Palestinian Authority Chaiman Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the media in Berlin
Palestinian Authority Chaiman Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the media in BerlinSean Gallup/Getty Images

Berlin police are investigating Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on suspicion that comments he made while on an official visit to Germany violated the country’s hate speech laws related to Holocaust relativization.

Mike Delberg, a member of the Berlin Jewish community and a social media manager for the center-right Christian Democratic Union Party, has filed charges, accusing Abbas of “trivializing and relativizing the most terrible time in the history of our country and in the history of my family and faith community.”

At issue are statements Abbas made during a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz last week, following their official diplomatic meeting. When asked about the legacy of the 1972 Munich Olympics murders — which were carried out by terrorists affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organization, a group that has ties to the Palestinian Authority — Abbas accused Israel of committing “50 Holocausts” since its founding. He later qualified his remarks, saying in a statement that the Holocaust was “the most heinous crime in modern human history.”

It is illegal in Germany to deny or relativize the Holocaust, but Abbas may be protected from prosecution by diplomatic immunity. According to the German criminal code, denial of genocidal acts committed during the National Socialist era is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to 5 years.

In an interview with Bild Live TV, Delberg said he hoped to accomplish “nothing more or less than that Mr. Abbas be brought to justice as provided for in our law.”

Berlin police confirmed to German media that they are looking into whether they can actually file charges.

Abbas’ statement caused a stir in part because Scholz, of the centrist Social Democratic Party, did not react on the spot. He later tweeted — in English, German and Hebrew — that he was “disgusted by the outrageous remarks” that Abbas had made.

“I would have wanted a more direct reaction from our chancellor,” Delberg said, “not just an explanatory tweet or apology.”

Others, including the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Berlin-based International Auschwitz Committee, joined in criticizing Scholz for allowing Abbas’ “comments on the Holocaust to go unchallenged.”

According to Deutsche Welle, Germany’s public media entity, Scholz spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said that the chancellor regretted not responding directly to Abbas’ comments. The Scholz administration reportedly also summoned the head of the Palestinian Authority diplomatic mission to Germany to formally condemn the Holocaust comparison.