THE Palestinian President has apologised “if people were offended” by his claims that the “social function” that Jews took on in Europe was the cause of massacres, including the Holocaust.
But the speech has left Mahmoud Abbas with reduced credibility internationally, an Israeli minister has spurned the apology, and Israeli survivors are livid.
“My parents were killed, I was left with nothing, and he wants to say it was somehow our fault,” said Yehudit Rosenzweig with incredulity on Monday.
The survivor from Haifa told The AJN: “I feel that he has harmed me. At 15, I clearly did nothing.” In her native Czechoslovakia as elsewhere, “We were good citizens who worked and paid taxes and contributed to society – so how can he say these things?”
She rejected Abbas’ apology. “It’s not enough,” she said. “He needs to say that we truly did not cause this for ourselves.”
Israeli leaders also responded to the apology with contempt. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he “is a wretched Holocaust denier who wrote a doctorate on Holocaust denial and later published a book on Holocaust denial, and should be treated as such” referring to Abbas’s doctorate thesis. “His apology is not accepted.”
At first, the Palestinian leadership shrugged off criticism of Abbas’s speech to the Palestinian National Council (PNC). But last Wednesday, it found itself facing a din of condemnation, as the UN, US, EU and Germany all raged against his comments.
The controversy deepened further as Yad Vashem claimed that Abbas had “chosen to assault Holocaust remembrance by attempting to convert the Shoah into a propaganda tool”.
The Palestinian President was “blatantly falsifying history to the point of accusing the Jewish victims of being responsible for their own murder,” Yad Vashem said.
Numerous Diaspora Jewish organisations echoed this comment, and the New York Times, often optimistic about the Palestinian leadership, called the speech “vile” and expressed hope it would be “his last as Palestinian leader”.
Two days later Abbas released a statement that said: “If people were offended by my statement in front of the PNC, especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologise to them.
“I would like to assure everyone that it was not my intention to do so, and to reiterate my full respect for the Jewish faith, as well as other monotheistic faiths.”
He condemned anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, which he called “the most heinous crime in history”, and stressed support for a two-state solution.
But he did not address the issue of what caused anti-Semitism, which he raised in his speech.
He had argued Jews were attacked in Europe where they filled hated roles like money-lending but not in Arab countries where they filled different roles. He didn’t spurn this claim, or his assertion that Israel “is a colonialist enterprise, aimed at planting a foreign body in this region”.
The apology was silent on Abbas’s comments about Nazism and Zionism. Yad Vashem said that Abbas gave the impression in his speech that Hitler was lenient towards the immigration of Jews to British-ruled Palestine, and in effect supported Zionism, which is false.
Yad Vashem took issue with Abbas’s suggestion that a financial mechanism between Germany and a Zionist bank constituted an expression of Nazi support for Zionism.
Yad Vashem said that the mechanism in question was a “complex financial agreement” regarding Jews who left Germany for what was then Palestine, which Abbas took out of context.