Belgian Jewish paper demands EU action on Abbas ‘blood libel’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas posing for photographs at the European Parliament in Brussels, June 23, 2016. (Thierry Charlier/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas posing for photographs at the European Parliament in Brussels, June 23, 2016. (Thierry Charlier/AFP/Getty Images)

(JTA) – A Belgian Jewish newspaper urged European leaders to condemn a false statement by Mahmoud Abbas, who spoke in Brussels about Jews seeking to poison Palestinian water wells.

The Joods Actueel monthly on Monday published an open letter on the matter by its editor-in-chief, Michael Freilich, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Freilich’s letter was about a June 23 speech by Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, before the European Parliament, in which he said: “Just a week ago, some rabbis rose up in Israel and explicitly announced and demanded of their government that it poison the water in order to kill the Palestinians.”

Abbas’ office later apologized for the reference to wells, which a probe by Israeli media showed was false. It provoked anger because the theme of well-poisoning Jews was a frequent motif in mediaeval blood libels against Jews, which often led to deadly pogroms.  Freilich called Abbas’ speech a “blood libel.”

European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who is German, and Katharina von Schnurbein, the EU co-ordinator for the fight against anti-Semitism, who is also German, did not correct Abbas before or during the speech and have yet to distance their institutions from the claims made in Brussels, where Abbas received a standing ovation, Freilich wrote.

“Painfully, Martin Schulz even published a tweet calling Abbas’ speech ‘inspiring,’” Freilich complained.

Joods Actueel wrote to Merkel after Schulz’s office told the paper: “The content of the address is a total responsibility of the state leaders and the European Parliament is not in a position to censure or to control it.”

Belgian Jews seek neither control nor censorship, he wrote, but they do require an “unambiguous rejection of this anti-Jewish incitement in the heart of Europe.”

Merkel’s office confirmed receiving the letter but will not reply, said Freilich, who subsequently set up an online petition demanding action on Merkel’s part.

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