Abbas is no Partner for Peace

In a speech to the Palestinian National Council in Ramallah on Monday, Mahmoud Abbas made some statements about the Holocaust that have provoked an international outcry.

He told the meeting that the mass murder of European Jews by the Nazis was not the result of anti-Semitism, but because of the Jews’ “social function” and “financial activities” – “usury and banking and such.”

Abbas speaks to Palestinian National CouncilAbbas speaking to the Palestinian National Council (photo: EPA)

With comments like that it is not surprising that instead of prompting sympathy for the Palestinian cause, he caused outrage internationally. The New York Times noted that ‘the furore following his speech underscored what many critics view as the increasing irrelevance of Mr. Abbas’ and ‘the bankruptcy of the organization he leads …’

Even the main Palestinian lobby group in Germany condemned what it called his “anti-Semitic” remarks. The German-Palestinian Society said on Tuesday that it “dissociates itself clearly and unequivocally” from the remarks by Mahmoud Abbas.

Similarly, a normally supportive journalist for the Guardian wrote that:

‘It’s right to condemn Mahmoud Abbas for his anti-Semitic remarks.
Supporting someone’s cause also means calling them out when they are wrong.
The Palestinian leader’s views on Jews and the Holocaust are unacceptable’

He also reminded people that anti-Semitic laws in Europe excluded the Jews from key professions and forced them to engage in financial activity.

So now, at the end of the week, Mahmoud Abbas has condemned anti-Semitism, and described the Holocaust as the “most heinous crime in history.”

He has apologised to Jewish people who were offended by his speech, saying:

“If people were offended by my statement …
especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologise to them.”

However, unfortunately for him the remarks that caused the outcry have revealed what he really thinks about the Jewish people. It is easy for Mahmoud Abbas to issue an apology, but a number of commentators have reminded us that he has often said similar things in the past.

Many of us are left with the inescapable conclusion that the Israelis still have no partner for peace with the Palestinians.