalism, the Nazis regarded Jews as a threat to Germany’s “racial purity”.

What did Abbas say exactly?
He was addressing a rare meeting of the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Monday.

It was a rare meeting of the PLO’s legislative body

Carried live on Palestinian TV, the 90-minute speech in Arabic included a section on the Palestinian leader’s view of the history of European Jewry, based on what he said were books by “Jewish Zionist authors”.

Jews in eastern and western Europe, he said, had been periodically subjected to massacres over the centuries, culminating in the Holocaust.

“But why did this used to happen?” he asked. “They say, ‘It is because we are Jews.’ I will bring you three Jews, with three books who say that enmity towards Jews was not because of their religious identity but because of their social function.

“This is a different issue. So the Jewish question that was widespread throughout Europe was not against their religion but against their social function which relates to usury [unscrupulous money-lending] and banking and such.”

Mr Abbas also denied that Ashkenazi Jews – Jews from Germany and north-eastern Europe – were actually Semitic, saying, “They have no relation to Semitic people.” Ashkenazi Jews make up one of Israel’s biggest communities, giving the state a long line of prime ministers, including Mr Netanyahu.

It is not the first time the Palestinian leader’s views on the Holocaust have caused offence.

A student dissertation he wrote in the early 1980s argued there had been a “secret relationship between Nazism and Zionism” before the war, and appeared to question the death toll of six million.

He later played down allegations of Holocaust denial, saying in 2003: “The Holocaust was a terrible, unforgivable crime against the Jewish nation, a crime against humanity that cannot be accepted by humankind.”

How did the Anti-Defamation League respond?

Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of the ADL, which campaigns to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people”, dismissed the Palestinian leader’s “ahistorical and pseudo-academic assertions”.

“The Palestinian President’s latest diatribe reflects once again the depth and persistency of the anti-Semitic attitudes he harbors,” he said in a statement.

“With public speeches like these, it is not surprising that under Abbas’ leadership, the Palestinian Authority has failed to renounce and combat Palestinian anti-Semitic incitement, including narratives that Jews are to blame for the Holocaust and other anti-Semitic persecution, and which deny or diminish the millennial Jewish presence in and connection to the Land of Israel.”

via Holocaust row: Abbas accused of anti-Semitism – BBC News

My friend and Mid-East expert Arun recently posted on the Arte film, Israel-Palestine: one land, twice promised, link here, noting the balance and comprehensiveness of this two hour doc.

Mahmoud Abbas Shifts on Holocaust – NYTimes.com

Some of the background behind Abbas’s statement on the Holocaust. While the article argues the timing is terrible, given yet another Hamas-Fatah reconciliation effort, it is nevertheless significant. And sometimes timing is deliberate to counter other events and decisions, as it is in many countries:

The rabbi who prompted the Holocaust statement, Marc Schneier, is the founder of both the celebrity-studded modern Orthodox Hampton Synagogue and the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a 25-year-old group that fosters relations between Jews and Muslims, blacks and Latinos. Rabbi Schneier said he met with Mr. Abbas at his West Bank headquarters for about 40 minutes last Sunday to enlist his support against European crackdowns on ritual animal slaughter and human circumcision, and for a program that would establish partnerships between Palestinian mosques and Israeli synagogues.

When he suggested that it would be “very significant, very meaningful” for Mr. Abbas to make a statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Rabbi Schneier recalled in an interview, the president agreed “before I could finish my statement.”

“It was very heartfelt, very genuine,” Rabbi Schneier said.

“Of course he expressed his frustration on the negotiations, on the peace process — I’ll leave that up to the political leaders,” he added. “I’m a great believer that Muslim-Jewish reconciliation worldwide transcends the Israeli-Palestinian process. We’re working on the spiritual peace process.”

Mahmoud Abbas Shifts on Holocaust – NYTimes.com.