PA leader must apologise

Australia condemns Mahmoud Abbas’ antisemitic remarks

'We urge Mr Abbas to issue an apology. The Albanese government will always fight against antisemitism,' foreign minister Penny Wong says

Mahmoud Abbas in Ankara in July. Photo: Adem Altan/AFP
Mahmoud Abbas in Ankara in July. Photo: Adem Altan/AFP

The Australian government has slammed Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas for recent antisemitic remarks about Jews and urged him to apologise.

Speaking at a recent meeting of his ruling Fatah party’s Revolutionary Council, Abbas, who is in the 18th year of his four-year term, denied that antisemitism had anything to do with the Holocaust.

“It was clearly explained that [the Europeans] fought [the Jews] because of their social role, and not their religion,” he claimed.

“Even Hitler said he fought the Jews because they were dealing with usury.”

Abbas also claimed that European Jews are not Semites, referring to a discredited theory that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from Central Asian Khazars.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the Albanese government strongly condemned the offensive remarks, including distorting the truth of the Holocaust.

“We urge Mr Abbas to issue an apology. The Albanese government will always fight against antisemitism,” she said.

Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Birmingham joined in the criticism. “We condemn Palestinian President Abbas’ abhorrent and antisemitic remarks. As other countries in the Middle East move towards normalisation of relations with Israel, Mr Abbas’ comments seek to stoke hatred and undermine peace.”

Birmingham said the Liberal/National Coalition supports Australia’s long-standing position of speaking out against antisemitism in all of its forms, including Holocaust denial and distortion.

He said Abbas’ remarks are “rightly receiving widespread condemnation”, and particularly noted what he called the principled and thoughtful statements from German representatives and echoed their words that “Palestinians deserve to hear the historical truth from their leader, not such distortions.”

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler welcomed the very strong bipartisan condemnation, but said he was concerned that Abbas’s comments reflect what is being taught in Palestinian schools and repeated in Palestinian media.

“Condemning antisemitic remarks is important, but it is also important that Australia also holds the Palestinian Authority accountable for its other antisemitic actions,” he said.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim also welcomed the strong statements of condemnation by the government and opposition.

“[Abbas] made similar comments in 2018 about usury and Ashkenazi Jews, and last year he accused Israel of committing ’50 Holocausts’ against Palestinians. In 1984 he published a book in which he condemned the Holocaust but also cited historians who disputed the widely accepted death toll of as many as six million Jews,” he noted.

Wertheim said the blood-guilt for the Shoah falls squarely upon the Nazis and their close allies, “including Abbas’s predecessor as Palestinian leader, the loathsome Haj Amin al-Husseini”.

He said far too many people blame Israel for the failure of Oslo to produce a lasting peace, despite Israel having made serious peace offers to the Palestinians on at least three occasions.

“Abbas’s descent into racism has again highlighted that it is well past time to hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for that failure,” he said.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said, “Any major Australian figure arguing for the formal recognition of Palestine should be given a full transcript of Abbas’ remarks. They demonstrate the depth of his hatred and intolerance towards Jews and the State of Israel.

“Unfortunately, Abbas’ comments are part of a long-term pattern, which includes systemic anti-Israel incitement and generous , ongoing inducements for terrorism. They reflect the true face of the Palestinian leadership.

“Given our Government has cited its concerns with Israel’s current government in its unfortunate, counterproductive decision to change Australia’s language relating to the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, it should also factor this pattern of racist and extremist Palestinian behaviour into its dealings with the Palestinian Authority.”

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