Aug 17, 2022 - World

Abbas faces outrage over "50 Holocausts" remark in Berlin

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sparked a diplomatic scandal in Berlin on Tuesday when he said Israel had committed "50 Holocausts" against the Palestinians during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Driving the news: Scholz said Wednesday that he had been "disgusted" by Abbas' remarks. Berlin summoned the Palestinian ambassador to demand clarification, and U.S. and Israeli officials also objected.

  • As the condemnations accumulated, Abbas' office released a statement this morning calling the Holocaust "the most heinous crime in modern human history" and stressing that he had "not intended to deny the singularity of the Holocaust."
  • Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian minister for civilian affairs, told Axios he'd made clear to the Germans, the Biden administration and the Israelis that Abbas had been misunderstood.

During the press conference, Abbas was asked if he would apologize for the terror attack against Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 ahead of the 50th anniversary next month. The attack was carried out by Black September, a militant group then associated with Abbas' Fatah party.

  • Abbas did not apologize but spoke instead about Israeli actions against the Palestinians since 1948. “Israel has committed 50 massacres. 50 Holocausts," Abbas said.
  • As the German media started reporting the statement and criticizing Scholz's silence, the chancellor issued a statement distancing himself from the remark.
  • On Wednesday, Scholz issued a stronger statement: “For us Germans in particular, any relativization of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust."

Meanwhile, Lapid condemned Abbas’ statements as “a moral disgrace and a monstrous lie." In a call with al-Sheikh, he demanded that Abbas backtrack from his comments, two Lapid aides told Axios.

  • Gantz, who has taken heat in Israel for meeting Abbas three times in the last year, also sent angry messages to Abbas and his aides demanding a clarification, according to an Israeli Defense Ministry official.
  • The Biden administration's envoy for fighting antisemitism said such rhetoric "can have dangerous consequences and fuels antisemitism."

Behind the scenes: Ahead of the Scholz-Abbas meeting, German officials met with Abbas' aides and urged them to tone down the rhetoric and ensure Abbas avoided language that would be unacceptable in Germany, a German official said.

Go deeper