Berlin drops Mahmoud Abbas’ Holocaust hate speech case due to diplomatic immunity

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Berlin drops Mahmoud Abbas’ Holocaust hate speech case due to diplomatic immunity

At issue was Abbas’ comments made during a press conference with German Chancellor in which he accused Israel of committing “50 Holocausts” since its war for independence in 1948.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Berlin’s attorney general dismissed incitement to hate charges against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday, saying that the leader was protected by diplomatic immunity during a visit in 2022 even though Germany does not recognise the Palestinian Authority as a state.

At issue was Abbas’ comments made during a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in which he accused Israel of committing “50 Holocausts” since its war for independence in 1948.

Following public and political outcry, Abbas later qualified his remarks, saying in a statement that the Holocaust was “the most heinous crime in modern human history.”

Scholz, leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party, was also criticised for not responding forcefully to Abbas in the moment during the press conference.

The following morning, he issued a statement on the platform then known as Twitter, writing that he was “disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud #Abbas. For us Germans in particular, any relativisation of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.”

It is illegal in Germany to relativize or deny the Holocaust.

Mike Delberg, who is head of social media for the centre-right Christian Democratic Party, filed charges against Abbas shortly after the incident in August 2022, accusing Abbas of “trivialising and relativising the most terrible time in the history of our country and in the history of my family and faith community.”

Delberg told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he found Monday’s outcome a positive one.

“He was officially called an inciter of hate,” Delberg said in a social media chat. “A small win, but a win.”

The attorney general’s office chastised Abbas in a statement. “It is hard to see it as anything other than a trivialization of the crimes against the Jewish population,” the statement read.

The ruling was based in part on a letter from Germany’s foreign ministry, which argued that Abbas made his remarks while on an official visit by invitation of the federal government.

Furthermore, the ministry argued that diplomatic immunity is routinely granted to representatives of territories that are not recognised as states around the world.

“Even if my report does not lead to legal charges, it still sends a clear message,” Delberg wrote. “We will not allow hate and incitement to go unchallenged — especially not in times like these.”

Abbas has more recently repeated falsehoods about Jews and the Holocaust. In a speech this August, said that Adolf Hitler and antisemites before him hated and persecuted the Jews not because of who they were but because of “their role in society” having to do with “usury, money, and so on and so on.”

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