Palestinian President Abbas avoids apology for Munich bombing

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BERLIN — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday expressed no regret over the deadly attack by Palestinian militants on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics half a century ago, retorting that Israel had committed “50 holocausts” against Palestinians over the years.

Eleven Israeli athletes and a German policeman died after members of the Palestinian militant group Black September took hostages at the Olympic Village on September 5, 1972. At the time of the attack, the group was linked to Abbas’ Fatah party.

When asked if, as a Palestinian leader, he planned to apologize to Israel and Germany for the attack before the 50th anniversary next month, Abbas instead responded by citing allegations of atrocities committed by Israel since 1947.

“If we want to go back to the past, go ahead,” Abbas told reporters after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin. “I have 50 massacres that Israel committed.”

Standing next to Scholz, Abbas explicitly used the word “Holocaust” in his response, drawing a grimace from the German chancellor. Germany has long argued that the term should only be used to describe the singular Nazi crime of killing six million Jews before and during World War II.

While Scholz previously dismissed the Palestinian leader’s description of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as “apartheid,” he did not immediately chastise Abbas for using the term “Holocaust.”

In a statement to German daily Bild, Scholz later criticized Abbas’ choice of words, saying any downplaying of the horrors of the Holocaust was “unacceptable”.

Conservative German lawmaker Armin Laschet also expressed outrage at Abbas’ comments.

“The (Palestinian) leader would have gained sympathy if he had apologized for the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics,” he wrote on Twitter. “To accuse Israel of ’50 Holocausts’ instead is the most disgusting speech ever heard in the German Chancellery,” he said.

In his response, the Palestinian president also said he was determined to build trust and reach a peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel.

“Please come in peace,” he said. “Please come to safety, let’s build trust between you and us. It’s better than other types of conversation.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Abbas’s “50 Holocausts” remarks, made on German soil, were “not just a moral disgrace, but a monstrous lie”.

“Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, including one and a half million Jewish children,” Lapid tweeted. “History will never forgive him.”

Weeks before a planned somber commemoration marking the 50th anniversary of the Munich attack, Germany also found itself embroiled in controversy over its dealings with relatives of the Israelis who were killed.

The families of the victims announced last week that they plan to boycott the ceremony after failing to reach an agreement on greater compensation from the German government.

Relatives of the athletes have long accused Germany of failing to secure the Olympic Village, refusing Israeli aid and botching a rescue operation in which five of the attackers also died.

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