Palestinian president apologises for alleged anti-Semitic remarks

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Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas apologised Friday for alleged anti-Semitic comments that drew global condemnation.

"If people were offended by my statement at the Palestinian National Council, especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologise to them," he said in a statement, days after appearing to suggest Jewish behaviour, including money lending, led to their persecution in Europe.

The English-language statement added that he opposed "anti-Semitism in all its forms" and wanted "to reiterate our long held condemnation of the Holocaust, as the most heinous crime in history".

Monday's comments sparked global anger, with the United States, United Nations, European Union and others criticising them, as well as Israeli leaders.

In a rambling speech to hundreds of Palestinian officials, the 82-year-old said for centuries Jews in Europe were "subjected to a massacre every 10 to 15 years. But why did this happen? They say 'it is because we are Jews'."

He then cited "three books" written by Jews as evidence that "hostility against Jews is not because of their religion, but rather their social function," adding he meant "their social function related to banks and interest".