Saeb Erekat
Saeb Erekat Miriam Alster/Flash 90

Senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Saeb Erekat on Wednesday refuted claims that Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas denied the Holocaust in a speech he gave at a gathering of the Palestinian National Council.

"Abu Mazen did not deny the massacres caused to the Jews, including the Holocaust," Erekat said in a statement quoted by Yediot Aharonot.

"Abu Mazen believes in peace, negotiations and the establishment of two states that live in peace in security and in good neighborliness in accordance with his vision of peace, which he presented to the Security Council," Erekat added.

In his statement, Erekat expressed his amazement over what he called the "coordinated attack" launched by Israel in an attempt to accuse Abbas of anti-Semitism, of refusing to sit down at the negotiating table and of accusations of supporting terrorism.

"Abu Mazen has repeatedly emphasized his respect for the Jewish religion and that his problem is with those who occupy our land," he concluded.

In the speech 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.

The PA chairman backed his story with three points made by Jewish writers and historians, starting with the theory that Ashkenazi Jews are not descendants of the ancient Israelite, and that European Jews therefore had “no historical ties” to the Land of Israel.

He went on to claim the Holocaust was not the result of anti-Semitism but rather of the Jews “social behavior, [charging] interest, and financial matters.”

Abbas’s speech sparked fury not just in Israel but around the world. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu excoriated Abbas on Wednesday and called on the international community to condemn him.

“I call on the international community to condemn Abu Mazen’s severe anti-Semitism. The time has come for it to pass from the world,” the Prime Minister said.

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.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, on Wednesday sent a letter to the UN Security Council demanding condemnation of the anti-Semitic remarks by Abbas.

“Such a hateful diatribe against a people who have undergone thousands of years of intolerable persecution, is completely unacceptable. I call on all leaders of good faith to condemn these repeated hateful remarks and demand a full and sincere apology from Mr. Abbas. The Security Council must not stand idly by in the face of this incitement and apparent denial of Israel’s right to exist,” Ambassador Danon wrote.