It’s right to condemn Mahmoud Abbas for his antisemitic remarks

tags: Holocaust, Netanyahu, antisemitism, Mahmoud Abbas

Jonathan Freedland is a columnist and writer for the Guardian. He is also a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and presents BBC Radio 4's contemporary history series, The Long View. In 2014 he was awarded the Orwell special prize for journalism. He has published nine books including seven bestselling thrillers, the latest being "To Kill the President," under the pseudonym Sam Bourne. He tweets @freedland

Think of it as a test. Can you hold two apparently clashing thoughts in your mind at the same time? Or, put another way, can you condemn reprehensible words and deeds when they come from someone whose cause you otherwise believe is just?

The question arises after the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, declared in a rambling speech on Monday that the root cause of the Holocaust was not so much the Nazis’ genocidal hatred of Jews as the Jews’ own conduct, specifically their “social behaviour”, adding that he meant “their social function related to banks and interest”. Loosely translated, Abbas seemed to be suggesting that Jews brought the mass slaughter of six million upon themselves, thanks to their supposed stinginess, fondness for money-lending and for driving a hard bargain – to cite just a few of the hoary anti-Jewish stereotypes Abbas apparently had in mind.

On the face of it, those remarks are classically antisemitic, carrying an extra sting of victim-blaming for good measure. At a push, you could imagine someone justifying such a view by noting that tension between Jews and their neighbours in Europe was fuelled for centuries by antisemitic laws that banned Jews from owning land, excluded them from key professions and forced them to engage in financial activity religiously forbidden as “usury” to Christians. But Abbas didn’t say any of that.

Besides, the Palestinian leader has form in this area. In a January speech, he implied that European Jews preferred to endure the Holocaust than move to Palestine: “The Jews did not want to emigrate even with murder and slaughter,” he said. Even during the Holocaust, they did not emigrate.” Of course, the truth is that after 1939 the British mandatory government that then ruled Palestine barred all but a trickle of Jewish migration to Palestine – and the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe were not exactly free to move where they chose.

What’s more, Abbas wrote a doctoral thesis at Moscow University several decades ago focusing on the Nazi period that drew on the writings of Holocaust deniers to question the number of Jews who were murdered.

In other words, when it comes to these latest remarks it’s hard to lend Abbas the benefit of the doubt. They are as awful as they look. ...

Read entire article at The Guardian

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