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Mahmoud Abbas sparks anger after comparing Israeli actions to Holocaust

German Chancellor Olaf Schulz belatedly distances himself from Palestinian president's comments at press conference in Berlin
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas gesticulates during a joint press conference with the German Chancellor at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on August 16, 2022 (AFP)
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas gesticulates during a joint press conference with the German Chancellor at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on August 16, 2022 (AFP)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has provoked widespread anger following comments in which he compared Israeli actions against Palestinians to the Holocaust.

During a visit to Berlin on Tuesday, Abbas was asked by a journalist about his thoughts on the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Munich massacre, when Palestinian armed group Black September took hostage and later killed members of the Israeli Olympic team.

'In Deir Yassin, Tantura, Kafr Qasim and many others, [Israel committed] 50 massacres, 50 Holocausts'

- Mahmoud Abbas

In response, Abbas said that Israel had "committed 50 massacres in Palestinian villages and cities" since 1947, referencing the war that preceded the creation of the State of Israel and the expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their lands.

"In Deir Yassin, Tantura, Kafr Qasim and many others, 50 massacres, 50 Holocausts," he said at the joint press conference with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

His comments provoked a backlash, with some accusing him of trivialising the Holocaust, a very sensitive issue in Germany.

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Scholz did not respond to the "Holocaust" reference at the press conference - however, on Wednesday he tweeted that he was "disgusted" by Abbas' comments.

"For us Germans in particular, any relativisation of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable," Scholz tweeted on Wednesday.

A German government spokesperson later said they had on Wednesday summoned the head of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Berlin over the remarks.

A 'disgrace'

Six million Jews as well as millions of Roma, LGBT people and others were killed by Nazi Germany in the Holocaust.

Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany, as is the display of symbols associated with the Nazi regime.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid also chimed with Scholz's comments, saying Abbas' words were a "disgrace" and said that "history will never forgive him".

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Abbas' visit to Germany has come as tensions have risen in the region with Israeli forces arresting dozens of Palestinians in the West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip overnight Monday and into Tuesday morning.

The Palestinian Prisoners' Club, which represents former and current inmates, reported incursions across the West Bank.

It said dozens of houses had been broken into and searched, with residents interrogated and detained for long periods.

Speaking at the press conference on Tuesday, Scholz said he took issue with Abbas using the term "apartheid" to describe the current state of affairs in Israel-Palestine.

"Of course, regarding the Israeli politics we have a different assessment. I want to say clearly that I won't use the word 'apartheid' and I don't believe it is right to use the term to describe the situation," Scholz said.

Palestinians have long described their treatment by Israel as "apartheid" and in recent years a number of rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Israeli NGO B'tselem, have also agreed with the assessment.

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