Prime Minister Yair Lapid and others in Israel, Germany and the United States expressed shock and outrage on Tuesday night after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of committing “holocausts against Palestinians over the years during a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.
Abbas’ accusation, made at a press conference alongside Scholz, has also prompted calls for a tougher response from Germany and its leader, who has been criticized for keeping the silence rather than push back at the time and only later expressed displeasure with the remark.
“Mahmoud Abbas accusing Israel of committing ’50 holocausts’ while standing on German soil is not just moral disgrace, but a monstrous lie,” Lapid tweeted in English. “History will not forgive him.”
Lapid’s predecessor, Naftali Bennett, tweeted that during his one-year term that ended in June, he had not agreed to meet Abbas “or advance any kind of diplomatic negotiations, even in the face of pressure from inside and outside Israel.
“A ‘partner’ who denies the Holocaust, prosecutes our soldiers in The Hague and pays stipends to terrorists is not a partner,” Bennett added, referring to the Palestinians’ repeated complaints to the International Criminal Court and the monthly salaries paid by the Palestinian Authority to terrorism. convicted and the families of the dead assailants.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz – who has met Abbas several times over the past year, apparently with Bennett’s approval – called the remarks “despicable and untrue” and an “attempt to distort and rewrite the story”.
Mahmoud Abbas accusing Israel of committing “50 holocausts” while standing on German soil is not just moral disgrace, but a monstrous lie.
Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, including one and a half million Jewish children.
History will never forgive him.
— Yair Lapid – Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) August 16, 2022
“The reprehensible and unfounded comparison between the Holocaust – which was perpetrated by the German Nazis and their accomplices in an attempt to exterminate the Jewish people – and the Israeli army, which ensured the rise of the Jewish people in their homeland and defend the citizens of Israel and the country’s sovereignty from brutal terrorism, this is Holocaust denial,” Gantz said. “Those who seek peace are expected to acknowledge the past and not distort reality and rewrite the story.”
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman released a statement calling Abbas a “terrorist who engages in diplomatic terrorism”, a “Holocaust denier” and a “sworn enemy of the State of Israel”. He said Abbas was “more dangerous than all Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists.”
Justice Minister Gideon Saar said Abbas’ “shameful” remarks were “part of institutionalized Palestinian propaganda based on false blood libels, with 50 shades of anti-Semitism, aimed at delegitimizing Israel.”
Dani Dayan, president of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Israel, called Abbas’s words “despicable” and “appalling”.
The despicable words of Mahmoud Abbas in Berlin today about ’50 holocausts’ are appalling. The German government must respond appropriately to this inexcusable behavior within the Federal Chancellery.
— Dani Dayan (@AmbDaniDayan) August 16, 2022
“The German government must respond appropriately to this inexcusable behavior committed within the Federal Chancellery,” Dayan said on social media.
Abbas was answering a reporter’s question about the upcoming anniversary of the Munich massacre half a century ago. Eleven Israeli athletes and a German policeman died after members of the Palestinian militant group Black September took hostages at the Olympic Village on September 5, 1972. At the time of the attack, the group was linked to Abbas’ Fatah party.
When asked if, as a Palestinian leader, he planned to apologize to Israel and Germany for the attack before the 50th anniversary, Abbas instead responded by citing allegations of atrocities committed. by Israel since 1947.
“If we want to go back to the past, go ahead,” Abbas, who spoke Arabic, told reporters.
“I have 50 massacres that Israel committed… 50 massacres, 50 massacres, 50 holocausts,” he said as he spoke the last word in English.
mahmoud #Abbas During a press conference at the Federal Chancellery, Israel literally insinuated that it had committed “50 holocausts” since 1947. On the necessary classification of what was said renounced @phoenix_de. pic.twitter.com/avlfyvzyUR
— Horacio Troche (@breisgau_uru) August 16, 2022
Whereas Scholz had previously rejected After the Palestinian leader’s description of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as “apartheid”, he did not immediately reprimand Abbas for using the term “Holocaust”.
A spokesman for the Chancellor later said the press conference was to end with the question to Abbas, meaning Scholz was not given a chance to respond. However, the spokesperson told reporters who remained after the event that Scholz was outraged, German tabloid BILD reported.
In a statement to BILD, Scholz said that “especially for us Germans any relativization of the Holocaust is unbearable and unacceptable.”
Germany has long argued that the term should only be used to describe the singular Nazi crime of killing six million Jews before and during World War II.
Scholz was widely criticized for not speaking out.
Der Spiegel, Welt, Junge Freiheit and other media made headlines highlighting his silence during the press conference. BILD expressed shock that there was “not a word of dissent at the worst Holocaust relativization a head of government has ever uttered in the chancellor’s office.”
Opposition leader in the Bundestag, Friedrich Merz, leader of Germany’s powerful Christian Democratic Party, said Scholz “should have contradicted the Palestinian president in clear terms and asked him to leave the house!”
Scholz’s office, which normally releases statements about meetings with world leaders and other official business, did not issue a press release about the meeting with Abbas. On social media, Scholz has remained silent beyond a post mourning the death of German filmmaker Wolfgang Peterson.
Most of the backlash, however, was aimed at Abbas for refusing to apologize for the Munich massacre and for what critics said trivialized the Holocaust.
Germany’s ambassador to Israel, Steffen Seibert, called Abbas’s remarks “false and unacceptable”.
“Germany will never tolerate any attempt to deny the singular dimension of the crimes of the Holocaust,” he wrote on Twitter.
Former Christian Democrat leader Armin Laschet said Abbas’s statement was “the most disgusting speech ever heard in the German Chancellery”.
“The PLO leader would have gained sympathy had he apologized for the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics,” he said.
In the United States, Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s anti-Semitism watchdog, warned that Abbas’ “unacceptable” comments could have far-reaching consequences.
“Holocaust distortion can have dangerous consequences and fuels anti-Semitism,” tweeted Lipstadt, who fought Holocaust denier David Irving in court last century.
Union for Reform Judaism president Rabbi Rick Jacobs shared Lapid’s condemnation and blamed Abbas for refusing to apologize.
“Mr. Abbas, this is not how you advance the cause of peace. Leadership would have been to apologize for the murder of Israeli Olympic athletes 50 years ago during the Munich Games in 1972,” he tweeted.
Germany was already embroiled in controversy over a planned commemoration marking the 50th anniversary of the Munich bombing, after families of the victims announced they planned to boycott the ceremony due to a disagreement with Berlin regarding compensation.
Relatives of the athletes have long accused Germany of failing to secure the Olympic village, refusing Israeli aid and botching a rescue operation in which five of the attackers also died.
Abbas has previously drawn controversy for remarks about the Holocaust, including a 2018 claim that Jews “social behavior— not anti-Semitism — was the cause of Nazi Germany’s genocide of European Jews, for which he later apologized.
The PA leader’s 1982 doctoral dissertation was titled “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism,” and he has in the past been accused of denying the significance of the Holocaust. The thesis allegedly claimed that the figure of six million Holocaust victims was grossly exaggerated and that Zionist leaders cooperated with the Nazis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related: Alongside Abbas, German leader rejects his use of ‘apartheid’ in reference to Israel
ToI Archives, May 2018: After blaming Jews for the Holocaust, Abbas apologizes and condemns anti-Semitism * Lipstadt: With ‘classic anti-Semitism’, Abbas ends his career as he started it