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Israel and Germany condemn Mahmoud Abbas' comments on the Holocaust

The 87-year-old leader, in Germany for his medical follow-up, spoke on Tuesday in Berlin with Chancellor Olaf Scholz about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and bilateral cooperation.

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Israel and Germany condemn Mahmoud Abbas' comments on the Holocaust

The 87-year-old leader, in Germany for his medical follow-up, spoke on Tuesday in Berlin with Chancellor Olaf Scholz about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and bilateral cooperation.

Asked at the end of a joint press conference on the bombing of the 1972 Munich Olympics, which killed 11 Israelis and perpetrated by a Palestinian commando, Mr. Abbas compared the situation in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel to the Holocaust.

"From 1947 to today, Israel has committed 50 massacres in 50 Palestinian cities... 50 massacres, 50 holocausts and even today there are deaths caused by the Israeli army every day," said Mr. Abbas.

Since then, he has been trying to clarify his remarks.

"We want peace, we want security, we want stability (...) we have to develop trust between us", he added in Berlin, also denouncing the "apartheid" policy of Israel.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Scholz had declared that the word "apartheid" was not a "correct description of the situation" in the Palestinian Territories without, however, reacting to Mr. Abbas' remarks on the Holocaust.

“I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,” the German Prime Minister tweeted on Wednesday morning, adding: “For us Germans in particular, any relativization of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable.”

Mr. Scholz was himself criticized, mainly by the conservative opposition and certain media, for not having reacted immediately to Mr. Abbas' statements during this press conference which ended directly after this response.

"Abbas relativizes the Holocaust... and Scholz is silent," headlined the popular daily Bild on its website.

"It is surprising and disconcerting that the German side was not prepared for the provocations of Mr. Abbas, whose statements remained without contradiction", commented Christoph Heubner, vice-president of the international committee of Auschwitz.

- "Monstrous lies" -

Mr. Abbas regularly uses the terms "genocide" or "apartheid", like the human rights NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to describe the occupation and colonization of the Palestinian Territories. But he rarely uses the words "Shoah" or "Holocaust".

On Wednesday, the remarks of Mr. Abbas – sometimes with strong statements against Israel but often accused by Palestinians of collaborating with the Jewish state – aroused great indignation in Israel.

"Mahmoud Abbas who accuses Israel of having committed 50 holocausts while he is on German soil is not only a moral disgrace but a monstrous lie (...) History will never forgive him", condemned the Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Dani Dayan, the president of Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, condemned "despicable statements" and "inexcusable behavior" to which "the German government must respond appropriately".

"Those who seek peace (...) must not distort reality and rewrite history," said Defense Minister Benny Gantz. He accused Mr. Abbas, with whom he had spoken a few months ago, of “Holocaust denial” with this “reprehensible and unfounded comparison”.

Faced with these strong reactions, President Abbas, who had thanked Germany for its support while calling on it to recognize the State of Palestine, said he wanted to "clarify" his position.

His statements "were not intended to deny the uniqueness of the Holocaust" which remains the "worst hate crime of the modern era", his office said.

"The president did not deny the massacres that Jews suffered under Nazi Germany, but he told the world not to lose sight of the massacres inflicted on the Palestinian people," Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh added.

In Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, representative of the Munich Jewish community and official of the World Jewish Congress, demanded more than the verbal condemnation of Olaf Scholz.

Berlin must inflict "consequences" on the Palestinian Authority, she said.

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