President Abbas on Jewish History

May 02, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon


By Gilad Atzmon

Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas as anti-Semitic after the latter claimed past massacres, including the Holocaust were related to the “social function” of Jews in banking.  “[H]ostility against Jews is not because of their religion, but rather their social function”, were Abbas’ exact words.

Abbas’ view is not a new one, and it was a view accepted by early (Labour) Zionists who tended to agree with the so-called ‘antisemitic argument’ that Jews were removed from labour and proletarian life and were too involved in capitalist adventures. Neither Abbas nor Early Zionists justified antisemitsm however,  they attempted to grasp it roots. Labour Zionism was actually a promise to change the Jewish people and their fate by means of ‘homecoming.’

“It would appear that, once a Holocaust denier, always a Holocaust denier,” the Israeli prime minister said of Abbas on Twitter on Wednesday. “I call upon the international community to condemn the grave antisemitism of Abu Mazen [Abbas], which should have long since passed from this world.”

But is Bibi correct? Has this kind of debate faded away? During the last American presidential election, contender Donald Trump was repeatedly accused of antisemitsm for  ‘dog whistling’  on the connection between Jews and Wall Street. Abbas’s comment, to a certain extent, helps us to locate Trump’s victory in an historical context.

Israel’s foreign ministry accused Abbas of fuelling religious and nationalist hatred against the Jewish people and Israel. I can’t figure out where the religious hatred is to be found in President Abbas’ words. Abbas didn’t argue that Jewish banking is a Judaic ritual or a mitzvah. He specifically referred to culture. In my book,  Palestinians are more than entitled to oppose Jewish nationalism. However there was no nationalist hatred there either.

PM Netanyahu asked the international community to condemn Abbas. David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel was quick to deliver.  He tweeted the following: “Abu Mazen has reached a new low in attributing the cause of massacres of Jewish people over the years to their ‘social behavior relating to interest and banks.’ To all those who think Israel is the reason that we don’t have peace, think again?”

I am left puzzled, when Friedman says  “WE don’t have peace” what ‘WE’ does he  have in mind? Is it the Israeli ‘WE’ or maybe he refers to the  American ‘WE” whom he is paid to represent. I ask because for the time being America and Palestine are in peace.

If they want to burn it, you want to read it!

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Being in Time – A Post Political Manifesto, , and  here (

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