Palestinian leader’s comments on Holocaust draw accusations of antisemitism from US and Europe

JERUSALEM — The United States, Germany and the European Union on Thursday condemned recent comments about the Holocaust by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, accusing him of distorting history and promoting antisemitic stereotypes.

In a speech last month to senior members of his Fatah movement, Abbas said that Adolf Hitler killed European Jews not because of antisemitism, but because of their “social functions” in society, such as money lending.

“These people were fought because of their social function related to money, usury,” Abbas said in the speech. “From Hitler’s point of view, they were sabotaging, and therefore he hated them.”

The speech was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, a think tank in Washington founded by Israeli analysts that translates speeches from Arabic and other languages for Western audiences. Critics have accused MEMRI of promoting a pro-Israel agenda.

In the Holocaust, 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their allies. Hitler considered the Jews to be an inferior race and viciously promoted antisemitic stereotypes to incite against Europe’s Jews as the Third Reich carried out the genocide.

Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, said she was appalled by what she called Abbas’ “hateful, antisemitic remarks.” In a post on X, formerly called Twitter, she said Abbas had maligned the Jewish people and distorted the Holocaust. She called for an immediate apology.

Steffen Seibert, Germany’s ambassador to Israel, said Abbas’ speech was “an insult to the memory of millions of murdered men, women and children.”

“The Palestinians deserve to hear the historical truth from their leader, not such distortions,” he added.

In a statement, the European Union said the comments “trivialize the Holocaust and thereby fuel antisemitism."

Dani Dayan, the chairman of Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, accused Abbas of Holocaust denial and distortion and promoting antisemitic stereotypes. “These reprehensible remarks must be unequivocally condemned by global leaders,” he tweeted.

Abbas has previously faced accusations of antisemitism. Last year, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz condemned Abbas for accusing Israel of committing “ 50 Holocausts ” against the Palestinians. Abbas later apologized.

Abbas also apologized in 2017 following a speech that said Jewish money lending had caused animosity toward them in Europe and dismissed the Jewish connection to the Holy Land. At the time, he condemned antisemitism and called the Holocaust “the most heinous crime in history.”

In his doctoral thesis in the 1970s, Abbas also questioned the extent of the Nazi genocide. He has since distanced himself from those assertions.

Abbas' spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, condemned the “rabid campaign” against the Palestinian president.

He said Abbas' position is “clear and documented, which is the complete condemnation of the Holocaust and the rejection of antisemitism."


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