Columns Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

Yes, Abbas is a Jew-hater

Remember that line from the classic film, “Casablanca”?

Captain Renault discovers that there is gambling in Casablanca — and he is “shocked! shocked!”

That is how many of us must have felt when we read the remarks of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, at the beginning of a meeting of the Palestinian National Council.

More precisely: his assessment of Jewish history.

First: It was the behavior of the Jews, and not anti-Semitism or Nazi racial theory, that led to the Holocaust.

From the 11th century until the Holocaust that took place in Germany, the Jews – who moved to Western and Eastern Europe – were subjected to a massacre every 10 to 15 years. But why did this happen? The Jewish issue that was widespread in all European countries… was not because of their religion, but rather their social role related to usury and banks.

Comment: No comment. This is beneath comment.

Second: The Jews do not originate in the land of Israel, but rather, in the eastern European empire of the Khazars.

Arthur Koestler, an American-Jewish Zionist, wrote a book about the 13th tribe… Where did you get the 13th from? They invented them. Where? In the Khazar Kingdom. When? In the ninth century. This kingdom was not religious and then it became Jewish… It later broke up, and all of its residents moved to Europe. These people are the Ashkenazi Jews. They have no relationship to Semitic culture, Abraham, Jacob and others.

Comment: First of all, Koestler was not an American.

Moreover, while it is would seem that the medieval Khazars (or, their ruling class) joined the Jewish people, this does not mean that all European Jews are descended from them.

Third: Israel is “a colonial project.” Jews did not support the building of a Jewish state in “historic Palestine.”

Now let’s talk about the homeland of the Jews. They say they are yearning for Zion… History says this is baseless. The proof is that the first person to call for a Jewish state was Cromwell, the British leader, in 1653… Napoleon Bonaparte came after him [and said the same thing]. And after [Napoleon], Churchill, the grandfather, came in 1840 [and said the same thing]… So everyone was calling for a Jewish state, but not the Jews… The story of building a national home didn’t come from the Jews, but rather the colonial states.

Comment: First of all, this is historically inaccurate. The Jewish longing for the Land of Israel is quite ancient; it is, in fact, the most ancient Jewish longing.

Abbas is pulling a swift and subtle move here. He is suggesting that the good people are the ones who never longed for Jewish sovereignty — and that list of good people, at least theoretically, includes those Jews who never longed for sovereignty.

Because, as he notes, the ones who were clamoring for a Jewish state were those nasty European colonialists.

With that slight of hand, Abbas concocts a narrative that would please Jewish anti-Zionists of both the left and the right, i.e., Neturei Karta, Satmar, and their ilk. It allows the anti-Zionists to claim the mantle of being the “good Jews” — at least, in the eyes of the world.

Let us go back Abbas’s first idea — that bad Jewish behavior created the Holocaust.

We should not be surprised.

Abbas has a long history of perpetrating anti-Semitic ideas. His CV has included Holocaust denial and the alleged relationship between Nazism and Zionism; in fact, that was the subject of his 1982 doctoral thesis.

If we are surprised — or, as in Renault’s “shocked! shocked!” — we should blame ourselves, not Abbas. He has always been open about what he believes, despite his occasional gestures of civility towards Jewish leaders.

If we are surprised, it is because many on the Left have willfully ignored this inconvenient truth: that many Palestinian leaders have been vilely anti-Semitic.

The most notorious was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, considered by many to be the founder of Palestinian nationalism. (I recommend his biography, Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam).

The Grand Mufti was not only responsible for fomenting anti-Jewish violence in the land of Israel. He was in open league with the Nazis. He spent the war years in Berlin. He persistently urged Himmler and other Nazi leaders to bomb Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In the Balkans and North Africa, he recruited Muslims for the Waffen SS.

The plan: had the Germans won in North Africa, and then went on to conquer the land of Israel, those Muslim troops would have carried out a final solution against the yishuv (the Jewish settlement in Israel).

So, Abbas’ Jew-hatred has an ancestry, a pedigree, and a precedent.

Let us, at the very least, be clear on that.

What, then, might we still hope to hear from a Palestinian leader?

My fantasy speech:

There is an Israeli rock song that says: “Suddenly, a man wakes up in the morning, and he feels that he is a people. And he calls out shalom to all the people that he meets on the way.” (Shir Ba-Boker Ba-Boker).

We, the Palestinians, are a people. We have a deep, profound connection to the Land.

You, the Jews, are also a people. You have a deep, profound connection to the land.

We have heard the voices of the Jews who honor our connection to the Land.

Now, it is our turn — to honor yours as well. That connection emanates from God’s original promise to Abraham, peace be upon him, our mutual father.

No longer can Abraham’s sons, Ishmael and Isaac go their separate ways, in anger, into the wilderness.

It is time for us to mutually recognize each other — our dreams, our texts, our songs, our poems, our realities — and, from there, to build a future. That future will be, we pray, two states for two peoples — in which we live out our national dreams and destinies, in cooperation, and inshallah, in peace.

If you say that this speech is a vain dream, and an empty hope — well, what can I say?

As the ancient prophet said: We are prisoners of hope.


About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.