German chancellor condemns remarks morning after joint press conference with Palestinian leader
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has accused Israel of committing “50 Holocausts”, at a joint press conference with Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, in Berlin, drawing condemnation from Germany and Israel.
At the end of his state visit to Germany’s chancellory on Tuesday night, Abbas was asked by a German journalist whether he planned to apologise for the deadly attack by Palestinian militants on Israeli citizens at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the 50th anniversary of which is on 5 September.
The militant group Black September, which killed 11 Israeli athletes and one German police officer during the hostage-taking, was linked to Abbas’s Fatah party at the time.
“If we want to dig further into the past, yes, please, I have 50 massacres that were committed by Israel,” the Palestinian leader said at the end of the press conference. “Fifty massacres, 50 Holocausts, and to this day, every day, we have dead people killed by the [Israeli Defence Forces], by the Israeli army.”
Scholz, who had criticised Abbas for describing Israel as perpetuating an “apartheid system” earlier on in the press conference, did not immediately respond verbally to the Holocaust comparison but shook the Palestinian president’s hand after his spokesperson announced the end of the question-and-answer session.
Scholz condemned the remarks on Wednesday morning. “I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas”, Scholz tweeted from his official account. “For us Germans in particular, any relativisation of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.”
The head of the Palestinian diplomatic mission was summoned to the German chancellory in protest on Wednesday afternoon, Reuters reported.
The remarks also drew fire from various German politicians. “The PLO leader would have gained sympathy if he had apologised for the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics 1972,” said Armin Laschet, the conservative candidate who lost out to Scholz in last September’s federal elections. “Accusing Israel of 50 Holocausts instead is the most disgusting speech ever heard in the German chancellery.”
The tabloid Bild criticised Scholz for not directly challenging Abbas about his choice of words, which it described as “the worst Holocaust relativisation that a head of government has ever uttered in the chancellor’s office”.
Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, of the Free Democratic party, a partner in the coalition government, criticised the chancellor’s spokesperson for not giving Scholz time to respond at the end of the press conference. “The question has to be asked whether he’s the right person in his role,” she told Der Spiegel.
Yair Lapid, the Israeli prime minister, said Abbas’s comments were “not only a moral disgrace but a monstrous lie”, especially as they were made “on German soil”.
Approximately 6 million Jews were murdered by the German Nazi party regime and its accomplices over the last four years of the second world war.
Israel’s designated ambassador to Germany, Ron Prosor, said: “There has to be zero tolerance for Mahmoud Abbas’s Holocaust denial on German soil.”
The Palestinian leader’s visit to Berlin followed a trip to Paris in July, seen as part of a broad diplomatic effort to rouse European interest in Palestine’s cause in the face of America’s apparently waning interest in restarting the peace process in the Middle East.