(JTA) – In an unusual move, the main Palestinian lobby group in Germany condemned what it called “antisemitic” remarks by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about the Holocaust. The German-Palestinian Society, or DPG, in a statement Tuesday, May 1, said it “dissociates itself clearly and unequivocally” from the remarks by Abbas. Speaking Monday in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas said that Jews caused the Holocaust with their “social behavior,” such as money lending. He also said that Jews do not have a historical connection to the land.
His remarks earned condemnation from across the political spectrum. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the Trump administration blasted the remarks. Liberal Jewish groups like J Street and American Friends of Peace Now said his remarks were incendiary and offensive. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued an unusually strong statement. “Abbas’s self-titled ‘history lesson’ was anything but,” said Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. “Rather than expose Palestinians to accurate information about the Holocaust and the antisemitic persecution Jews faced for centuries in Europe, Abbas distorts the history to advance an agenda that lies about the Holocaust and Jews’ connection to Israel.” In an editorial Wednesday, The New York Times called for new leadership for the Palestinian Authority, writing that Abbas “shed all credibility as a trustworthy partner if the Palestinians and Israelis ever again have the nerve to try negotiations.”
The statement by the German Palestinian group called Abbas’ address a “speech riddled with antisemitic remarks.” “To suggest that Jews in some way share a responsibility for the Holocaust is a grotesque distortion of historical facts,” DPG wrote in its statement. “The claim that the Jewish people have no roots in the Holy Land is equally erroneous.”
Allegations of antisemitism against Abbas by key allies in Europe are rare. The DPG’s open rebuke of Abbas may also reflect growing discomfort with his increasingly radical rhetoric among allies stating the case for Palestinian rights in liberal societies.
Stopping short of calling Abbas’ remarks antisemitic, the European Union’s External Action service in a statement said they were “unacceptable.”
German Foreign Minister Haiku Maas said in response to Abbas’ remarks that his country was responsible for “one of the worst crimes in history.” “Therefore,” he said, “we must respond resolutely to any antisemitic expression.”
In response to the condemnation, Abbas apologized to those offended by his recent speech in which he blamed the Holocaust on Jews. In the introduction to his 1984 book titled The Other Aspect: The Secret Ties Between the Nazis and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement, Abbas wrote about the figure of six million Jews killed in the Holocaust: “In truth, no one can refute or confirm this number. In other words, the number of Jewish victims could be six million and could be much smaller – even less than one million.”