Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hit an extremely sensitive point on Tuesday when he claimed that Israel had caused “50 holocausts” against the Palestinians. The statement caused outrage from world leaders and a flurry of criticism on social media.
“From 1947 to today, Israel has committed 50 massacres in Palestinian villages and cities,” Abbas said in Arabic, alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at a press conference in Berlin. “Fifty massacres, 50 holocausts, and to this day, and every day there are victims killed by the Israeli military.”
Moments earlier, a journalist had asked Abbas to apologize for the massacre at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. At the time, members of the Israeli team were taken hostage by Palestinian soldiers, who at the time were members of the Fatah group (of Abbas).
The attack ended with the death of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches, as well as a West German police officer, after a siege, standoff and gunfire.
September 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the Munich attack.
Scholz did not immediately react to Abbas’ response on stage, but later tweeted: “I am outraged by the outrageous comments made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. For us Germans in particular, any relativization of the uniqueness of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.”
I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud #Abbas. 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.
— Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz (@Bundeskanzler) August 17, 2022
Germany’s ambassador to Israel, Steffen Seibert, tweeted that “What President Abbas said in Berlin about ’50 holocausts’ is wrong and unacceptable. Germany will never support any attempt to deny the singular dimension of the crimes of the Holocaust.”
Israeli leaders also broadly condemned the statement, with Prime Minister Yair Lapid saying: “Mahmoud Abbas accusing Israel of having committed ’50 Holocausts’ on German soil is not just a moral shame, but a monstrous lie”.
“Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, including one and a half million Jewish children. History will never forgive him,” Lapid tweeted.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz described Abbas’ words as “despicable and false”. “Your claim of him is an attempt to distort and rewrite history,” Gantz said.
Observations made in other parts of the world also show outrage at the declaration. The US State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, Ambassador Deborah E. Lipstadt, described it as “unacceptable”, adding that “the distortion of the Holocaust can have dangerous consequences and fuel anti-Semitism”.
Abbas’ team sought to clarify the observations on Wednesday (17). “President Mahmoud Abbas reaffirms that the Holocaust is the most heinous crime that has occurred in modern human history.”
His response “was not intended to deny the specificity of the Holocaust, which was committed in the last century, and is condemned in the most emphatic way possible,” he added.
“What was meant by the crimes mentioned by Abbas were the massacres committed against the Palestinian people since the Nakba of the Israeli forces, crimes that have not stopped until today,” the statement concluded.
The Nakba refers to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, called al-Nakba or “the catastrophe” by the Palestinians, when more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled their homes during the resulting Arab-Israeli war.
It is not the first time that Abbas has made remarks considered anti-Semitic. As a doctoral student in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, Abbas wrote a thesis alleging a secret relationship between Nazis and early supporters of a Jewish state, according to the Reuters news agency.
The topic resurfaced in 2018, when he said that Jews living in Europe had suffered since the 11th century “not because of their religion, but because of their social profession.”
“The Jewish question that spread against Jews across Europe was not because of their religion, it was because of usury and banking,” Abbas declared during his opening speech at the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the parliament of Palestine Liberation Organization.
After the massive outrage, Abbas apologized for the comments, saying he condemned anti-Semitism and calling the Holocaust “the most heinous crime in history”.
*Abeer Salman and Amir Tal of CNN contributed to this story
Source: CNN Brasil