German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed outrage at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s claim on Wednesday morning that Israel perpetuated “50 holocausts,” a day after he stood silently as Abbas spoke.
“I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,” Scholz tweeted. “For us Germans in particular, any relativization of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.”
The German Chancellery also summoned the Palestinian representative to Berlin over Abbas’s remarks.
I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud #Abbas. For us Germans in particular, any relativization of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.— Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz (@Bundeskanzler) August 17, 2022
When a reporter asked Abbas to apologize for the murder of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Munich Olympics, Abbas responded, “If you want to go over the past, go ahead. I have 50 slaughters that Israel committed... 50 massacres, 50 slaughters... 50 holocausts.”
Video from the press conference shows Scholz grimacing, although he did not address the remarks.
Scholz, did, however, reject Abbas’s use of the word “apartheid” to describe relations between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Naturally we have a different assessment with a view to Israeli politics, and I want to expressly say here that I do not espouse the use of the word ‘apartheid’ and do not think it correctly describes the situation,” Scholz said.
Later Tuesday, Scholz made comments similar to his tweet to the German newspaper Bild.
Following an uproar on Wednesday that included phone calls from Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s offices demanding an apology, Abbas’s office released a clarification saying he believes “the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern history.”
“He stressed that his answer was not intended to deny the specificity of the Holocaust,” the statement reads. “What President Abbas meant by the crimes he talked about are the massacres committed against the Palestinian people since the Nakba [1948 War of Independence] at the hands of Israeli forces, and these crimes have not stopped to this day.”
"Naturally we have a different assessment with a view to Israeli politics, and I want to expressly say here that I do not espouse the use of the word 'apartheid' and do not think it correctly describes the situation."German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
Israeli officials' reactions
Lapid condemned Abbas’s accusation made on German soil as “not only a 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,” Lapid said.
Mahmoud Abbas accusing Israel of having committed "50 Holocausts" while standing on German soil is not only a 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.— יאיר לפיד - Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) August 16, 2022
Gantz called Abbas’s remarks “despicable and false, and an attempt to distort and rewrite history.”
“The unfortunate and unfounded comparison between the Holocaust, which was carried out by the Germans and their helpers in an attempt to exterminate the Jewish people, and the IDF, which protects the rise of Israel in its land and the citizens of Israel and its sovereignty from brutal terrorism, is Holocaust denial,” Gantz tweeted.
Lapid and Gantz are sons of Holocaust survivors.
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said the government must change its policy of increased engagement with Abbas.
“I call on the prime minister and defense minister to stop legitimizing him, meeting him and talking with him,” he said. “There is no reason to fuss about his threats to stop security coordination.... If the man is alive today and not assassinated by competing terrorist organizations, it’s only because of the security coordination between the Palestinians and Israel.”
Liberman also noted that Abbas wrote his doctorate at the Soviet Union’s Patrice Lumumba University distorting the Holocaust by claiming pre-state Zionists collaborated with the Nazis. The book also expresses doubt that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust and says the gas chambers did not exist.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted a dig at Gantz for meeting with Abbas, who “fights IDF soldiers at The Hague and denies the Holocaust in Germany.”
“We must not give him legitimization and certainly not invite him to Rosh Ha’ayin,” she wrote, referring to where Gantz lives, where the defense minister held a meeting with the PA president.
Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he did not agree to meet with Abbas or negotiate with him, even under pressure to do so, because he is not a partner. He is, Bennett said, “a Holocaust denier who persecutes Israeli soldiers at the ICC and pays salaries to terrorists.”
Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan said, “Abbas’s contemptuous comments about ‘50 holocausts’ are shamefully low.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas's claim that Israel committed “50 Holocausts" is unacceptable. Holocaust distortion can have dangerous consequences and fuels antisemitism. https://t.co/Ok7NxQbQba— Special Envoy Deborah Lipstadt (@StateSEAS) August 17, 2022
US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt called Abbas’s claim “unacceptable.”
“Holocaust distortion can have dangerous consequences and fuels antisemitism,” she tweeted.