(JTA) — In a blistering letter, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he no longer deserves a medal she gave him eight years ago — her city’s top honor — because of what she called his willful Holocaust denial.
Hidalgo’s letter to Abbas, delivered on Thursday, comes after U.S., German and Israeli diplomats as well as U.S. Jewish groups across the political spectrum condemned a speech Abbas delivered in which he peddled falsehoods about the Holocaust and distortions about Judaism and the Jews.
Abbas said that Adolf Hitler and antisemites before him hated and persecuted the Jews not because of who they were but because of “their role in society” having to do with “usury, money, and so on and so on.”
“On Sept. 21, 2015, I received you at Paris City Hall, in the presence of my executive and the leaders of the council’s political factions,” Hidalgo wrote. “On that occasion I bestowed upon you the Grand Vermeil de Paris medal, the city’s highest distinction. The positions you hold contradict our universal values and the historical truth of the Shoah, therefore you may no longer maintain this distinction.”
It was not clear from the letter whether Hidalgo expects Abbas to return the medal. Her letter was posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, by Yonathan Arfi, the president of the CRIF, the umbrella body for French Jewry. “This important decision honors Paris and its constant engagement against antisemitism,” Arfi wrote.
In her letter, Hidalgo made clear that she does not accept that Abbas was misunderstood, as he has claimed when in the past he made similar statements offensive to Jews. She said that “with manifest will, you denied the genocide of the Jewish populations of Europe by the Nazi regime and its allies.
“As you know, the Shoah is part of Paris’ history,” she wrote, using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust. “In our city, during the Second World War, tens of thousands of Jewish children, women and men were rounded up, deported and exterminated in death camps.”
Hidalgo said the city would maintain its sisterhood relationship with three Palestinian cities — Bethlehem, Jericho and Jenin — in the spirit of advancing Middle East peace.
Abbas, 87, delivered the speech last month to a body of his political party, Fatah. It was translated and posted on social media on Wednesday by MEMRI, a pro-Israel group that tracks depictions of Jews and Israel in the Arab world and translates material in Arabic. Other agencies verified the translation.