Remember this speech? Mahmoud Abbas addressed the first Palestinian National Council meeting in 22 years by expounding on the illegitimacy of the state of Israel and by telling the Jews that they brought the Holocaust on themselves with their greed. Abbas continued in his “history lesson” to explain that Adolf Hitler himself helped create the state of Israel by redirecting Jewish money to the British Palestinian mandate. It was a virtuoso performance blending anti-Semitism with flat-out insanity and ignorance, and — perhaps catching Abbas by surprise — got the world’s attention.
A few days later, after the PNC closed up shop, Abbas has issued an apology … or at least that’s what the headlines read:
#BREAKING Palestinian president apologises for alleged anti-Semitic remarks
— AFP news agency (@AFP) May 4, 2018
So he’s sorry that he blamed the Holocaust on the Jews and credited Hitler with the founding of Israel? Naaaah. He’s just sorry “if people were offended” that he said it:
Abbas condemned anti-Semitism and called the Holocaust the “most heinous crime in history” in a statement issued by his office in Ramallah after a four-day meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC).
The statement said: “If people were offended by my statement in front of the PNC, especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologize to them. I would like to assure everyone that it was not my intention to do so, and to reiterate my full respect for the Jewish faith, as well as other monotheistic faiths.”
Note well that nothing in that statement addresses what Abbas actually claimed in that speech. It’s a classic non-apology apology, a public-relations dodge that allows Abbas to eat his cake and have it too (and a habit among US politicians for their own rhetorical peccadilloes, too). He can spew anti-Semitic conspiracy theories among Palestinians and issue “sorry if you were offended by my brilliance” statements to the West all day long.
Note also that this statement was issued after the PNC packed up its circus and went home, too. If Abbas truly regretted his remarks, why not say so in front of his fellow Palestinians and explain where he went wrong?
For that matter, why did Abbas even feel the need to issue a statement? Because for once, thanks to Abbas’ need to shore up his support with a national council meeting, everyone noticed his nuttiness. It produced a round of diplomatic condemnations from Western nations normally more sympathetic to the Palestinians, and in one case included a not-so-veiled threat that Abbas might have undermined a two-state solution with his speech:
In unusually blunt language from Brussels, the European External Action Service said in a statement: “The speech Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered on 30 April contained unacceptable remarks concerning the origins of the Holocaust and Israel’s legitimacy.
“Such rhetoric will only play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution, which President Abbas has repeatedly advocated.”
The EEAS added: “Antisemitism is not only a threat for Jews but a fundamental menace to our open and liberal societies.
“The European Union remains committed to combat any form of anti-Semitism and any attempt to condone, justify or grossly trivialize the Holocaust.”
Abbas issued the statement not out of regret, but out of hopes of mollifying his allies enough to where they’ll drop the matter. And if history is any guide, most of them will be all too happy to go back to ignoring Abbas’ annihilationist impulses that slipped out during his speech, and to which that speech was clearly calculated to appeal among other Palestinian factions.