Abbas Slammed for Saying European Jews Aren’t Semites, Hitler Killed Jews Over “Usury and Money”

Jewish groups, politicians and government officials alike roundly condemned Abbas over these remarks.
September 8, 2023
Mahmoud AbbasPalestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is getting slammed for an August 24 speech where he reportedly claimed that “European Jews are not Semites” and that Adolf Hitler murdered Jews over “usury and money.”

Abbas’ speech before the Fatah Revolutionary Council, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), featured Abbas saying: “The truth that we should clarify to the world is that European Jews are not Semites. They have nothing to do with Semitism.” He then alleged that Ashkenazi Jews are actually the descendants of Khazars, which The Times of Israel (TOI) described as “an ancient Turkish people” and that the theory that these people subsequently converted to Judaism is “discredited.”

The PA president proceeded to claim “that [the Europeans] fought [the Jews] because of their social role, and not their religion. Several authors wrote about this. Even Karl Marx said this was not true. He said that the enmity was not directed at Judaism as a religion, but to Judaism for its social role.” Abbas then alleged that Hitler “said he fought the Jews because they were dealing with usury and money. In his view, they were engaged in sabotage, and this is why he hated them. We just want to make this point clear. This was not about Semitism and antisemitism.”

Jewish groups, politicians and government officials alike roundly condemned Abbas over these remarks.

“I am appalled by President Abbas’ hateful, antisemitic remarks at a recent Fatah meeting,” Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The speech maligned the Jewish people, distorted the Holocaust, and misrepresented the tragic exodus of Jews from Arab countries. I condemn these statements and urge an immediate apology.”

“The so-called ‘moderate’ Mahmoud Abbas denies the antisemitism of Adolf Hitler, falsely claiming that Hitler ‘fought the Jews because they were dealing with usury and money,’” Representative Ritchie Torres (D-NY) posted on X. “With ‘moderates’ like these, who needs extremists? There is and has long been a deep rot of antisemitism at the core of Mahmoud Abbas, whose Jew-hatred and corruption have only served to perpetuate the suffering of his own people while lining his own pockets. Abbas is a moral disgrace.”

The European Union (EU) also called Abbas’ statement “false and grossly misleading.” “Such historical distortions are inflammatory, deeply offensive, can only serve to exacerbate tensions in the region and serve no-one’s interests,” the EU said in a statement. “They play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution, which President Abbas has repeatedly advocated for. Moreover, they trivialize Holocaust and thereby fuel anti-Semitism and are an insult to the millions of victims of the Holocaust and their families. The European Union remains committed to combating antisemitism and racism in all its forms and will continue to strongly oppose any attempt to condone, justify or trivialise the Holocaust.”

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt similarly posted on X, “It’s truly outrageous how many antisemitic tropes President Abbas managed to jam into a single statement. Not only is it unacceptable for him personally, but as a leader, it sends a message to the Palestinian people that this hate is legitimate. Abbas should immediately apologize for his antisemitic and Holocaust revisionism comments.”

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan posted on X, “Nearly two years ago the UN adopted a resolution I initiated to combat Holocaust denial and distortion. Yet shamefully, in two weeks, President Abbas, a man who publicly blames the Jews for the Holocaust – the ultimate form of Holocaust denial – will take the stage in the very same room this resolution was adopted. What a disgrace! Where is the outcry?! Where are the UN condemnations?! Where is the media?! The hypocrisy and double standards truly know no bounds. Abbas’ dangerous hate and lies must be condemned!”

StandWithUs Israel Executive Director Michael Dickson posted on X, “Mahmoud Abbas has consistently minimized and denied the Holocaust: the unprecedented genocide of the Jewish People. He *literally* wrote a thesis in Holocaust denial, published as a book, which blames Jews for their own murder. “

The Simon Wiesenthal Center also posted on X, “The next generation of Palestinian leaders – including those who want Abbas as president-for-life – are watching to see if this #Antisemitic outburst carries any ramifications. It does for Jewish people inside and outside Israel.”

Stop Antisemitism called Abbas’ remarks “absolute insanity.” “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas distorts Holocaust, invokes white supremacist Khazar theory, says [Middle East and North Africa] Jews did not want to leave their Arabic countries of residence but were forced by Israel,” they posted on X.

Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations Chair Harriet Schleifer and CEO William Daroff said in a statement, “We join in the rightful condemnation from the United States, Europe, and the broader international community of President Abbas for his heinous victim-blaming of Jews for the Shoah and parroting the false and antisemitic Khazar origin canard. Abbas’ false characterizations of Jews are part of a longstanding pattern of behavior dating back to his PhD dissertation on Holocaust denial. He continues his unrelenting quest to deny any Jewish ties to our ancestral homeland in an effort to attempt to delegitimize the State of Israel.” They added: “Palestinians deserve leadership that is serious about meaningful engagement with the international community and negotiating peace. President Abbas, who is in his 18th year of a 5-year term of office, should be roundly condemned for continuing to incite terrorism, his flagrant despotism, and his recent antisemitic remarks. The international community should question his fitness to rule and his commitment to a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Should Abbas travel to New York for the upcoming 78th UN General Assembly, we urge UN and world leaders to call him to task for spewing antisemitic hate.”

J Street also denounced Abbas’ remarks. “There is no possible excuse for making antisemitic statements like these, and it is by no means President Abbas’s first offense,” they said in a statement. “When he has expressed similar sentiments in the past, J Street has called on him to swiftly retract and apologize for making them — and we do so again now. Maligning the Jewish people with these ugly tropes is an absolute moral wrong that endangers our community around the world and exacerbates distrust and conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. These remarks are particularly disappointing to J Street and its leadership, which has always engaged — and urged others to engage — with the President as a potential partner in efforts to find a path to resolving the conflict. Comments like these undermine that basis for that hope and are personally, deeply hurtful.”

AIPAC confronted J Street over their statement. “What’s missing? Any call for Congress or Biden to hold Abbas accountable,” AIPAC posted on X. “J Street consistently demands that America’s leaders pressure Israel. Yet it shields Abbas from pressure as he poisons the well for peace.   @jstreetdotorg is many things, but it’s not pro-Israel.”

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