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Palestinian president apologizes for anti-Semitic speech

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas apologized on Friday for remarks he made earlier in the week.(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

An apology was issued on Friday by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, after he was accused of anti-Semitism stemming from a speech he gave earlier in the week.

On Monday, speaking to Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, Abbas told his audience: "Jews who moved to east and west Europe were facing a massacre every 10 or 15 years from a different country. The hatred towards the Jews is not because of their religion but because of their social roles related to taxes and banks."

In response to the remarks made by Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "With utmost ignorance and brazen gall, he claimed that European Jews were persecuted and murdered not because they were Jews but because they gave loans with interest," saying the Palestinian president had "again recited the most contemptible anti-Semitic canards."

The apology from Abbas came in the form of a statement, saying that "if people were offended by my statement...especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologize to them. I would like to assure everyone that it was not my intention to do so, and to reiterate my full respect for the Jewish faith, as well as other monotheistic faiths."

Since writing his 1982 doctoral dissertation which downplays the number of Holocaust victims, Abbas has been accused of anti-Semitism. In an excerpt from the paper, he writes, "It seems that the interest of the Zionist movement, however, is to inflate this figure so that their gains will be greater...This led them to emphasize this figure [six million] in order to gain the solidarity of international public opinion with Zionism."

Abbas' dissertation was entitled, "The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism," and is now included in the school curriculum throughout the Palestinian Authority.

Following the Palestinian leader's apology on Friday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tweeted that the president "is a wretched Holocaust denier, who wrote a doctorate of Holocaust denial and later also published a book on Holocaust denial. This is how he should be treated. His apologies are not accepted."

The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, called Abbas' remarks from Monday "a new low," and then tweeted, "To all those who think Israel is the reason that we don't have peace, think again."

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