Monday, January 24th | 22 Shevat 5782

May 3, 2018 12:14 pm

Top UK Labour Party Official Attends, Fails to Condemn Abbas’ Antisemitic Speech

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Emily Thornberry, the UK Labour party’s shadow foreign secretary. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The UK Labour party’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry attended the meeting of the Palestinian National Council on Monday at which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made an antisemitic speech, and she did not initially condemn his statements.

In Abbas’ speech, the Palestinian leader stated, “Jews who moved to east and west Europe were facing a massacre every 10 or 15 years from a different country. The hatred towards the Jews is not because of their religion but because of their social roles related to taxes and banks.”

He also claimed that Ashkenazi Jews were not descended from the ancient indigenous population of the Land of Israel, repeating the myth that their origins were in the medieval kingdom of the Khazars.

“Khazar was a kingdom with no religion, then they became Jews and left the kingdom and spread all over Europe,” Abbas said. “And those are Ashkenazi Jews, which means they are not Semitic and have no relation to Semitism and have nothing to do with the prophets Abraham or Jacob.”

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According to the Daily Mail, Thornberry ignored Abbas’ antisemitic comments, instead praising Abbas’ attacks on US President Donald Trump.

“While we of course want to see the resumption of meaningful peace talks,” she stated. “I said President Abbas had been quite right to argue that the Trump administration cannot act as a mediator for peace when they themselves are sowing the seeds of discord, and making a negotiated peace ever harder to achieve.”

She issued a later statement addressing Abbas’ remarks, saying, “It is deeply regrettable that, during a lengthy speech whose main and successful purpose was to urge the Palestinian National Council to remain committed to the Middle East peace process and the objective of a two-state solution, President Abbas made these antisemitic remarks about the history of the Jewish community in Europe which were not just grossly offensive, but utterly ignorant.”

“His comments were out of keeping with the tone of the Council as a whole,” she added, “and of my discussions with other delegates, and I hope President Abbas will immediately apologise for them, so that the message to come out of this important Council meeting can remain positive and progressive, and focused on reestablishing peaceful and constructive dialogue.”

Since Jeremy Corbyn became its leader in 2015, the Labour party has been beset with antisemitism scandals. Major figures in the party have been suspended or expelled for making antisemitic statements, Jewish opponents of Corbyn have received racist threats, and it was recently revealed that Corbyn was a member of a Facebook group replete with antisemitic posts. The Jewish community held a series of street protests in response, demanding Corbyn take serious action on the issue. Jewish leaders who met with Corbyn expressed disappointment with his reaction.

In a rare public statement on Wednesday, Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem blasted Abbas’ remarks, saying, “Sadly, Abbas has chosen to assault Holocaust remembrance by attempting to convert the Shoah into a propaganda tool, blatantly falsifying history to the point of accusing the Jewish victims as being responsible for their own murder, and transforming Hitler into a Zionist.”

In Abbas’ doctoral dissertation, he questioned whether six million Jews died in the Holocaust, saying the number was likely much lower.

US Jewish groups unanimously joined in the condemnation. Jonathan Greenblatt, national director and CEO of the ADL, said, “Laden with ahistorical and pseudo-academic assertions, the Palestinian president’s latest diatribe reflects once again the depth and persistency of the antisemitic attitudes he harbors.”

The World Jewish Congress said it “unequivocally condemns Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ despicable and outrageous exploitation of the oldest antisemitic tropes in the book, going so low as to accuse Jews of bringing genocide upon themselves in some twisted attempt to disprove the Jewish historical connection to the Land of Israel.”

Left-wing lobby J Street stated, “There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of incendiary rhetoric. With diatribes like this, President Abbas only undermines the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Palestinian people, and distracts from the need for international action to help alleviate the crisis in Gaza and advance the two-state solution.”

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