German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday expressed disgust at statements by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which the German leader said downplayed the Holocaust, while Israel accused Abbas of telling a “monstrous lie”.
“For us Germans in particular, any relativization of the uniqueness of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable,” Scholz tweeted on Wednesday. “I am disgusted by the outrageous comments by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”
During a visit to Berlin on Tuesday, Abbas accused Israel of committing “50 holocausts” in response to a question about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the attack on the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics by Palestinian militants.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid also condemned the comments as a “shame”.
“For Mahmoud Abbas to accuse Israel of having committed ’50 Holocausts’ while on German soil is not only a moral disgrace, but a monstrous lie,” Lapid said on Twitter.
“History will never forgive him.”
Responding to a storm of criticism, Abbas issued a statement calling Nazi Germany’s Holocaust, in which six million Jews were murdered, “the most heinous crime in modern human history.”
He said his comment was not intended to deny the uniqueness of the Holocaust, but rather to highlight “the crimes and massacres committed against the Palestinian people since the Nakba at the hands of Israeli forces.”
Nakba, or catastrophe, is the term Palestinians use to describe the mass exodus of Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes in the 1948 war that accompanied the creation of the State of Israel.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany expressed “horror” at Abbas’s comments, which it said trample on the memory of the six million Jews who died and tarnish that of all Holocaust victims.
Along with Scholz, Abbas referred to a series of historical incidents in which Palestinians were killed by Israelis in the 1948 war and in the years after.
“From 1947 to today, Israel has committed 50 massacres in Palestinian towns and cities, in Deir Yassin, Tantura, Kafr Qasim and many others, 50 massacres, 50 holocausts,” Abbas said.
The official Palestinian Wafa news agency did not include his comments on the Holocaust in its report on the meeting with Scholz, and the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said Lapid’s comments were intended to divert attention from Israel’s “crimes.”
In a statement, the ministry said Israel was not only continuing to act against Palestinians, but was also trying to suppress comments “which remind Israelis and the international community of the numerous crimes committed by Israel.”
Abbas’s comment came after months of tension and a brief conflict this month in which 49 people were killed in Gaza, after Israel carried out a series of airstrikes in response to what he said was an imminent threat from the militant group. Islamic Jihad, which launched more than 1,000 rockets in response.
Dozens of Palestinians have also been killed in clashes with Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank, while there have been several attacks against Israelis, including an incident on Sunday in which eight people were injured on a bus carrying Jewish worshipers in Jerusalem.
The Palestinians seek an independent state in the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. Negotiations have been frozen since 2014.