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Palestinian Ambassador Afif Safieh on Antisemitism

Afif Safieh is generally considered to be the top ranking Palestinian diplomat and is based in the United Kingdom at the moment. He has previously been based in Washington DC and Moscow. Recently he gave a speech in SOAS during the launch of a book by Salman Abu Sitta. He spoke at some length about the Holocaust and about Palestinian suffering.

Here’s what he started off saying:

“I’m happy and proud that Germany apologised and re-apologised to Jews for the atrocities of WWII. I’m happy as a Roman Catholic that the King of Spain has apologised for Spanish Catholic inquisition, I’m glad that the Queen of England some years ago apologised for the treatment of aborigines and Ilan Pappe I think would agree that Israelis and those who identified with them it’s high time for them to apologise to the Palestinians for the historical devastating damage that was irreparably done 100 years ago.”

And then a couple of minutes later proceeds to speak about antisemitism:

“Now now let me tell you ladies and gentlemen today we are living and we will continue in the coming weeks we are living a great controversy over antisemitism, I would like to tell you, I as a Palestinian am against any racial discrimination against any out of principle out of principle…but also out of selfish egoistical, egotistical self-interest because I believe that antisemitism has been extremely detrimental to our people. Without antisemitism, Zionism would have failed. Until the 1930s Zionism was a minor tendency within Jewish communities, it’s Hitler and his atrocities that drove Jews into the hands of Zionism and it is his atrocities that gave them what they thought was immunity from criticism from now until eternity.

I remember reading Nahum Goldman and Abba Eban in their flowery language when they said “without Nazi atrocities the birth of Israel in its exceptional conditions would not have been met with the indulgence of the international community” he uses “indulgence” instead of complacency and complicity etc etc. So my friends we have been the indirect victims of antisemitism. And today for example blunders committed in France have not advanced the Palestinian cause but have brought 50,000 French Jews into Palestine, Israel and I don’t like to see that repeated here or elsewhere.

Yes let me tell you those who chose to be our enemies a Jewish intellectual or individual his moral fibre is tested not by his indignation with the Jewish sufferings or what he wants to call Jewish sufferings today but his sensitivity to Palestinian suffering. I told it to Elie Wiesel who made a career out of his words and his suffering, I told him you will be judged by history not by your deafening silence on the issue of Palestine and he was silent like many others. And let me tell you the antisemitism of today is the persecution of the Palestinian people by the Israeli state.  And we should revolt against and not accept that Islamophobia and Arabophobia are the only permissible form of racial discrimination because that is the case…”

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