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Abbas: Israel is trying to turn this into a religious conflict, which we absolutely reject

Official PA TV, broadcast of speech by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to a J Street delegation on Feb. 18, 2019, in Ramallah

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas: "[Israel] is trying to turn the conflict into a religious conflict – in other words, between the Muslims and the Jews. Of course we absolutely reject this. Our conflict is not religious and we are not against the Jews. In our religion, the Islamic religion, if I differentiate between Moses and Muhammad I am a heretic. We fully honor the three monotheistic religions. We have already lived many years – hundreds and thousands of years – with each other as Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Ask the Christians among us how they live. Perhaps one of them is here – one of them is sitting here, an ambassador. Aside from this, we do not think there is any difference between a Muslim, Christian, and Jew. We have among us Samaritans (see note below –Ed.), and also Jews – we have a Jew on the [Fatah] Revolutionary Council; in other words, we have Jews in the Fatah leadership! And they were officially elected; they were not appointed. Nobody has priority over them. They were elected by Fatah's popular base."

Samaritans – A small ethno-religious group residing primarily in Holon (in Israel) and in the Samaritan village Kiryat Luza (near Nablus in the West Bank). The Samaritans claim ancestry from the ancient Israelites and adhere to the religious law of Samaritanism. While Samaritanism is closely related to Judaism, there are some fundamental differences. Samaritans refer to the Bible as their sole religious scripture, do not celebrate any Jewish festival that took place after the writing of the Bible (i.e., Channukah, Purim), and consider Mt. Gerizim near Nablus their holiest place (believing this is where Abraham bound Isaac and God instructed them to build the Temple), as opposed to Jews who consider Mt. Moriah (the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem their holiest place. No Jewish community today recognizes the Samaritans as an expression of Judaism, and for Samaritans to wed Jewish partners in a traditional ceremony they are required to undergo a full conversion to Judaism. The Samaritan community numbers roughly 800 members today.