(JTA) — In an unusual move, the main Palestinian lobby group in Germany condemned what it called “anti-Semitic” remarks by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about the Holocaust.
The German-Palestinian Society, or DPG, in a statement Tuesday said it “dissociates itself clearly and unequivocally” from the remarks by Abbas.
Speaking Monday in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas said that Jews caused the Holocaust with their “social behavior,” such as money lending. He also said that Jews do not have a historical connection to the land.
His remarks earned condemnation from across the political spectrum. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Members of the Trump administration blasted the remarks. Liberal Jewish groups like J Street and American Friends of Peace Now said his remarks were incendiary and offensive.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued an unusually strong statement. “Abbas’s self-titled ‘history lesson’ was anything but,” said Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. “Rather than expose Palestinians to accurate information about the Holocaust and the antisemitic persecution Jews faced for centuries in Europe, Abbas distorts the history to advance an agenda that lies about the Holocaust and Jews’ connection to Israel.”
The statement by the German Palestinian group called Abbas’ address a “speech riddled with anti-Semitic remarks.”
“To suggest that Jews in some way share a responsibility for the Holocaust is a grotesque distortion of historical facts,” DPG wrote in its statement. “The claim that the Jewish people have no roots in the Holy Land is equally erroneous.”
Allegations of anti-Semitism against Abbas by key allies in Europe are rare. The Holocaust is a sensitive issue in Germany, whose Nazi leadership masterminded and led the genocide during World War II. The DPG’s open rebuke of Abbas may also reflect growing discomfort with his increasingly radical rhetoric among allies stating the case for Palestinian rights in liberal societies.
On Wednesday, the European Jewish Congress called on European leaders and officials to cease all contact with the Palestinian leader until he apologizes for his outrageous anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
“For far too long European leaders have given Mahmoud Abbas the benefit of the doubt over his repeated incitement against Israel, the Jewish People and his denial of the Holocaust,” Moshe Kantor, the European Jewish Congress president, said in a statement. “This must come to an end and he must be treated like any racist or anti-Semite and contact with him must cease until he apologizes.”
Also Wednesday, the European Union’s diplomatic service joined in the condemnation of Abbas’ remarks. Stopping short of calling them anti-Semitic, the EU External Action service in a statement said they were “unacceptable” and “will only play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution.” The EU said it “remains committed to combat any form of anti-Semitism and any attempt to condone, justify or grossly trivialise the Holocaust.”
German Foreign Minister Haiku Maas said in response to Abbas’ remarks that his country was responsible for “one of the worst crimes in history.”
“Therefore,” he said, “we must respond resolutely to any anti-Semitic expression.”