U.S. Officials and Jewish Groups Denounce Abbas' Speech, Accusing Him of anti-Semitism

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he welcomes Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Ramallah, May 1, 2018.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he welcomes Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Ramallah, May 1, 2018. Credit: \ MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/ REUTERS

The Trump administration and Jewish-American groups from across the political spectrum denounced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' speech on Monday, saying it included anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Trump's special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Jason Greenblatt, wrote in reply: "President Abbas’ remarks yesterday in Ramallah at the opening of the Palestinian National Congress must be unconditionally condemned by all. They are very unfortunate, very distressing and terribly disheartening. Peace cannot be built on this kind of foundation."

Greenblatt's message was echoed by Trump's ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who stated that Abbas "has reached a new low", and added that "all those who think Israel is the reason that we don't have peace, think again." Abbas, it should be noted, has refused to work with the Trump administration ever since last December, accusing it of adopting the Israeli government's positions in negotiations and ignoring those of the Palestinians.

The speech, which Abbas gave during the National Palestinian Council in Ramallah, included a statement saying that former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was Jewish, and an accusation that pogroms against Jews in Europe were not the result of anti-Semitism, but rather of their social role and financial matters. Abbas attributed the claim to Jewish scholars and said that factually, "such pogroms did not take place in Arab nations, which had Jewish communities."

"There is no other way to say it: Mahmoud Abbas' speech yesterday, yet again, included vile anti-Semitic statements, which are completely unacceptable and are inconsistent with efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace," Ori Nir, the spokesman for Americans For Peace Now, an organization that promotes peace between Israel and the Palestinians, said in a statement. Nir tweeted a similar message in Hebrew and Arabic as well. 

The left-wing Jewish group J Street put out a statement opposing Abbas' speech, saying that "there is absolutely no excuse for this kind of incendiary rhetoric. With diatribes like this, President Abbas only undermines the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Palestinian people, and distracts from the need for international action to help alleviate the crisis in Gaza and advance the two-state solution."

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Another denunciation came from Trua'h, an organization of rabbis working to promote human rights, which frequently criticizes Israel's settlements and the occupation in the West Bank. "We condemn these ridiculous and offensive statements" by Abbas, the group said. "It's troubling that in 2018 we have to remind people that Jews aren't to blame for the Holocaust & that we have a historic connection to land of Israel."

Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition also reacted to Abbas' speech, calling it "Vile and disgusting (but not surprising from him)." He also wrote that Abbas isn't a "partner for peace." 

Dan Shapiro, a U.S. ambassador to Israel under the Obama administration, summed up the situation: "It's over for Mahmoud Abbas. What a disgusting note to go out on," he tweeted.

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