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Palestinian academics sign open letter condemning Abbas’s antisemitic comments

Over 100 intellectuals warn of fallout from PA president’s ‘ignorant narratives’ on the Palestinian cause, denounce his ‘authoritarian and draconian rule’. A group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals signed an open letter on Sunday to condemn the “morally and politically reprehensible comments” recently made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about the Holocaust and the origins of Ashkenazi Jews.

The letter was signed by over a hundred “Palestinian academics, writers, artists, activists, and people of all walks of life,” mostly living in the US and Europe, and was shared by several signatories on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

The letter condemned Abbas’s distortion of the Holocaust in strong terms: “Rooted in a racial theory widespread in European culture and science at the time, the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people was born of antisemitism, fascism, and racism. We adamantly reject any attempt to diminish, misrepresent, or justify antisemitism, Nazi crimes against humanity, or historical revisionism vis-a-vis the Holocaust.”

The letter came in response to the antisemitic statements Abbas recently made at the Fatah party’s Revolutionary Council. Abbas outlined the baseless theory that Ashkenazi Jews are not descended from the Israelites but an ancient people known as the Khazars, and are therefore not Semites. He further claimed that Hitler killed the Jews not because of their religion, but due to their “social role,” which in his words “ had to do with usury, money and so on and so forth.” He has made similar allegations in the past.

Abbas’s statements drew a slew of condemnations in Israel, Europe and the US, and even caused Abbas to be stripped of an honorific medal by the Paris mayor. In an attempt to deflect the criticism, his spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said on Thursday that the statements were actually “academic and historical quotations” of unnamed Jewish and American authors.

Gianluca Pacchiani