State Department Refuses to Condemn Abbas’s Blood Libel in Speech to European Parliament (VIDEO)
The US State Department refused to condemn the use of antisemitic tropes by the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in a speech on Thursday before the European Parliament.
AP reporter Matt Lee grilled spokesman John Kirby during a daily press briefing over the US’s response to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s claim that Jews in Israel are seeking to poison the water wells of Palestinians.
“Only a week ago, a number of rabbis in Israel announced, and made a clear announcement, demanding that their government poison the water to kill the Palestinians,” Abbas told European lawmakers in Brussels. “Isn’t that clear incitement to commit mass killings against the Palestinian people?”
Asking for the State Department’s response to Abbas’s remarks, Lee and Kirby verbally sparred over the issue:
QUESTION: Are you familiar with the comments – the part of his speech in which he said that there were some rabbis who were wanting to poison Palestinian water?
MR. KIRBY: I’ve seen the comments. I can’t confirm the veracity of that.
QUESTION: You can’t – I’m not asking you to confirm it. I’m asking you what you think of it.
MR. KIRBY: Well, look, I mean —
QUESTION: I mean, is this the kind of – is this the kind of language that you guys want coming from someone who says that he’s a partner for peace and wants to negotiate, and then he accuses the other side of trying to poison his people?
MR. KIRBY: We’ve been – without speaking to specific comments, as you know I’m not wont to do, we have been very clear – the Secretary’s been clear about our concerns about inflammatory rhetoric and incitement and —
QUESTION: Well, this is before the EU parliament. What —
MR. KIRBY: Again, we want – here’s how I’d put it, Matt: We —
QUESTION: You don’t think it’s —
MR. KIRBY: As we’ve said before, we —
QUESTION: You don’t think it might be true, do you?
MR. KIRBY: I – again, I’ve seen nothing to indicate the truth of that. But we have long said what we want is for both sides to ratchet down not just the violence but the rhetoric, which can inflame some of the violence. And we just don’t find that sort of rhetoric helpful.
Abbas’ claim — which has been widely circulated by Arab media and debunked by international outlets — has been outright denied by Israel. As previously reported, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told The Algemeiner on Thursday that Abbas “showed his true face in Brussels” and is actively spreading a “blood libel” based on false claims against the state of Israel.
The allegations were based on a Sunday report by Turkish news agency Anadolu, which said “Rabbi Shlomo Mlma, chairman of the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank settlements,” issued an edict to take action and poison the Palestinians. A subsequent investigation by Reuters and other global news agencies were unable to locate the rabbi or find any trace of the organization.
Abbas hurled additional accusations against Israel in his speech, claiming Israel massacres Palestinians. He said “to overcome terrorism, we also need to end Israeli occupation by creating a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
“Once this occupation ends, those pretexts will disappears and extremism will be over as will terrorism….There will be no more terrorism in the Middle East nor elsewhere in the world,” he said.
Following his speech, European Parliament members gave Abbas a 30-second standing ovation.
During his visit, Abbas rebuffed an invitation to meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who was also in Brussels to address the European Parliament.
According to a report in Al Jazeera on Sunday, Abbas has retracted his blood libel. “Abbas’ office acknowledged on Saturday that his comments were ‘baseless,’ adding he ‘didn’t intend to do harm to Judaism or to offend Jewish people around the world,'” the report said.
Watch Lee and Kirby’s exchange (begins at 9-minute mark):