Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud AbbasHadas Parush/Flash 90

A Jewish newspaper from Belgium is urging European leaders to condemn a false statement by Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who recently claimed that Israeli rabbis had plotted to murder Palestinians by poisoning their wells, JTA reports.

Those comments came in a speech Abbas gave before the European Parliament in Brussels.

Last week, the Joods Actueel monthly published an open letter on the matter by its editor-in-chief, Michael Freilich, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In his June 22 speech in Brussels, Abbas claimed, “Just a week ago, some rabbis rose up in Israel and explicitly announced and demanded of their government that it poison the water in order to kill the Palestinians.”

Abbas’ office later apologized for the comment and admitted it was baseless. The comment nevertheless provoked anger because the theme of well-poisoning Jews was frequent motif in medieval blood libels against Jews, which often led to deadly pogroms.

In his letter, Freilich called Abbas' speech a "blood libel", according to JTA.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who is German, and Katharina von Schnurbein, the EU coordinator for the fight against anti-Semitism, who is also German, did not correct Abbas before or during the speech and have yet to distance their institutions from the claims made in Brussels, where Abbas received a standing ovation, Freilich wrote.

“Painfully, Martin Schulz even published a tweet calling Abbas’ speech ‘inspiring,’” he added.

Joods Actueel wrote to Merkel after Schulz’s office told the paper, “The content of the address is a total responsibility of the state leaders and the European Parliament is not in a position to censure or to control it.“

Belgian Jews seek neither control nor censorship, he wrote, but they do require an “unambiguous rejection of this anti-Jewish incitement in the heart of Europe.”

Merkel’s office confirmed receiving the letter but will not reply, said Freilich, who subsequently set up an online petition demanding action on Merkel’s part.

Abbas's comments were condemned by Israel's UN ambassador Danny Danon, who said the PA chairman “revealed his true colors”.

Jewish groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) condemned Abbas as well for rekindling old anti-Semitic stereotypes.

And Canada launched a formal complaint with the PA over Abbas's comment, which it said was “completely unacceptable”.