Geneva: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday called for international protection for the Palestinians, saying the human rights situation under Israeli occupation is the worst it has ever been, and accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of exploiting the Holocaust to attack the Palestinians.
The fiery speech by Abbas to a special session of the UN-backed Human Rights Council in Geneva threatened to stir up new tensions with Israel, just as US-led efforts to calm the situation in the region are getting under way.
Abbas criticised Netanyahu for comments a week earlier suggesting that a World War II-era Palestinian religious leader had persuaded the Nazis to carry out a policy that exterminated 6 million Jews.
The remarks about Nazi sympathizer Haj Amin al-Husseini, a former grand mufti of Jerusalem, aimed to illustrate Netanyahu's claim that Palestinian incitement at Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site goes back decades. Instead, it set off an uproar as Israeli historians accused him of bending historical facts for political gain.
Abbas said Netanyahu's allegations manipulate the sentiments of Jews about "the most horrendous crime known in modern history committed by the Nazis."
"He prefers to blame Palestinians for everything even the Holocaust. You all know that this is totally false. It is untrue and baseless," he said.
"When the Israeli prime minister tries to absolve Adolf Hitler from his ugly crimes, against the Jews, and blame Palestinians for these crimes, he is trying thereby to justify the crimes committed against the Palestinian people," he said, according to an official translation of his remarks, which were delivered in Arabic.
The speech came amid new violence between Palestinians and Israelis. In five weeks of violence, 11 Israelis have been killed in attacks by Palestinians, mostly in stabbings, and 55 Palestinians including 35 labeled by Israel as attackers have been killed by Israeli fire.
Netanyahu has said the violence is the result of incitement by Palestinian leaders, including Abbas, as well as social media. The Palestinians say it is the result of frustration stemming from nearly 50 years of Israeli occupation, repeated failed peace efforts and a lack of hope in gaining independence anytime soon.
Abbas said the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories is at its "worst and most critical since 1948" the year of Israel's independence and insisted "it is no longer useful to waste time in negotiations for the sake of negotiations. What is required is the end of the occupation in accordance with international legitimacy."