When Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas declared in a widely covered antisemitic tirade that Adolf Hitler’s genocide of 6 million Jews was not due to antisemitism but their “social role” in usury and finance, the backlash was swift. Some, including former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and veteran peace negotiator Martin Indyk, expressed genuine shock and dismay, contemplating how to react to such statements from someone who treated Indyk as a “personal friend for three decades.”
This doesn’t speak well for American officials tasked with important strategic posts. It’s as though Indyk and others are blind to the rampant antisemitism Abbas has been promoting for decades, whether in speeches or via P.A.-sponsored television and textbooks. This once again demonstrates that when it comes to hatred for the Jewish people, self-imposed ignorance is the default position for many so-called “experts.”
Abbas’s Holocaust revisionism has been on display since his 1982 doctoral thesis made the ludicrous and thoroughly debunked contention that Jewish pioneers collaborated with the Third Reich to facilitate the mass extermination of countless European Jews to then spur survivors to emigrate to British Mandate Palestine. In 2018, he made virtually identical remarks to the ones he did last month, and last year, he accused Israel of committing “50 holocausts” against Palestinians.
Not all responses to Abbas were that of surprise. A particularly encouraging condemnation seemed to be an open letter signed by more than 100 Palestinian intellectuals. However, a closer look reveals that many of these signatories have themselves promoted antisemitism and support violence against the State of Israel, with some even alleged to be part of U.S.-designated terror groups. It is, therefore, profoundly disappointing that the letter was uncritically promoted by prominent media outlets like the Associated Press, which lauded the letter by “renowned academics.”
Even a cursory examination of the signatories would have shown them that many of these “renowned academics” are far from would-be peacemakers. Take Refaat Alareer, a professor from Gaza. Several years back, he asked on X (Twitter): “Are most Jews evil? Of course, they are,” and also stated that Zionism—the Jewish right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland of Israel—is “the root cause of evil.” If Alareer’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he was the subject of a glowing New York Times profile before the entire article about him was effectively retracted after his antisemitism was exposed by multiple media watchdogs.
Another signatory is Noura Erakat, an associate professor at Rutgers University who has openly written that Zionism is “a form of racism.”
Then comes Omar Barghouti, founder of the BDS movement that aims to delegitimize Israel, which the U.S. State Department labeled as antisemitic. In one particularly infamous quote, he asserted: “Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”
Other signatories have questionable positions about the use of violence, like Leena Barakat, president and CEO of the Women Donors Network, who appears to have excused suicide bombings targeting Israelis as protected under international law.
And some have direct links to terrorist organizations. This includes Ubai Aboudi, a member of the U.S.-designated Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who is “responsible for recruiting additional activists to the [PFLP] … as well as strengthening the organization’s infrastructure in the area.”
These actions, statements and affiliations are contradictory to the letter’s message of unity against antisemitism, to put it lightly.
It therefore becomes apparent that many signatories are merely using the letter as a calculated move to capitalize on Abbas’s recent blunder and expedite the end of his dictatorial reign, which is approaching the 19th year of a four-year term that began in January 2005. Likewise, the signatories reveal their dishonest intentions by warning of the potential negative impact Abbas’s comments will have on the Palestinian cause, rather than focusing solely on condemning antisemitism.
Of course, there are undoubtedly many among the signatories who sincerely oppose antisemitism and are appalled by Abbas’s remarks. These voices should be elevated and help inspire a new generation of Israelis and Palestinians that peace is indeed possible. The problem is that it’s difficult to know who’s who. The presence of grifters with less than pure motives dilutes the letter’s impact, exposing it as a strategic move to dupe Western audiences and advance political agendas, rather than a genuine stance against hate.
Abbas’s rant and the reactions to it crystalize that for too many, Palestinian antisemitism is nothing more than a phenomenon to be ignored—or worse, a tool to advance antisemitism behind a more innocent facade. If we want any hope of forcefully confronting Palestinian antisemitism, then we must demand that our politicians, diplomats and media outlets finally begin acknowledging that it exists.