TEL AVIV – Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem on Wednesday slammed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for claiming the Jews were responsible for the Holocaust because of their financial activities and that the Nazi atrocities had nothing to do with anti-Semitism.
“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,” Yad Vashem said in a statement.
“His own argument is itself fundamentally anti-Semitic, insofar as it incorporates a centuries-old anti-Semitic narrative that equates Jews with monetary greed,” the statement added.
In a lengthy speech in Ramallah to hundreds of officials at the Palestinian National Council that he called a “history lesson,” Abbas claimed that the Jews’ “social behavior” in Europe, including money-lending and charging interest, caused hatred toward them in Europe in the 20th century, rather than anti-Semitism.
“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 anti-Semitism 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,” Yad Vashem stated.
Abbas also charged that Ashkenazi Jews have “no historical ties” to the Land of Israel.
U.S. Jewish groups across the political spectrum also lambasted Abbas for his comments.
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Chairman Stephen M. Greenberg and Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein called Abbas’ remarks “obscene” and said they “exonerate” the Nazis.
“We are outraged by the comments of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in which he placed responsibility for the Holocaust on its Jewish victims,” a joint statement said. “This goes beyond Holocaust denial — which was the subject of Abbas’ dissertation. This is Holocaust glorification, exonerating the perpetrators and condemning the innocent Jewish martyrs.”
“His obscene comments deserve the strongest condemnation from leaders around the world as he exposes once again his true bigoted beliefs and hatred,” they continued. “There can be no more excuses or obfuscations for such blasphemous lies. Once again he proves he cannot be a partner for peace or coexistence.”
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) said it “unequivocally condemns Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ despicable and outrageous exploitation of the oldest anti-Semitic 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 anti-Semitic incitement,” the statement continued. “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 anti-Semitism will encourage only further violence and hatred, not peace.”
In a joint statement, B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin stated, “Abbas’ anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric is the height of maliciousness, and no one can expect to arrive at an agreement with a leader who peddles such anti-Semitic tropes. Abbas perpetuating vile conspiracy theories and falsifying history does nothing for the Middle East peace process. It does, however, elevate hatred to a new level.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director and CEO of the ADL, said, “Laden with 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.”
“With public speeches like these,” Greenblatt continued, “it is not surprising that under Abbas’ leadership, the Palestinian Authority has failed to renounce and combat Palestinian antisemitic 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.”
The leftwing lobby J Street said, “There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of incendiary rhetoric. With diatribes like this, President Abbas only undermines the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Palestinian people, and distracts from the need for international action to help alleviate the crisis in Gaza and advance the two-state solution.”
The Palestinian leader is known for a sordid history of Holocaust denial, receiving his doctorate based on a dissertation that asserted the claim that six million Jews died in the Holocaust was a gross exaggeration.