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EU condemns 'unacceptable' Abbas comments on Holocaust

Abbas Momani, AFP | Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas chairs a Palestinian National Council meeting in Ramallah on April 30, 2018.

The European Union on Wednesday condemned Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas for the "unacceptable remarks" he made in a speech saying the Holocaust was caused in part by European resentment of the role Jews played in the financial sector.

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Abbas, who has faced accusations of anti-Semitism in the past, made the remarks in a speech to a meeting of the Palestinian National Council on Monday.

Addressing the causes of 20th-century anti-Semitism in Europe and saying the views he expressed were based on books by Jewish writers, Abbas said: "The conclusion of these books is that animosity toward Jews was not because of their religion but because of their societal activities," which included money lending.

Abbas went on to say the creation of Israel was originally a European colonial project but that Palestinians must learn to live with it.

"The truth is that this project is a colonial project aimed at planting foreign bodies in the region," he said. "But this does not mean we should uproot them. We should co-exist with them on the basis of a two-state solution."

The EU joined US and Israeli officials in condemning the comments on Wednesday.

"The speech Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered on 30 April contained unacceptable remarks concerning the origins of the Holocaust and Israel's legitimacy," a spokesman for the EU's diplomatic service said in a statement. "Such rhetoric will only play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution, which President Abbas has repeatedly advocated."

"Antisemitism is not only a threat for Jews but a fundamental menace to our open and liberal societies," the statement continued. "The European Union remains committed to combat any form of anti-Semitism and any attempt to condone, justify or grossly trivialise the Holocaust."

The row comes as relations between the United States and the Palestinian leadership have broken down over the controversial American plan to move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

>> Palestinians will not work with US on Mideast peace, Abbas says in Paris

David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, said Abbas had reached a "new low" while envoy Jason Greenblatt said "peace cannot be built on this kind of foundation".

Abbas suspended contacts with the Trump administration after its controversial recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The US move was also condemned by the United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League.

The 82-year-old Abbas also warned in his speech that he might "take tough steps in the near future in our relationship with our neighbours (Israel) and the Americans". He did not elaborate but said they would be far-reaching.

"Apparently the Holocaust denier is still a Holocaust denier," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday on Twitter in response to Abbas's remarks.

"I call upon the international community to condemn the grave anti-Semitism of Abu Mazen (Abbas), which should have long since passed from this world."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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