German Chancellor Olaf Scholz voiced disgust on Wednesday at remarks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that the German leader said diminished the importance of the Holocaust, while Israel accused Abbas of telling a "monstrous lie."
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.
"For us Germans in particular, any relativisation of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable," Scholz tweeted on Wednesday. "I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas."
Scholz's office summoned the head of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Berlin to protest at Abbas' remarks, a German government spokesperson said.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid called the comments a "disgrace." Germany's ZDF television reported that Scholz would speak to Lapid on Thursday to avoid lasting damage to ties.
Since the Holocaust and World War Two, German politicians have stressed their special responsibility towards Israel.
"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 said on Twitter.
"History will never forgive him."
In response to the outcry, Abbas issued a statement calling Nazi Germany's Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed, "the most heinous crime in modern human history."
He said his remark on Tuesday was not intended to deny the singularity of the Holocaust but 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 expelled 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' comments, which it said trampled on the memory of Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
It also pointed a finger at Scholz for failing to condemn the comment more quickly, saying it was "scandalous" that the remark was made in the chancellery and went unchallenged.
A government spokesperson said he made a mistake in ending the joint news conference after Abbas made the comment, meaning Scholz did not condemn it immediately.
Earlier, Scholz had rejected Abbas’ description of relations between Israel and the Palestinian territories as "apartheid."
Standing alongside Scholz, Abbas had referred to a series of historical incidents in which Palestinians were killed by Israelis in the 1948 war and in ensuing years.
"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.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa left out his Holocaust comments in its report of the meeting with Scholz, and the Palestinian foreign ministry said Lapid's comments were intended to divert attention from Israel's "crimes."
Abbas' remarks followed months of tension and a brief conflict this month during which 49 people were killed in Gaza after Israel carried out a series of air strikes, in response to what it said was an imminent threat from the militant Islamic Jihad group, which fired 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 a number of attacks on Israelis.
Palestinians seek statehood in territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. Negotiations have been frozen since 2014.
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