May 17, 2018 Special Dispatch No. 7472

Lebanese Political Analyst: Abbas's Antisemitic Speech Harmed Palestinian Cause, Played Into Netanyahu's Hands

May 17, 2018
Lebanon, Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 7472

In his May 5, 2018 column in the daily Al-Hayat, senior Lebanese journalist, critic and political analyst Hazem Saghiya responded to Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas's antisemitic speech at the Palestinian National Council on April 30, 2018.[1] Saghiya wrote that the speech had sabotaged the Palestinians' long struggle to distance themselves from antisemitism, and had played into the hands of Netanyahu and Israel's radical right by enabling them to claim that 'Abbas was and remains a flagrant antisemite. He wondered why 'Abbas insisted on spouting such nonsense and how anyone could now take seriously his claims about fostering a "culture of peace" and "peaceful popular resistance." The Palestinian leadership, he added, is no different from other dictatorial Arab leaderships, and keeps making mistakes that harm its cause no less than Israel's policies.

The following are translated excerpts from his column:[2]

Hazem Saghiya (Image: Al-Hayat, Dubai, May 5, 2018)

"In his speech to the National Palestinian Council, Mahmoud 'Abbas defended the Palestinian cause and rights, which nobody contests. He showed how hypocritical the proposed solutions [to the Palestinian problem] are, and how devoid of justice and compassion. He rightly emphasized the extent to which the world ignores [the principle of] justice when it comes to [the Palestinians] and Israel. He described the cruelty of the Israeli occupation, which does not spare [even] children.

"But the old epithet 'bad advocate for a good cause' has come to be true of 'Abbas. His very lengthy speech, whose length did nothing to enhance its [value], undid decades of Palestinian efforts to cast off the antisemitic mindset, with all the racism, myths and ignorance it entails. Ignorance, like tolerance, has its limits, but the Palestinian president exceeded them all... He repeated the odious song and dance about usury and banks, and spouted nonsense about the history of European Jews, citing books that libraries have [long since] thrown out. He also denied that there had been any massacres of Jews in the Arab world, [which is untrue], even if these massacres were very few and limited compared to the ones in Europe.

"All this and more in a single speech, which exceeded Binyamin Netanyahu's [wildest] dreams, for it corroborated Israel's harshest claims, exonerated the Israeli settlements of the blame for thwarting the two-state solution, and enabled [Israel] to claim that 'Abbas draws [inspiration] from the notorious Hamas Charter. [It also provided Israel with an opportunity] to recall the dissertation ['Abbas] submitted in Moscow[3] and to conclude that the man has not changed since then...

"Why the insistence [on addressing] the matter of history, from the 11th century to the Holocaust, and to air out this miserable 'Palestinian narrative'? And, after this, how can anyone take seriously all of ['Abbas's] claims about 'peaceful popular resistance', a 'culture of peace' and 'cooperation with the supporters of peace in Israel'?

"The Palestinian representatives' shaky relationship with [accurate] knowledge remains a cause for concern. [The Palestinian people], one of the most educated peoples in the Arab world, has a leadership that is capable of making all these mistakes, a leadership that has inherited the behavior of Yasser Arafat, who was the certified king of all mistake-makers. The complexity and difficulty of the Palestinian issue are compounded by the flawed mentality of the Palestinian statesmen... and by their barrenness and inability to come up with a single creative idea. But ultimately, [lack of] wisdom and creativity is not just a matter of knowledge. It is one mark in a thousand of a leadership that is not interested in the fate of its people... This exposes 'Abbas's regime as [just] another tyrannical regime in the Arab world. That is why the Palestinian president called the Arab Spring nothing more than 'an American lie,' an expression that was greeted with wild applause at the Palestinian National Council."


[2] Al-Hayat (Dubai), May 5, 2018.

[3] The reference is to 'Abbas's doctoral dissertation, submitted to a university in Moscow in 1982, on "the relations between Nazism and Zionism in 1933-1945," which led Jewish and Israeli organizations to accuse him of Holocaust denial.

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