Visiting Germany to meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — himself a Holocaust denier — castigated Israel, accusing it at a joint press conference of conducting “fifty holocausts” against the Palestinians. A preliminary Jihad Watch report by Christine Douglass-Williams yesterday can be found here. Scholz’s grossly inadequate response immediately after the remark was made is reported on here: “PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas Accuses Israel of ‘Holocausts’ Against Palestinians at Joint Press Conference With German Chancellor,” Algemeiner, August 16, 2022:
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas caused an uproar on a visit to Germany on Tuesday [August 16] when he answered a journalist’s query about an apology for the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics with a claim that Israel was guilty of perpetrating “holocausts” against the Palestinians.
Speaking at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Abbas was asked about an apology for the murder of 11 Israeli athletes who were taken hostage by terrorists from the radical Palestinian “Black September” organization, as Germany marks the 50th anniversary of the atrocity.
Israel has committed 50 massacres in 50 Palestinian locations from 1947 to the present day,” Abbas responded. “Fifty massacres, 50 holocausts.” At no point did the Palestinian leader specify which “massacres” he was referring to, and nor did he mention the Munich massacre, the subject of the question.
Instead of taking the occasion provided him to deplore the Munich massacre, Abbas said nothing about that 1972 atrocity. After all, he could have said that the Munich massacre was perpetrated by Black September, “a terrorist group with which neither I, nor Fatah, have anything to do.” He chose instead not to respond to the question, but instead to attack the Jewish state for its “fifty holocausts” against the Palestinians.
German media coverage of the press conference highlighted the country’s sensitivity to the use of the word “holocaust” as a descriptor for events other than the Nazi extermination of six million Jews during World War II.
The Germans are naturally disturbed by the use of the word “holocaust” to describe anything other than the unique atrocity – the worst crime in human history — committed by Nazi Germany. Just as today the word “Nazi” is used by those on the left as an all-purpose epithet to sully anyone to their right, thus unforgivably diluting its meaning, the word “holocaust” has been used to describe everything from the re-education camps for Uighurs in Xinjiang to the expulsion of the Rohingyas from Myanmar to Bangladesh. There has been no “holocaust” of the Palestinians, no Kristallnacht, no smotherings in crowded cattle cars, no death camps with Zyklon B, no crematoria, none of those portable killing vans where people were gassed, no mass shootings where the victims toppled into the open pits that they themselves had dug, no fiendish “medical” experiments in the manner of Mengele.
Instead of a “holocaust,” or in Abbas’ fevered imagination, “fifty holocausts” that would have led to nearly wiping out the Arab population, the very reverse has happened. The Arab population of Israel, and the population of Palestinian Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank, have steadily, even vertiginously, increased. When Israel took possession of east Jerusalem in 1967, for example, there were 66,000 Arabs lived in the area; now there are 340,000. In Israel, within the 1949 armistice lines, there were 156,000 Arabs in 1949, and 1.9 million today. In Gaza there were 700,000 Arabs in 1949, and there are 1.9 million in 2022. In the West Bank, there were 700,000 Arabs in 1949, and there are 3 million today. How does Mahmoud Abbas, or all the other Palestinians who have enthusiastically repeated his accusation of Israel being responsible for “fifty holocausts,” explain these figures?
Many outlets focused on the absence of a verbal response from Scholz to Abbas’s remarks, emphasizing at the same time that the German Chancellor was visibly displeased by what he heard.
Instead of contradicting (Abbas), Scholz took off his headphones, irritated, shook hands with Abbas and left the room with him,” the right-wing tabloid Bild commented. “Not a word of dissent in the face of the worst relativization of the Holocaust that a head of government has ever uttered in the chancellor’s office.”
This is the crux of the matter. It was then, immediately after Abbas made his remarks, and with him still present, that Chancellor Scholz ought to have made clear what he waited a full day to express: “I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,” Scholz said. “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.” It was good that he finally said that on August 16, but it would have been much more devastating if he had said it right away, in Abbas’ presence.
Though Scholz grimaced after Abbas had refused when asked to discuss the Munich massacre and instead accused Israel of “fifty holocausts’ – signaling his disapproval of Abbas’ remark – this was not nearly enough. And worse, Scholz shook hands with Abbas after he had made his remarks, and then left the room with the Palestinian. He should not have shaken his hand, which confusedly semaphored that Abbas was still a semi-acceptable interlocutor. Instead, after denouncing Abbas, no hand ought to have been proffered, and Scholz ought to have turned on his heels and left the room alone, not with Abbas, who should have been left standing, until finally ushered unceremoniously out by a low-level German official. Scholz was rightly criticized in Germany, in Israel, in the U.S., and around the world for not rejecting Abbas’ comments immediately at the press conference he held with him on August 15 at the Chancellery.
A spokesperson for Scholz explained to Bild that “before the Chancellor could contradict this outrageous sentence, the government spokesman had already ended the press conference – as usual after the last question/answer block – which visibly annoyed Scholz.” The spokesperson added that “the journalists who were still present could not help noticing the Chancellor’s annoyance, how outraged the Chancellor was about the statement, and also that he had not had the opportunity to openly contradict one more time.”
This comment meant to excuse Scholz’ initial failure is unconvincing. Just because the press conference was officially over, there was nothing to prevent Scholz from immediately insisting on responding to “the unbelievable accusation I have just heard against the Jewish state, one that I cannot allow to pass without comment,” and then he could have proceeded to make the statement he made, in fact, a day later.
Scholz later released his own statement, telling Bild: “Especially for us Germans, any relativization of the Holocaust is unbearable and unacceptable.”
Scholz also told the press conference in the presence of Abbas that he rejected the Palestinian labeling of Israel as an “apartheid state.”
“Naturally we have a different assessment with a view to Israeli politics, and I want to expressly say here that I do not espouse the use of the word apartheid and do not think it correctly describes the situation,” he said.
Scholz’ criticism of Abbas’ other accusation – that Israel is an “apartheid state” – which was made in the Palestinian’s presence, was welcome, but it ought to have been harsher. Instead of saying, too mildly, that “I do not think [the charge] correctly describes the situation [in Israel],” he could have said, more piercingly, that “no decent person believes that Israel is an apartheid state. Israeli Jews and Arabs are fully equal in every sense.”
Next time, some will argue, Scholz will do better, respond at once, to a similar outrage as the “fifty holocausts” accusation. But there need not be a next time. Ideally, Mahmoud Abbas will never again be invited to Germany nor, one hopes, to any other country, especially in Europe and North America, similarly disgusted by his remarks.