Berlin finds Abbas’s 2022 Holocaust remarks incite hatred, but can’t pursue charges

German prosecutor’s office: PA president covered by immunity, but accusation that Israel perpetrated ’50 Holocausts’ against Palestinians since 1947 violates German law

FILE - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, shake hands after a press conference after their talks in Berlin, Germany, August 16, 2022. (Wolfgang Kumm/dpa via AP)
FILE - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, shake hands after a press conference after their talks in Berlin, Germany, August 16, 2022. (Wolfgang Kumm/dpa via AP)

Berlin prosecutors said Monday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s comments on the Holocaust during a visit last year amounted to inciting racial hatred, but they won’t pursue a criminal case due to his diplomatic immunity — even though Germany does not recognize the Palestinian Authority as a state.

Police in Berlin launched a probe “on suspicion of inciting hatred” in August 2022 on the basis of two complaints accusing Abbas of “relativizing the Holocaust” during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The Berlin prosecutor’s office said in a statement it had reached the conclusion that “Abbas had committed the crime of inciting racial hatred” but enjoyed “immunity so that there is an obstacle to him being tried.”

At the press conference with Scholz last year, Abbas accused Israel of committing “50 Holocausts” against Palestinians since 1947.

Scholz did not immediately challenge Abbas on his comments but, following widespread criticism, tweeted the next day that he was “disgusted by the outrageous remarks” made by the Palestinian leader.

In Israel, Abbas’s remarks drew a hail of condemnation from then-prime minister Yair Lapid, who called them “not only a moral disgrace, but a monstrous lie.”

FILE – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

The Berlin prosecutor’s office stressed that while Abbas was covered by immunity, his comments were a clear violation of German law.

Abbas’s comparison “obviously lacks an objective factual basis because the situation of the Palestinian population since the founding of the state of Israel is not even close to comparable with the situation of the Jewish population of Europe under the rule of the National Socialists and trivializes both the quantity and the quality of the atrocities committed at that time,” it said.

It is illegal in Germany to relativize or deny the Holocaust.

A German foreign ministry spokesman said when the probe was opened that Berlin believed Abbas enjoys diplomatic immunity because he was in Germany on an “official visit as the representative of the Palestinian Authority.”

Germany does not recognize Palestine as a country, but maintains diplomatic relations with the Palestinian territories.

Mike Delberg, head of social media for the center-right Christian Democratic Party, filed charges against Abbas shortly after the 2022 incident, accusing Abbas of “trivializing and relativizing the most terrible time in the history of our country and in the history of my family and faith community.”

Tourists visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Holocaust Memorial, in Berlin, April 30, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/JOHN MACDOUGALL)

Delberg told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he found Monday’s outcome a positive one.

“He was officially called an inciter of hate,” Delberg said in a social media chat. “A small win, but a win.”

The attorney general’s office chastised Abbas in a statement. “It is hard to see it as anything other than a trivialization of the crimes against the Jewish population,” the statement read.

The ruling was based in part on a letter from Germany’s foreign ministry, which argued that Abbas made his remarks while on an official visit by invitation of the federal government. Furthermore, the ministry argued that diplomatic immunity is routinely granted to representatives of territories that are not recognized as states around the world.

“Even if my report does not lead to legal charges, it still sends a clear message,” Delberg wrote. “We will not allow hate and incitement to go unchallenged — especially not in times like these.”

Abbas has more recently repeated falsehoods about Jews and the Holocaust. In a September speech, he said that Adolf Hitler and antisemites before him hated and persecuted the Jews not because of who they were but because of “their role in society” having to do with “usury, money, and so on and so on.”

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