Mahmoud Abbas’s Outburst in Berlin Highlights a German Problem

August 23, 2022 | Ben Cohen
About the author: Ben Cohen, a New York-based writer, has contributed essays on anti-Semitism and related issues to Mosaic and other publications.

Few who have followed the career of the Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas were surprised that, while visiting Berlin last week, he not only refused to apologize for a Palestinian terrorist group’s massacre of Israeli athletes in Munich 50 years ago, but ranted about the “50 Holocausts” perpetrated by the Jewish state against Arabs. More telling, writes Ben Cohen, was the reaction of the German chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose country spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year propping up the PA:

As many German media outlets observed, Scholz did not contradict Abbas at the podium and even shook hands with him at the close of the press conference. At the same time, Scholz looked visibly angry with Abbas, and later on reportedly berated his staff for ending the press conference before he’d had an opportunity to respond. One day later, smarting from the media criticism, he labeled Abbas’s comments “disgusting” and apologized during a phone call with the Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid.

But sniping at Abbas after giving him a pass in front of the world’s press is not what a principled leader should do. . . . If Scholz wants to repair the reputational damage wrought by Abbas, he needs to make the fight against anti-Semitism a personal priority. Simply put, anti-Semitism is rife these days in Germany. In 2021, more than 3,000 anti-Semitic hate crimes were recorded—likely just the tip of the iceberg even though the [Jewish] community numbers fewer than 120,000 souls to begin with.

Germany cannot claim to be the guardian of the integrity of the Holocaust and then allow diplomatic protocol to shield a Holocaust denier like Abbas. In the same vein, German politicians can no longer be allowed to present yet more Holocaust memorials or emotional speeches embracing Jews as a substitute for grappling with a major social problem. What is needed are actions. Germany should condition funding to the Palestinians upon a commitment—from Abbas downwards—to refrain from Holocaust abuse and to end anti-Semitic incitement. . . .

If that can’t happen, then at least save us from the empathy-drenched speeches that sound more and more hollow at every instance.

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