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Abbas Holocaust remarks in Berlin create storm of protest

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on 6 February 2022 [Palestinian Presidency/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on 6 February 2022 [Palestinian Presidency/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been criticised for accusing Israel of committing "fifty holocausts" against the Palestinians.

"Mahmoud Abbas accusing Israel of having committed 'fifty holocausts' while standing on German soil is not only a moral disgrace, but a monstrous lie," fumed Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Twitter. "Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, including one and a half million Jewish children. History will never forgive him."

At a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Tuesday, Abbas actually pointed out that Israel has "committed fifty massacres since 1947 in fifty Palestinian locations… Fifty massacres, fifty holocausts."

A journalist asked Abbas if he would apologise to Israel on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Palestinian attack on Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics. Abbas replied that there are daily casualties at the hands of the Israeli army. "If we want to go over the past, go ahead," he added.

Scholz reacted to Abbas's statements with a frown and seemed to be on the verge of responding, but German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit announced the end of the conference immediately after Abbas had spoken. It had been said in advance that the question directed to Abbas would be the last one.

The German leader has criticised Abbas publicly for calling Israel an "apartheid" regime. "I would like to say frankly at this point that I do not adopt the word apartheid and do not consider it correct to describe the situation," said Scholz.

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In a tweet earlier today, he added that the statements by Abbas "downplay" the significance of the Holocaust. "I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud #Abbas. For us Germans in particular, any relativisation of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable."

German opposition politicians also criticised Abbas, and said that Scholz should have asked him to leave the Chancellery. The PA leader was also criticised by the International Auschwitz Committee.

"Abbas used the political stage in Berlin in a targeted manner to defame Germany's culture of remembrance and relations to the state of Israel," said the committee's executive vice president, Christoph Heubner, on Tuesday evening. "With his shameful and inappropriate Holocaust comparison, Abbas has once again tried to serve anti-Israel and anti-Semitic aggression in Germany and Europe."

Heubner also criticised the German government for "allowing Abbas's comments on the Holocaust to go unchallenged at the press conference."

It is worth noting that the Israeli Defence Ministry has recently disclosed hundreds of pages of secret records related to the trials of those responsible for the 1956 Kafr Qasim massacre of Palestinian civilians. Details of other massacres of Palestinians committed by Israelis have also come to light in recent years, joining the roll call of infamy which includes the Deir Yassin, Reineh and Al-Burj massacres, as well as the more recent 1994 Hebron massacre and Israel's Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, one of a number of deadly military offensives against the coastal enclave.

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