Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has drawn condemnation from Israel and the United Nations after making abhorrent anti-Semitic remarks, blaming Jewish behaviour for the Holocaust and saying the Jews have no history in Israel.

Abbas was addressing a rare meeting of the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Monday.

Carried live on Palestinian TV and attended by Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, the 90-minute speech in Arabic included a section on the Palestinian leader’s view of the history of European Jewry, based on what he said were books by “Jewish Zionist authors”.

Jews in eastern and western Europe, he said, had been periodically subjected to massacres over the centuries, culminating in the Holocaust.

“But why did this used to happen?” he asked. “They say, ‘It is because we are Jews.’ I will bring you three Jews, with three books who say that enmity towards Jews was not because of their religious identity but because of their social function.

“This is a different issue. So the Jewish question that was widespread throughout Europe was not against their religion but against their social function which relates to usury [unscrupulous money-lending] and banking and such.”

The comments marked the second time in several months that the 83-year-old Palestinian leader spoke about his take on Jewish and Zionist history. In a speech in January at a meeting of the PLO Central Council, Abbas discussed his perspective on Jewish and Zionist history, arguing Israel is a “colonial project with no relationship to Judaism.”

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said Abbas “made another anti-Semitic speech” and accused the PA leader of recycling “the most contemptible anti-Semitic slogans.”

“Apparently a Holocaust-denier remains a Holocaust-denier,” Netanyahu said, alluding to Abbas’s 1982 doctoral dissertation, and called on the international community to condemn the speech and its expression of an anti-Semitism “whose time has come to disappear off the face of the earth.”


UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, said Abbas’s remarks were “unacceptable, deeply disturbing and do not serve the interests of the Palestinian people or peace in the Middle East”.

The British Government is yet to make a statement about the speech.