Reactions to Abbas’s speech

May 3, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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There was expected outrage throughout the Jewish world following Mahmoud Abbas’s speech saying the Jewish people brought the Holocaust on themselves.

Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance center. Credit: Hadas Parish/Flash90.

Yad Vashem issued the following statement: Palestinian National Council, the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, sought to teach the Palestinians, and the rest of us, a purported “lesson in history”, replete with antisemitic tropes and distortions of historical facts. Sadly, Abbas has chosen to assault Holocaust remembrance by attempting to convert the Shoah into a propaganda tool, blatantly falsifying history to the point of accusing the Jewish victims as being responsible for their own murder, and transforming Hitler into a Zionist.

 In his remarks, Abbas claimed that the Holocaust did not result from antisemitism, but rather from the “social behavior” of Jews who dealt in loans and banking, activities which allegedly aroused opposition towards them by the peoples of Europe. In order to substantiate that claim, Abbas relied upon quotes from Karl Marx, Stalin and others. However, his own argument is itself fundamentally antisemitic, insofar as it incorporates a centuries-old antisemitic narrative that equates Jews with monetary greed. Even basic acquaintance with Jewish history would teach Abbas not only that the Jews pursued, then and now, a wide variety of professions and occupations, but that the majority of them at that time were impoverished. Even basic acquaintance with European history would inform Abbas about the escalation of antisemitism throughout Europe during the second half of the 19th century and the start of the 20th, and that this was in effect the prime context for the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.

Abbas claims that a transfer agreement signed by representatives of the Zionist movement with the German government ostensibly one month after Hitler’s rise to power supposedly proves that Hitler was lenient towards the immigration of Jews to Mandatory Palestine, and in effect supported Zionism. Actually, Hitler concisely articulated his attitude towards the Zionist endeavor in his book Mein Kampf, where he wrote that the purpose of Zionism is “the establishment of a central organization for their [the Jews’] worldwide swindle, endowed with its own sovereign rights and removed from the intervention of other states: a haven for convicted scoundrels and a university for budding crooks.” In other words, Hitler’s actual position towards Zionism was totally opposite that which Abbas baselessly ascribes to him

As for the transfer agreement between the Jewish Agency and the German Treasury, signed more than six months after Hitler’s rise to power, it of course did not constitute intentional Nazi support for Zionism. Rather, it was the result of the initial stage of the Nazis’ anti-Jewish policy, which at that time sought to bring about the emigration of all Jews from Germany, as rapidly as possible. The German “escape tax” had been in existence prior to the Nazis’ takeover, and was aimed at preventing the loss of monetary capital. The Jewish Agency’s negotiations secured a complex financial agreement that enabled some Jews emigrating from Germany to Mandatory Palestine to eventually receive a portion of the funds they left behind. Relatively few Jews emigrated within this framework, and Hitler was not involved whatsoever in its formulation.

The Holocaust resulted from the Nazi belief that Jewish existence must be totally eliminated.  In May 1941, as the Holocaust was taking place, Hitler made clear to the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, that once German forces had broken through from the southern Caucasus region into the Middle East, “Germany’s goal will be the extermination of the Jews who reside in Arab territories under British rule” (as noted in the meeting’s minutes).

The historical facts of the Holocaust are available to Chairman Abbas, and other speakers of Arabic around the world, on Yad Vashem’s website


The World Jewish Congress has sharply denounced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ so-called “history lesson” to the Palestinian National Council this week, calling his speech a “repugnant litany of propaganda and conspiracies dripping of sheer antisemitic incitement and vile.”

“The World Jewish Congress unequivocally condemns Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ despicable and outrageous exploitation of the oldest antisemitic tropes in the book, going so low as to accuse Jews of bringing genocide upon themselves in some twisted attempt to disprove the Jewish historical connection to the Land of Israel.

“Abbas’ address was nothing short of a repugnant litany of propaganda and conspiracies dripping of sheer antisemitic incitement and vile. We urge the international community to hear these remarks for what they are, and to denounce them in the strongest possible terms, rather than allowing itself to be lured into the Palestinian leader’s façade of intentions. This kind of antisemitism will encourage only further violence and hatred, not peace.”

Dr Danny Lamm

The Zionist Federation of Australia stated it is thoroughly appalled by the speech given by Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in which Abbas blamed Jewish behaviour and not antisemitism for the centuries of persecution they endured in Europe which culminated in the Holocaust.

Dr Danny Lamm, President of the ZFA said “Abbas’ statements which have been widely condemned are proof positive of Abbas’ deep-seated, ingrained antisemitism which first found expression in 1982 with the publication of his doctoral dissertation that questioned the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis and alleged that Zionist leaders were complicit in the destruction of European Jewry.”

“Over the years, many have tried to convince themselves and the world that Abbas has softened, that he is at heart a peace maker.  This latest episode discredits that theory and indicates Abbas has not and will never change.”

“This is not rhetoric one can accept from anyone let alone from the “leader” who the world suggests is Israel’s “peace partner”.  Israel would be rightly excused from further engaging with a person who holds such abhorrent views.  We can only hope that with the passage of time a new leadership, ready to engage with the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their ancient homeland will arise.”

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told media: “We condemn any such comments by anyone, anywhere. It’s deeply regrettable that such statements should be made. They are antisemitic. They go against the facts, the historical facts, and I’m deeply concerned that a leader would make such comments.”

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has welcomed Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s condemnation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ antisemitic and offensive speech.

Abbas’ speech on Monday to the Palestinian National Council in Ramallah contained antisemitism and Holocaust denying slurs.

Dr Colin Rubenstein

Noting that Bishop had joined a group of prominent world leaders in condemning Abbas, Dr Colin Rubenstein, AIJAC executive director, said “AIJAC welcomes Foreign Minister Bishop’s acknowledgment of Abbas’ offensive and ill-conceived speech.”

“As the Foreign Minister noted, the remarks are of deep concern, but unfortunately they are not new from Abbas. Whether he is making these sorts of comments because he truly believes them, or making them to curry favour with a domestic audience, Abbas has only underlined why a two-state peace based on mutual self-determination and recognition has proven so elusive.”

AIJAC’s  national chairman  Mark Leibler noted: “Abbas has a long history of Holocaust denial and antisemitism. These latest comments have been rightly met with utter condemnation around the world.”

“While Abbas has tried to present himself to the world as a reformer and a partner for peace, his well-documented antisemitic tirades over the years – of which this is only the latest – cannot be excused as mere gaffes but rather reflects racist belief which sadly are all too common in Palestinian society.”

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