Prime Minister Yair Lapid and others in Israel, Germany and the US expressed shock and outrage on Tuesday night after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of perpetrating “holocaust” against Palestinians over the years during a meeting with the Palestinian Authority. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.
Abbas’s accusation, leveled at a press conference along with Scholz, also called for a tougher response from Germany and its leader, who was criticized for staying silent rather than pushing back and only later expressing his displeasure at the remark.
“Abbas accusing Israel of committing ’50 Holocausts’ while standing on German soil is not only a moral disgrace, but also a monstrous lie,” Lapid tweeted in English. “History will not forgive him.”
Lapid’s predecessor Naftali Bennett tweeted that during his year-long tenure, which ended in June, he did not agree to meet with Abbas “or promote any form of diplomatic negotiations, even under pressure from inside and outside Israel.”
“A ‘partner’ who denies the Holocaust, pursues our soldiers in The Hague and pays stipends to terrorists is not a partner,” he added, referring to repeated Palestinian complaints to the International Criminal Court and to the monthly salaries paid by the PA to terror pays. convicts and families of dead attackers.
Treasury Secretary Avigdor Liberman issued a statement labeling Abbas a “terrorist engaged in diplomatic terrorism”, a “Holocaust denier” and a “sworn enemy of the State of Israel”. He said Abbas was “more dangerous than all the terrorists from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar said Abbas’s “shameful” comments “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 “horrible.”
“The German government must respond appropriately to this unforgivable behavior within the Federal Chancellery,” he posted on social media.
Abbas responded to a reporter’s question about the upcoming anniversary of the Munich massacre half a century ago. Eleven Israeli athletes and a German police officer died after members of the Palestinian militant group Black September took hostage in the Olympic Village on September 5, 1972. At the time of the attack, the group was affiliated with Abbas’s Fatah party.
When asked if he, as a Palestinian leader, intended to apologize to Israel and Germany for the attack prior to the 50th anniversary, Abbas answered instead by citing allegations of atrocities committed by Israel since 1947.
“If we want to talk about the past, go ahead,” Abbas, who spoke Arabic, told reporters.
“I have 50 massacres that Israel has committed… 50 massacres, 50 massacres, 50 holocausts,” he said, uttering the last word in English.
Mahmud #Abbas hat Israel has one on a Pressekonferenz im Bundeskanzleramt wortwörtlich unterstellt, seit 1947 “50 Holocauste” zu haben. Auf die gebotene Einordnung des Gesagten verzichtete @phoenix_de. pic.twitter.com/avlfyvzyUR
— Horacio Troche (@breisgau_uru) August 16, 2022
Although Scholz had previously rejected the Palestinian leader’s description of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as “apartheid,” he did not immediately rebuke Abbas for using the term “Holocaust.”
A spokesman for the chancellor later said the press conference was scheduled to end with the question to Abbas, meaning Scholz had no opportunity to respond. However, the spokesperson told journalists who stayed after the event that Scholz was outraged, the German tabloid BILD reported.
In a statement to BILD, Scholz said: “Especially for us Germans, any relativization of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable.” Germany has long argued that the term should only be used to describe the unique crime of the Nazis, which was the killing of six million Jews before and during World War II.
Scholz received a lot of criticism for not speaking out. Der Spiegel, Welt, Junge Freiheit and other media outlets made headlines for his silence during the press conference. BILD was shocked that there was “not a word of disagreement about the worst Holocaust relativization ever uttered by a government leader in the chancellor’s office.”
Bundestag opposition leader Friedrich Merz, head of Germany’s powerful Christian Democratic party, said Scholz “should have contradicted the Palestinian president in no uncertain terms and asked him to leave the house!”
Scholz’s office, which normally posts statements about meetings with world leaders and other official matters, has not issued a press release about the meeting with Abbas. Scholz remained silent on social media after a message about the death of German filmmaker Wolfgang Peterson.
Most of the comments, however, have been directed against Abbas for refusing to apologize for the Munich massacre and for what critics say was downplaying the Holocaust.
German Ambassador to Israel Steffen Seibert called Abbas’s comments “wrong and unacceptable”.
“Germany will never stand for any attempt to deny the unique dimension of the crimes of the Holocaust,” he wrote on Twitter.
Former Christian Democrat leader Armin Laschet said Abbas’ statement was “the most disgusting speech ever heard in the German chancellery”.
“The PLO leader would have gained sympathy if he had apologized for the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics,” he said.
In the US, Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s anti-Semitism monitor, warned that Abbas’s “unacceptable” comments could have far-reaching consequences.
“Holocaust distortion can have dangerous consequences and fuel anti-Semitism,” tweeted Lipstadt, who fought famed Holocaust denier David Irving in court last century.
Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs shared Lapid’s conviction and held Abbas to account for refusing to apologize.
“Mr. Abbas, this is not how you advance the cause of peace. Leadership would have been to apologize for the killing of Israeli Olympic athletes 50 years ago during the 1972 Games in Munich,” he tweeted.
Germany was already embroiled in controversy over a planned commemoration to mark the 50th anniversary of the Munich attack after the victims’ families announced they planned to boycott the ceremony over a disagreement with Berlin over compensation.
Relatives of the athletes have long accused Germany of failing to secure the Olympic village, refusing Israeli aid and ruining a rescue operation that also killed five of the attackers.
Abbas has previously sparked controversy over comments about the Holocaust, including a 2018 claim that Jewish “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 dissertation was titled “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism,” and he has been accused in the past of denying the scope of the Holocaust. The dissertation allegedly claimed that the six million victims of the Holocaust were vastly exaggerated and that Zionist leaders collaborated with the Nazis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related: On Abbas’s side, German leader rejects his use of ‘apartheid’ regarding Israel
ToI archive, 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 began