Germany: Berlin police probe Palestine President Abbas over Holocaust comments

Germany: Berlin police probe Palestine President Abbas over Holocaust comments
3 min read
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of committing '50 Holocausts' at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Tuesday.
Police have received a complaint accusing Mahmoud Abbas of 'relativising the Holocaust', a police spokeswoman said [Omer Sercan Karkus/Anadolu Agency/Getty]

Berlin police said on Friday they have launched an investigation into Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over his comments on the Holocaust during a recent visit to the German capital.

Police have received a complaint accusing Abbas of "relativising the Holocaust" and are investigating "on suspicion of inciting hatred", a police spokeswoman told AFP.

Any relevant findings will be passed to Berlin prosecutors who will eventually decide whether a crime has been committed.

Downplaying the Holocaust is a criminal offence in Germany. The AP earlier on Friday said a "preliminary" inquiry had been opened into Abbas, but added that this doesn't automatically entail a full investigation.

At a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in 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. 

"From 1947 to the present day, Israel has committed 50 massacres in Palestinian villages and cities, in Deir Yassin, Tantura, Kafr Qasim and many others, 50 massacres, 50 Holocausts," said Abbas.

Two of the massacres listed by Abbas occurred during the Nakba (Arabic for "catastrophe"), which saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homes during the creation of the Israeli state between 1947 and 1949.

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Millions of Palestinians who were either expelled during this period or are descendants of those pushed out remain unable to return to their land and are forced to live as refugees abroad.

Scholz did not immediately challenge Abbas on his comments but, following widespread criticism, tweeted on Wednesday that he was "disgusted by the outrageous remarks" made by the Palestinian leader.

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

In Israel, Abbas's remarks drew a hail of condemnation from Prime Minister Yair Lapid and others.

"Mahmoud Abbas accusing Israel of having committed '50 Holocausts' while standing on German soil is not only a moral disgrace, but a monstrous lie," Lapid wrote on Twitter.

The Palestinian foreign ministry said Lapid's comments were intended to divert attention from Israel's "crimes".

In a statement, the ministry said "the occupying power is not satisfied with committing these crimes on a daily and continuous basis, but also does not tolerate and rejects any talk or statements that remind the Israelis and the international community of the many crimes committed by Israel".

According to Germany's Bild daily, Berlin's foreign ministry believes Abbas will benefit from diplomatic immunity because he was in Germany on an "official visit".

But Michael Kubiciel, a professor of criminal law quoted by Bild, said Abbas could only enjoy immunity if he had been in Germany "as a representative of another state".

Germany does not recognise Palestine as a country, a position Scholz reaffirmed Tuesday, but maintains relations with the Palestinian territories.

The United Nations, however, has accepted Palestine as a non-member observer state.

Abbas's comments followed months of tensions and a brief escalation this month during which 49 people were killed in Gaza after Israel carried out a series of airstrikes in response to what it said was an imminent threat from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.

Israel admitted it killed five children in a strike on its final day of its three-day bombing campaign after initially blaming Islamic Jihad militants for the deaths.

(AFP, APReutersThe New Arab)