GENEVA (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday called for international protection for the Palestinians, saying the human rights situation under Israeli occupation is at its worst ever, 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 U.N.-backed Human Rights Council in Geneva threatened to stir up new tensions with Israel, just as U.S.-led efforts to calm the situation in the region are getting under way.
Abbas criticized 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.
"He prefers to blame Palestinians for everything — even the Holocaust. You all know that this is totally false. It is untrue and baseless," Abbas 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."
He called on the Security Council to "shoulder its responsibilities" and set up a "special regime of international protection for our Palestinian people." He did not elaborate.
Abbas accused Israel of carrying out "extrajudicial killings" during the latest violence — a reference to the shootings of Palestinians accused in stabbings.
He did not condemn the stabbings or mention that many of those killed were shot while carrying out stabbing attacks. Palestinians have accused Israel of using excessive force, claiming that alleged assailants were either unarmed or could have been stopped without being killed. Netanyahu has called on Abbas to condemn the stabbings.
Abbas called for "peaceful popular resistance" amid the alleged violations of Palestinian rights, lashed out at Israel's "oppressive war machine," and said "the criminal acts of settlers must be stopped."
Ambassador Eviatar Manor of Israel, who refused to attend the Abbas speech, convened dozens of diplomats afterward to decry recent "inflammatory" comments on Palestinian TV and elsewhere by Abbas.
"The Human Rights Council is being used as a stage for propaganda," Manor said, according to a transcription of his remarks to the diplomats in a closed-door hearing. "What we have witnessed today is the glorification of terror and violence. What the Council allowed today is the banalization of the spilling of Jewish blood."
After days of talks with Israel, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced over the weekend that surveillance cameras would soon be installed at the sensitive Jerusalem holy site that has been at the heart of the unrest.
The hilltop compound in Jerusalem's Old City, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, is the holiest site in Judaism. Known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, it houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the gold-topped Dome of the Rock. It is the third-holiest site in Islam and a key Palestinian national symbol.
Israel and Jordan are working out the details of the cameras, and expect to install them in a matter of days.
The Palestinians have expressed disappointment over Kerry's camera plan, saying it does nothing to address the deeper issues at the heart of the conflict.
Eds: Josef Federman contributed from Jerusalem.