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Abbas, re-elected PLO chairman, apologises over alleged anti-semitic remarks


Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY

The top Palestinian legislative body, yesterday, re-elected Mahmoud Abbas as President of the Palestinian Authority and Chairman of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Following all-night deliberations, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), which met for the first time in a regular session in 22 years, re-elected Abbas, who has held both posts for decades, and named the 15 members of the PLO executive committee, which later elected him as its chairman.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Abbas, whose reappointment was expected, caused an uproar during the four-day meeting for anti-Semitic comments in which he said the genocide of Jews in Europe by the Nazis was not because of the Jewish religion, but because of the Jews’ role in bank lending.


Speaking at the closing session of the PNC afterwards, he said the assembly reached a consensus among all its political factions on the 15 members and left three seats of the 18-member executive committee open for the factions that had boycotted the meeting- the Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are not members of the PLO, and the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a founding member of the PLO.

Most of the executive committee members were incumbents, with a few new members added to replace either deceased or aged members.But yesterday, Abbas apologised over the comments, which drew global condemnation.

“If people were offended by my statement at the PNC, especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologise to them,” he said in a statement.The English-language statement added he wanted “to reiterate our long-held condemnation of the Holocaust as the most heinous crime in history.

“We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms and confirm our commitment to the two-state solution and to (living) side by side in peace and security.”The statement did not specifically apologise for his claim about Jewish persecution.

Israeli Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, immediately rejected the statement on Twitter, saying: “His apology is not accepted. Abbas is a pathetic Holocaust denier who wrote a doctorate about Holocaust denial and then a book about Holocaust denial,” citing past works that had already led to accusations of anti-Semitism.”

Abbas comments on Monday sparked global anger, with the United States (US), United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), Israeli leaders and others criticising them.He had made similar comments before, but his speech at the PNC attracted global condemnation, with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, saying on Wednesday on Twitter: “Apparently, the Holocaust denier is still a Holocaust denier.”

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Mahmoud AbbasPLO chairman
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