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Germany’s Scholz slams Palestinian leader’s ‘unacceptable’ Holocaust remark

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The German chancellor said on Wednesday that he was “abhorred by the outrageous comments” made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Berlin in which he accused Israel of perpetrating “50 Holocausts” against Palestinians over the years.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s statement on Twitter came a day after Abbas refused to condemn a deadly attack by Palestinian militants on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Instead, Abbas responded by saying he could point to “50 Holocausts” by Israel.

“I am disgusted by the outrageous comments made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,” Scholz said. “For us Germans in particular, any relativization of the individuality of the Holocaust is unacceptable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.”

Scholz was criticized in both Germany and Israel for not immediately dismissing Abbas’s comments during the press conference he held with him in the Chancellery on Tuesday night.

Abbas, who stood next to Scholz on Tuesday, was asked if he would apologize on behalf of the Palestinian militants who carried out the hostage-taking of the 1972 Munich Olympics, which killed 11 Israelis.

The Palestinian leader did not answer directly, but instead spoke about the situation of the Palestinians, accusing Israel of committing “50 massacres, 50 Holocausts” against Palestinians since 1947.

“Our demand is to say enough…I want nothing more than peace. Please come to peace, come to safety, let’s build trust between us and you,” the 87-year-old added.

Israel denounces ‘moral disgrace’

In Israel, Abbas’s comments led to a condemnation of Prime Minister Yair Lapid and others.

“Mahmoud Abbas accusing Israel of committing ’50 Holocausts’ while standing on German soil is not only a moral disgrace, but also a monstrous lie,” Lapid wrote on Twitter.

“Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, including one and a half million Jewish children. History will never forgive him.”

‘Dark Shadow’

Abbas’s office on Wednesday issued a statement saying that “the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern human history.”

Abbas’s “answer was not intended to deny the particularity of the Holocaust that occurred in the last century,” according to a statement published by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, adding that he condemns the mass murder “in the strongest terms.”

The German chancellor had come under heavy fire for failing to immediately condemn Abbas while standing next to him.

“People would have liked the clarification (from Scholz) to be more direct,” wrote Spiegel magazine.

Christoph Heubner, executive vice president of the International Auschwitz Committee, said he found it “astonishing and disturbing that the German side was unprepared for Abbas’s provocations and that his statements about the Holocaust were left unchallenged during the press conference”.

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told a regular media briefing later Wednesday that the head of the Palestinian representative office in Berlin had been summoned to Scholz’s chancellery.

“The chancellor’s foreign and security policy adviser (Jens Ploetner) told him in no uncertain terms that the chancellor expects the Palestinian president to recognize the peculiarity of the Holocaust without exception.”

Hebestreit added that Abbas’s comments “cast a dark shadow over Germany’s ties to the Palestinian Authority”.

He said Scholz and Lapid had agreed to speak by phone “about this incident” on Thursday.

‘Attempt to twist history’

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called the Palestinian leader’s comments “an attempt to twist and rewrite history.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Abbas did not deny the “massacres to which Jews were subjected in the era of Nazi Germany”.

“But he told the world not to lose sight of the massacres that the Palestinian people are victims of,” Shtayyeh said.

Abbas often uses the terms “genocide” and “apartheid” to refer to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, but rarely cites the Holocaust.

Scholz contradicted the Palestinian leader when Abbas used the term apartheid on Tuesday, saying he “didn’t think that’s correct, to use the term to describe the situation”.

Groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have concluded that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to apartheid – an accusation the state vehemently denies.

A Holocaust survivor and leader of the Jewish community in the Munich area, Charlotte Knobloch, had earlier Wednesday said that Abbas’s statements should be met with more than a verbal rejection from Scholz.

“German politicians must know who their partners in the Palestinian Authority are and act accordingly. The German chancellor’s clear words in retrospect should not be the only consequence.”

The chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Dani Dayan, had also said that Germany must “respond appropriately to this unforgivable behavior”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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