What does Abbas' Holocaust relativisation mean?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said during a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Tuesday that Israel had committed "50 massacres, 50 holocausts" against Palestinians since 1947. On Wednesday, he qualified the statement saying he had not meant to question the uniqueness of the Holocaust. For commentators, Abbas' behaviour is not the only cause for criticism here.

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tagesschau.de (DE) /

A chancellor is duty bound to contradict

tagesschau.de finds Scholz's behaviour completely incomprehensible:

“The uniqueness of the crime called the Holocaust is German guilt and shame. Its relativisation on German soil in the official residence of a German chancellor is outrageous and called for more than just a petrified expression and the helpless gesture of subsequently telling a tabloid, of all things, that the chancellor really had been outraged. And that he had not contradicted Abbas only because his spokesman had ended the press conference before he had the chance to. Seriously? A chancellor ends press conferences. And a chancellor contradicts when the Holocaust and German guilt is relativised.”

Die Presse (AT) /

This was not the first time

The Palestinian president's remarks fit a fixed pattern, Die Presse points out:

“This is not the first time Abbas has drawn attention with remarks about the Holocaust. In his doctoral dissertation, written in the early 1980s at a Russian university, he wrote that Zionist groups assisted the Nazis in the Holocaust in order to persuade the remaining Jews to flee to Palestine. In 2018, he claimed in a speech that the Nazis committed their genocide against Jews not because of their 'religious identity' but their social activities, such as 'usury and banking'. After harsh international reactions, Abbas apologised. His conduct in Berlin gave no indication that he had learned from the past scandal.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

An incurable disease

For Corriere della Sera, Abbas' words highlight the unsolvability of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

“The 87-year-old Palestinian leader tried to correct himself by issuing a statement in which he called the Holocaust the 'most heinous crime in modern history' and denied any intention of refuting its uniqueness. Too late. Looking at the images of the press conference one realises that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, made even more complicated by its protagonists' desire to seek a non-solution, is dangerously marked by a dark disease. The words that were spoken in Berlin make one fear that it is incurable.”