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Abbas’s speech was only the latest example of anti-Semitism by Israel’s supporters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seen at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council on February 27, 2017 [Mustafa Yalçın / Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seen at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council on February 27, 2017 [Mustafa Yalçın / Anadolu Agency]

Too many people within the Labour Party, and even some within Britain’s Palestine solidarity movement, either fundamentally misunderstand or refuse to see the true nature of the Palestinian Authority. The PA is not the “Palestinian government” and neither is it the leader of the Palestinian struggle. Indeed, the “authority” was established with precisely the opposite intention: to liquidate the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the leader of the struggle.

This scheme, hatched by the forces of US imperialism in alliance with the Israeli occupation regime, was largely successful, despite occasional tensions. The PA was thus established as a puppet regime to give a Palestinian fig leaf to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; it is an unelected, unaccountable, wannabe dictatorship which answers to nobody except Israel and its sponsors in the US and EU. The Ramallah-led Palestinian security services and secret police do everything in their power to prop up this dictatorship and to shield Israeli soldiers and illegal settlers from Palestinian resistance, both armed and unarmed.

“President” Mahmoud Abbas last won an election 13 years ago and his mandate – such as it was – expired almost a decade ago. He essentially inherited the PA as a family business after Yasser Arafat passed away in 2004. Much like a mob boss, he has bitterly and brutally held onto his trappings of power, even at the cost of toppling previous close allies, most notably the notorious former torturer of Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan.

Despite much hollow noise by the US and Israel against Abbas, the fact that the PA is a tool of US imperialism in the region had been made clear time and time again. In September 2016, for example, the Obama administration even directly intervened in the US court system to prevent what could have been the financial collapse of the PA and its “security force” thugs. An Israeli-government-linked organisation sought $1 billion in damages against the PA, but the federal appeal court threw the case out after the President intervened.

The formation of the PA was the culmination of decades of failed Israeli schemes to impose puppet Palestinian regimes to control the indigenous population through divide and rule, a strategy common to every settler-colonial project, such as the “Bantustans” in Apartheid South Africa. Probably the most notorious of these efforts were the “Village Leagues” of the 1980s. When these attempt to invent a new collaborationist regime in the West Bank failed, attention was turned to instead co-opting the PLO. This strategy was ultimately successful from 1993 onwards.

Thus, empty noises made by the Israeli government against the PA are just that, because the regime in Tel Aviv knows that it ultimately needs Ramallah as a loyal instrument of its occupation of the West Bank. The latest raucous fury came this week when the Israeli government condemned the content of an Abbas speech.

Israel’s condemnation, though, was both hollow and hypocritical. Its incongruity aside, the strange and rambling speech did in fact include a hideously anti-Semitic statement. Abbas claimed, disgracefully, that the Nazi Holocaust was provoked by the “social function” of Europe’s Jews and their supposed domination of “usury and banking”. This is a classically anti-Semitic trope, and it was disavowed swiftly by leading Palestinian voices the world over.

The Palestinians have always had a national consensus that their struggle is emphatically not against Jews as people or Judaism as a religion, but against the political, settler-colonial ideology of Zionism. Although there is much of what he said and did to criticise legitimately, to his credit previous PLO leader Yasser Arafat always made this distinction clear.

Ironically, what was probably Abbas’s most clearly anti-Semitic statement to date came only a year after Hamas revoked its previous charter, a document written by a lone activist around the time of the movement’s foundation in the late 1980s, which contained some anti-Semitic passages. Instead, the movement now has a new, widely adopted document which affirms what its leaders had been saying for a decade or more; the “conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion. Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.”

Moreover, Israel’s condemnation of Abbas was entirely hypocritical, because he has a long pedigree of anti-Semitism which does not seem to have bothered the Israelis and their supporters before. He wrote a PhD thesis in Moscow decades ago, which reportedly included Holocaust denial.

The fact is that Israel has no problem working with anti-Semites, as long as they are pro-Israel anti-Semites. As the Lebanese-American Professor As’ad AbuKhalil has noted, Abbas has been a Holocaust denier since he was young, and he is part of a trend of Israel’s dictatorial allies in the region. One former Israeli military intelligence officer has even admitted that there was an actual policy of encouraging anti-Semitic conspiracy theories among their dictatorial allies such as the Shah of Iran so as to give the false impression that they were all-powerful.

Yossi Alpher reportedly said of his book Periphery that, “We knew that the issue of the [notorious anti-Semitic Tsarist forgery the] Protocols of the Elders of Zion plays a very important role for them. To a certain degree even, we played that card, so they’d think we have immense influence over the world, and could manipulate US policy in their favour in particular. The Moroccans, the Iranians, the Turks, Idi Amin – they were all sure that one word from us would change Washington’s position towards them.” (Emphasis added.)

This pattern continues today, with Israel’s open embrace of anti-Semites like former Trump advisor Steve Bannon and influential Christian Zionist pastor John Hagee.

All of this demonstrates the vacuity of Israel’s condemnation of Mahmoud Abbas’s vile speech. He too is an anti-Semite, but he is also pro-Israel, so we should ignore the self-righteous cant of Benjamin Netanyahu and his cronies. They need Abbas as much as he needs them.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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