Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas’s comments in Germany this week were so twisted, he shot himself in the foot while shooting his mouth off. And his subsequent apology, after he realized he had crossed an international red line, was equally convoluted.
Abbas hasn’t lost the plot, he simply prefers creating new narratives and conspiracy theories.
Call it Abbas’s “50 shades of gray” moment. He sees things in black and white. Israel, in his mind, is the dark side, and the Palestinians are pure and innocent.
Consider the setting: Standing next to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a visit to Berlin, Abbas was asked at a press conference whether he, as Palestinian leader, planned to apologize to Israel and Germany for the Munich Olympic massacre whose 50th anniversary will be commemorated next month. This is the atrocity carried out by the PLO’s Black September movement in which 11 Israelis and a German policeman were slaughtered after the hostage-taking of the athletes at the Olympic village.
“I have 50 massacres that were committed by Israel,” Abbas responded, talking in Arabic. “I have 50 slaughters that Israel committed… 50 massacres, 50 holocausts.” The word “holocausts,” said explicitly in English, was unmistakable.
Scholz was clearly uncomfortable but did not immediately respond to the rhetoric. A spokesman later told the German daily Bild that Scholz had been under time constraints as the news conference was wrapping up.
Scholz’s political rival, Armin Laschet, succinctly described it as: “The most disgusting speech ever heard in the German Chancellery.”
Some found consolation in the fact that Scholz had, at least, earlier rejected in real-time Abbas’s use of the word “apartheid” to describe Israeli policies.
Following a public outcry, Scholz clarified in a Tweet:
“I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas."Chancellor Olaf Scholz
"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.” Scholz’s office later reportedly summoned the head of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Berlin to protest Abbas’ remarks.
Abbas, on the other hand, didn’t understand what went wrong. He wasn’t saying anything new. Comparing Israelis to Nazis and insisting the Palestinians have been subjected to ethnic cleansing and a “holocaust” by Israelis – or the “colonizers” – has been a constant theme of his and those around him. The “50 holocausts” reference wasn’t a slip-up by the 87-year-old. He fancies himself as somewhat of a Holocaust expert. He even wrote a book on it, or at least turned his PhD dissertation from a Moscow university into a book with the title “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism.” In it, he not only minimized the scope of the Holocaust, he asserted that Zionists were the Third Reich’s “basic partner in crime.” Talk about blaming the victim.
Palestinian claims of Israeli genocide are the norm. I have heard senior PA officials trot them off tritely – sometimes just before calling for more funding for the “five million Palestinian refugees” requiring the services of UNRWA.
Abbas creates an uproar
Abbas’s comments created an uproar, particularly in Israel and the Jewish world. Prime Minister Yair Lapid tweeted that “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.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who recently hosted Abbas at his home in Rosh Ha’ayin, released a statement, using Abbas’s nom de guerre, saying: “Abu Mazen’s words are despicable and false. His statement is an attempt to distort and rewrite history.
“The reprehensible and unfounded comparison between the Holocaust, which was carried out by the German Nazis and their enablers in an attempt to exterminate the Jewish people – and the IDF, which ensured the rise of the Jewish people in their homeland, and defends the citizens of Israel and the country’s sovereignty against brutal terrorism – is Holocaust denial.”
WAFA, the official PA news agency, tried to walk back Abbas’s comments in Berlin, but the walk and the talk are two different things for the Palestinian leader. “President Mahmoud Abbas reaffirm[s] that the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern human history. Stressing that his answer was not intended to deny the singularity of the Holocaust that occurred in the last century, and condemning it in the strongest terms,” WAFA said in a statement in English.
“What is meant by the crimes that President Mahmoud Abbas spoke about are the crimes and massacres committed against the Palestinian people since the Nakba at the hands of the Israeli forces. These crimes have not stopped to this day.”
We can only assume that he’s referring to the crime of Israel defending itself from massive rocket bombardments and terror attacks. No words of condemnation came from the Palestinian Authority following the terror attack this week in which eight people traveling on a bus in Jerusalem were wounded, including a pregnant woman shot in the stomach.
Incidentally, there have been cases in which Israel has officially apologized for historic wrongs, including one Abbas specifically mentioned in Berlin. Both President Isaac Herzog and his predecessor, Reuven Rivlin, traveled to the Arab town of Kafr Qasem for a commemoration of the 48 local residents killed by border police officers in 1956, at the outset of the Suez crisis, for not abiding by a curfew that most were unaware of.
“I am standing here before you today with my head bowed and my heart pained, on the 65th anniversary of one of the saddest events in the history of our country,” Herzog said at the memorial ceremony last year, where he spoke partly in Arabic.
Compare that to Abbas’s approach to history and the PA education system full of lies and incitement that he supports – the breeding ground for future terrorists and “martyrs.” Abbas, by the way, was in charge of the PLO finances at the time of the Munich massacre. He still finances Palestinian terrorism through the PA’s “pay-for-slay” policy.
People who really care about peace and righting past wrongs should not be feting Mahmoud Abbas at public meetings and press conferences in the first place. It’s part of the Palestinian anomaly – along with declaring poverty amid evident corruption. Abbas might not have much of a way with words, but he still has a talent when it comes to finances, particularly for the benefit of his own family and friends.
One bold lie in Berlin was almost overlooked: Wrapping up his response, the Palestinian leader proclaimed: “All I want is peace. Let us move toward peace. Let us move toward security and building trust between you and us. This is better than other kinds of talking.”
After his despicable Holocaust comment, he can say that again. Creating peace would definitely be better than that kind of talk. But how do you build trust with someone like that? What kind of security do you get from someone for whom supporting terrorism and denying the Holocaust have been second nature for decades?
If Abbas is still somehow being considered by some to be a partner for peace and the face of pragmatism, they should listen again to what was said in Berlin this week and see the two faces behind it. Trivializing the Holocaust is no trivial matter, especially not from the professed Palestinian leader standing on German soil. It is certainly no harbinger of peace and normalization.