Britain 'deeply concerned' by Palestinian president's Holocaust remarks

Britain 'deeply concerned' by Palestinian president's Holocaust remarksBritain said on Thursday that recent remarks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the Holocaust were "deeply concerning" and unhelpful to peace in the region. Israel has accused Mr Abbas of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial after the Palestinian leader suggested in a speech that historic persecution of European Jews had been caused by their conduct. "Palestinian President Abbas’s comments at the Palestinian National Congress were deeply concerning. Any attempt to justify or explain away any element of the Holocaust is unacceptable," Britain's Middle-East minister Alistair Burt said in a statement. "President Abbas has shown a commitment to non-violence and a two-state solution. But his recent rhetoric does not serve the interests of the Palestinian people and is deeply unhelpful to the cause of peace." Mr Abbas said in his speech that Jews living in Europe had suffered massacres "every 10 to 15 years in some country since the 11th century and until the Holocaust". Citing books written by various authors, Mr Abbas argued: "They say hatred against Jews was not because of their religion, it was because of their social profession. So the Jewish issue that had spread against the Jews across Europe was not because of their religion, it was because of usury and banks." Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves in Ramallah on Tuesday Credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday accused Mr Abbas of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Jewish groups and diplomats also condemned Mr Abbas' comments, made in a speech on Monday to the Palestinian National Council, that Jews had suffered historically not because of their religion but because they had served as bankers and money lenders. "It would appear that, once a Holocaust denier, always a Holocaust denier," Mr Netanyahu said on Twitter. "I call upon the international community to condemn the grave anti-Semitism of Abu Mazen (Abbas), which should have long since passed from this world." On Thursday, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) parliament was preparing to hand its authority over to a smaller council in a move seen as a concentration of power in the hands of President Mahmoud Abbas's loyalists. The Palestinian National Council agreed Thursday to grant the 115-member Central Council authority to assume the political body's powers, such as appointing a successor to the 83-year-old Palestinian leader and resolving the decade-long rift with the rival Hamas party ruling Gaza. Abbas aide Ahmad Majdalani says the move will "make it easier for the PLO to handle political developments, and to fill any vacuum in PLO positions." The Palestinian National Council, which met this week for the first time in over two decades, was set to formally announce the measure Thursday evening. 



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