Britain: Abbas remarks unhelpful to peace

Britain’s Middle East minister criticizes PA chairman's anti-Semitic speech, says his remarks were deeply concerning.

Elad Benari ,

Alistair Burt
Alistair Burt

Britain on Thursday criticized the anti-Semitic speech by Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, saying his remarks were “deeply concerning” and unhelpful to peace in the region.

“Palestinian President Abbas’s comments at the Palestinian National Congress were deeply concerning. Any attempt to justify or explain away any element of the Holocaust is unacceptable,” said Britain’s Middle East minister Alistair Burt in a statement quoted by Reuters.

“President Abbas has shown a commitment to non-violence and a two-state solution. But his recent rhetoric does not serve the interests of the Palestinian people and is deeply unhelpful to the cause of peace,” he added.

In his speech earlier this week, Abbas regurgitated a number of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in what he called a “history lesson,” seeking to disprove the 3,000-year-old Jewish connection to the Land of Israel.

One of his claims was that the Holocaust was not the result of anti-Semitism but rather of the Jews “social behavior, [charging] interest, and financial matters.”

The PA chairman’s remarks have been met with a flurry of condemnations, both in Israel and abroad.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman ripped Abbas over his remarks on Tuesday, saying the PA leader has “reached a new low in attributing the cause of massacres of Jewish people over the years to their ‘social behavior relating to interest and banks.’ To all those who think Israel is the reason that we don't have peace, think again.”

Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations, also criticized Abbas’s remarks.

“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 & terribly disheartening. Peace cannot be built on this kind of foundation,” he tweeted.

German’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, on Wednesday criticized Abbas, writing on Twitter that Germany was responsible for “one of the worst crimes in history and therefore, we must respond resolutely to any anti-Semitic expression.” He linked his comment to Abbas's speech.

Even The New York Times was critical of the PA chairman. The newspaper’s Editorial Board called the incident "a new low" for Abbas, and concluded that "it is time for [Abbas] to leave office."