JERUSALEM — Remarks by the Palestinian president about the causes of 20th century anti-Semitism in Europe were sharply criticized as anti-Semitic and drew widespread condemnations from Israel and around the world on Wednesday.
In rambling remarks that were part of a lengthy speech to the Palestine Liberation Organization parliament on Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was the Jews’ “social function,” including money lending that caused animosity toward them in Europe that led to the Holocaust. He also portrayed the creation of Israel as a European colonial project, saying “history tells us there is no basis for the Jewish homeland.”
The comments drew criticism that Abbas perpetuated anti-Semitic stereotypes and ignored the deep Jewish historical connections to the Holy Land.
The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial said in a statement that Abbas’ speech was “replete with antisemitic tropes and distortions of historical facts” and accused the Palestinian president of “blatantly falsifying history to the point of accusing the Jewish victims as being responsible for their own murder.”
The U.N.’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, said in a statement that “leaders have an obligation to confront anti-Semitism everywhere and always, not perpetuate the conspiracy theories that fuel it.”
“Denying the historic and religious connection of the Jewish people to the land and their holy sites in Jerusalem stands in contrast to reality,” he said.
The U.S. ambassador to Israel lashed out at Abbas over his remarks.
“Abu Mazen has reached a new low,” Ambassador David Friedman tweeted, referring to Abbas by his nickname. “To all those who think Israel is the reason that we don’t have peace, think again.”
The rhetoric reflects the escalating tensions between the Palestinians and the Trump administration. Ties have been strained since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year, prompting the Palestinians to suspend contacts with the administration.
Friedman and Abbas have sparred before. In March, Abbas called Friedman a “son of a dog” in an angry rant.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas’ remarks were “the pinnacle of ignorance” and that the Palestinian leader was “again reciting the most disgraceful anti-Semitic slogans.”
The European Union said in a statement that the Palestinian president’s speech “contained unacceptable remarks concerning the origins of the Holocaust and Israel’s legitimacy.”
Abbas’ office declined to comment.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council demanding condemnation of Abbas’ remarks and accusing the Palestinian president of trying to rewrite history with conspiracy theories.