Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday accused Israeli rabbis of calling for the poisoning of Palestinian water, in what appeared to be an invocation of a widely debunked media report that recalled a medieval anti-Semitic libel.
Abbas’s remarks, in a speech to the European parliament, did not appear on the official transcript issued by his office, suggesting he may have spoken off the cuff as he condemned Israeli actions against Palestinians amid stalled peace talks.
“Only a week ago, a number of rabbis in Israel announced, and made a clear announcement, demanding that their government poison the water to kill the Palestinians,” Abbas said.
“Isn’t that clear incitement to commit mass killings against the Palestinian people?”
Israeli officials did not immediately respond to the remarks, which were made as Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, made a parallel visit to Brussels.
Rivlin’s office said Abbas had turned down a European proposal that the two meet there. A spokesman for Abbas said any such meeting would require more preparation.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.
Abbas, who received a standing ovation from EU lawmakers after his speech, gave no source for his information — and there has been no evidence over the past week of any call by Israeli rabbis to poison Palestinian water.
Reports of an alleged rabbinical edict emerged on Sunday, when the Turkish state news agency Anadolu said that a “Rabbi Shlomo Mlma, chairman of the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank settlements,” had issued an advisory to allow Jewish settlers to take such action.
The same day, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, on its website, cited what it said was a water-poisoning call from a “Rabbi Mlmad” and demanded his arrest.
Reuters and other news outlets in Israel could not locate any rabbi named Shlomo Mlma or Mlmad, and there is no listed organization called the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank.
Gulf News, in a report on Sunday, said a number of rabbis had issued the purported advisory. It attributed the allegation to Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization of veteran soldiers critical of the military’s treatment of Palestinians.
A spokesman for Breaking the Silence told Reuters the group had not provided any such information.
For Jews, allegations of water poisoning strike a bitter chord. In the 14th century, as plague swept across Europe, false accusations that Jews were responsible for the disease by deliberately poisoning wells led to massacres of Jewish communities.