Berlin, Aug 18 (IANS) German and EU officials expressed their outrage at statements by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Holocaust.
The new German ambassador to Israel, Steffen Seibert, said Abbas’ statements were “wrong and unacceptable”, dpa news agency reported.
“Germany will never stand for any attempt to deny the singular dimension of the crimes of the Holocaust,” he wrote in English on Twitter.
The German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told tabloid newspaper Bild that Abbas’ comparison was “totally unacceptable and particularly painful because it took place in the capital of our country.”
Margaritis Schinas, the European Commissioner responsible for fighting anti-Semitism also said on Twitter that Abbas’ statement was “unacceptable.”
Describing the Holocaust as “an indelible stain on European history,” Schinas said that “Holocaust distortion is dangerous. It feeds anti-Semitism and has a corrosive effect on democracy.”
Abbas on Tuesday accused Israel of committing a “Holocaust” against Palestinians during a Berlin press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin. “Israel has committed 50 massacres in 50 Palestinian locations since 1947,” Abbas said, adding: “50 massacres, 50 Holocausts.”
His remarks were in response to a journalist who asked whether he would apologize to Israel on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the attack by Palestinian terrorists on the Israeli team during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, which resulted in the death of 10 Israeli athletes and coaches as well as one German police officer.
Scholz listened to Abbas’ response with a look of alarm and annoyance, but did not offer an immediate reply, provoking criticism from the conservative opposition.
German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit assumed responsibility for Scholz’s late reaction. The press conference ended too quickly, and the chancellor regretted not having been able to intervene a second time and react directly to Abbas’ attacks, Hebestreit said in Berlin Wednesday.
“I wasn’t fast enough, attentive enough, to react,” the spokesman explained. “That was my fault.”
The chancellor later issued a statement to Bild, saying that “especially for us Germans, any relativization of the Holocaust is unbearable and unacceptable.”
Scholz, reiterated on Twitter on Wednesday that he was angered by Abbas’ “intolerable statements.”
Former chancellor Angela Merkel also weighed in on Wednesday.
“Former Federal Chancellor Dr Merkel condemns the statements made by President Abbas in the context of his press conference in Berlin in the strongest possible terms,” a spokeswoman for Merkel’s office responded to a query from Bild.
Abbas’ statement was an unacceptable “attempt to relativize the singularity of the crimes committed by Germany during National Socialism, the breach of civilization by the Shoah, or to place the State of Israel directly or indirectly on the same level as Germany during the National Socialist era,” the spokeswoman added.
Abbas himself on Wednesday described the Holocaust as “the most heinous crime in modern human history”, according to a report published by Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Abbas reportedly said that his comparison of Israeli actions against Palestinians to the Holocaust were “not intended to deny the singularity of the Holocaust”.
He had meant to draw attention to the “crimes and massacres committed against the Palestinian people since the Nakba (Israeli independence) at the hands of the Israeli forces,” the Palestinian president explained.