Palestinian Authority (PA) President, Mahmoud Abbas, has been strongly criticised for an antisemitic speech given on Monday at the Palestinian National Council, in Ramallah, which was attended by Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry.
In his lengthy speech, President Abbas said Jews had caused the Holocaust with their “social behaviour, [charging] interest, and financial matters.”
Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu said that “at the height of ignorance and insolence…he claimed that the Jews of Europe were persecuted and murdered not because they were Jews, but because they engaged in interest-bearing loans.”
“Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] again recites the most despicable anti-Semitic slogans,” Netanyahu’s statement said, adding: “Apparently a Holocaust-denier remains a Holocaust-denier.”
Abbas, who has faced accusations of anti-Semitism in the past, suggested in an address to a meeting at the Palestinian National Council that Jews’ relations with banking had led to hostility against them.
In his speech Abbas also said “Europeans wanted to bring Jews to Palestine to preserve their interests”.
Reports have confirmed that Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary was in the room during the speech, alongside 80 other international observers. Thornberry was representing Labour at meeting in Ramallah. The Shadow Foreign Secretary confirmed her attendance in a Facebook post published after Abbas’ speech.
David Friedman, the US Ambassador to Israel, said Abbas had reached a “new low”.
The Palestinian National Council is the official legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and elects the PLO’s Executive Committee, which makes decisions on all Palestinian matters — in Israel, the West Bank and around the world.
Abbas echoed that he would not accept an American peace deal in the wake of the Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv later this month.
The European Union condemned Abbas for “unacceptable remarks” he made in the speech. A spokesman for the EU’s diplomatic service said in a statement: “The speech Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered on 30 April contained unacceptable remarks concerning the origins of the Holocaust and Israel’s legitimacy”.