Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has caused shock in Germany when, standing beside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, he accused Israel of committing “holocausts” against Palestinians over the years.
Scholz did not react verbally to Abbas’s comment in the moment, though he grimaced at the use of the word, which Abbas uttered in English. Scholz later said the use of the term in such a context was “unbearable.”
Abbas made his remarks when the two spoke to the media after holding a meeting on Middle East issues.
Abbas was responding 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 hostages at the Olympic Village on September 5, 1972. At the time of the attack, the group was linked to Abbas’s Fatah party.
Asked whether as the leader of the Palestinians he planned to apologize to Israel and Germany for the attack ahead of the 50th anniversary next month, Abbas responded instead by citing allegations of atrocities committed by Israel since 1947.
“If we want to go over the past, go ahead,” Abbas, who was speaking Arabic, said with Scholz at his side.
“I have 50 slaughters that Israel committed….50 massacres, 50 slaughters, 50 holocausts,” Abbas said, taking care to pronounce the final word in English.
Scholz grimaced at the use of the word but did not say anything.
Germany’s popular BILD newspaper published an outraged website-leading story about the incident, under the title “Antisemitism scandal at the federal chancellery.” It expresses shock that “not a word of dissent [was said] in the face of the worst Holocaust relativization that a head of government has ever uttered in the chancellor’s office.”
Germany has long argued the term should only be used to describe the Nazis’ singular crime of killing six million Jews before and during World War II.
A spokesman for Scholz told BILD that “before the Chancellor could contradict this outrageous sentence, the government spokesman had already moderated the press conference — as usual after the last question/answer block — which visibly annoyed Scholz. The government spokesman then told the journalists who were still present, who could not help noticing the chancellor’s annoyance, how outraged the chancellor was about the statement and also that he had not had the opportunity to openly contradict one more time.”
In a statement to the paper, Scholz added: “Especially for us Germans, any relativization of the Holocaust is unbearable and unacceptable.”
ToI archive, May 2018: After blaming Jews for Holocaust, Abbas apologizes and condemns anti-Semitism