Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas offers apology for remarks on Jews
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends the 34th session of the Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, February 27, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday offered an apology after he was criticized for anti-Semitism for suggesting that historic persecution of European Jews had been caused by their conduct, not by their religion.


Abbas condemned anti-Semitism and called the Holocaust the “most heinous crime in history” in a statement issued by his office in Ramallah after a four-day meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), at which he had made the remarks.

 “If people were offended by my statement in front of the PNC, especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologize to them,” Abbas said in the statement.

“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.”

 Abbas, 82, was excoriated by Israeli and Jewish leaders and diplomats who accused him of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial for his remarks on Monday during his opening speech to the PNC, the de facto parliament of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

In a lengthy section about history, he said that Jews living in Europe had suffered massacres “every 10 to 15 years in some country since the 11th century and until the Holocaust”.

Israeli officials had no immediate comment on Abbas’ statement of apology on Friday. On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had accused Abbas of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Angus MacSwan