Canada has lodged a formal complaint with the Palestinian Authority over what it says were “baseless” accusations against Israel by President Mahmoud Abbas.
The move came after Abbas alleged in a speech to the European Parliament in Brussels last week that Israeli rabbis had plotted to murder Palestinians by poisoning their wells — a claim that was quickly proven false.
“Just a week ago, a week, a group of rabbis in Israel announced, in a clear announcement, demanding their government, to poison, to poison, the water of the Palestinians,” he said. “Is this not incitement? Is this not clear incitement, to the mass murder of the Palestinian people?”
Abbas later retracted the comments, but not before Canada voiced its displeasure.
“Senior Global Affairs officials raised our serious concerns with Palestinian officials within 24 hours of President Abbas’s original comments,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion’s spokesman, Joseph Pickerill.
“Canada found those comments completely unacceptable, and was pleased to see that President Abbas fully and formally retracted these baseless allegations.”
Abbas’s comments were upsetting for many Israelis given that similar claims of poisoning of wells were made against Jews in the 14th century as the bubonic plague swept across Europe. Hundreds of Jews were killed as a result of this “blood libel.”
“These types of falsehoods were uttered as a way to foment hatred against the Jewish community in the past,” said Noah Shack, director of policy for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). “I think this is why this incident had so much resonance.”
Dion has said Canada’s actions in the Middle East will be guided by the need for an enduring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. To that end, he said Canada would not hesitate from speaking out whenever one side does something that the Liberal government thinks will hurt peace prospects.
Shack said CIJA welcomed the government’s condemnation of Abbas’s “odious remarks,” which he believed had the potential to incite Palestinians to violence against Israelis. “This particular example is something we are pleased to see,” he said of the Liberal government’s intervention.
Peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis have been stalled for years. Abbas and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had been invited to Brussels last week in the hopes of rekindling some type of discussion, but Abbas reportedly refused to meet Rivlin. A French effort, meanwhile, has also faced obstacles.