Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has stripped Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas of the French capital’s highest honour after he made remarks about the Holocaust that echoed anti-Semitic tropes, her office said on Friday.
Abbas could no longer hold the Grand Vermeil medal after he “justified the extermination of the Jews of Europe” in World War II, her office told AFP.
“The comments you made are contrary to our universal values and the historical truth of the Shoah,” Hidalgo said in a letter to Abbas sent on Thursday. “You can therefore no longer hold this distinction.”
The text of the letter was published on X, formerly known as Twitter, by Yonathan Arfi, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), an umbrella organisation representing French Jews.
Dans un courrier adressé ce soir à Mahmoud Abbas, @Anne_Hidalgo lui annonce qu’il ne peut plus se prévaloir de la Médaille Grand Vermeil de Paris.
Cette décision importante honore Paris et l’engagement constant de la ville contre l’antisémitisme. pic.twitter.com/7Dy2ImXfDS
— Yonathan Arfi (@Yonathan_Arfi) September 7, 2023
“This important decision honours Paris and the city’s ongoing commitment against anti-Semitism,” he wrote.
Abbas, 87, claimed Jews had been murdered in the Holocaust because of their “social role” and not religion, saying it was “not true” that “(Adolf) Hitler killed the Jews because they were Jews”.
Echoing anti-Semitic tropes, he claimed Europeans “fought (the Jews) because of their social role, and not their religion. Because of usury and money”.
Abbas made the remarks during a speech late last month before senior members of his Fatah party in Ramallah, and a video of the event surfaced this week.
“You (…) justified the extermination of the Jews of Europe during World War II with a clear desire to deny the genocide,” Hidalgo said in the letter.
“I vehemently condemn your remarks, no cause can justify revisionism and negationism,” she added.
Abbas had been given the award during a 2015 visit to Paris.
A spokesperson for the European Union said “the speech… contained false and grossly misleading remarks about Jews and anti-Semitism”.
France’s consulate in Jerusalem called the remarks “totally unacceptable”.