The State Department will not say if it is considering any repercussions for the Palestinian Authority after the authority's president, Mahmoud Abbas, accused Israel of committing "50 Holocausts," comments that sparked an international diplomatic scandal.
"We recognize that President Abbas today has, quote, reaffirmed that the Holocaust is 'the most heinous crime' in modern history, and we reject any attempts to draw false equivalencies or to minimize Holocaust atrocities," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters who questioned him about the administration’s response to the scandal.
Abbas during remarks in Germany earlier this month claimed that Israel has committed "50 Holocausts" against the Palestinians since its creation in 1948. Distortion of the Holocaust remains heavily restricted in Germany, making Abbas's comments as he spoke next to the German chancellor unprecedented. While Germany quickly condemned the remarks, the Biden administration's State Department attempted to play defense for Abbas, telling reporters that the Palestinian president later apologized.
The State Department also would not answer a series of Washington Free Beacon inquiries about how it is responding to the issue and whether it is considering any type of diplomatic penalties for Abbas's comments, such as downgrading relations or withholding aid money to his government. Republican foreign policy leaders in Congress and Jewish community officials say the State Department's reaction is providing cover for Abbas as the Biden administration supplies his government with millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer aid. The Trump administration froze that aid due to the Palestinian government's promotion of anti-Semitism.
"The Palestinians are so emboldened to make abhorrent statements like these because the Biden administration has made clear that the U.S. will continue to hand them money and carry water for them diplomatically no matter what they do," Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the Free Beacon.
A State Department official would not say whether it addressed the issue with Abbas or other top Palestinian government leaders. The department also would not say if it is considering imposing diplomatic penalties on the Palestinian Authority for the comments.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (N.Y.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, said Abbas maligned the memories of more than six million Jews while standing in the country that perpetrated the crimes.
"To accuse the Jewish state and the only functioning democracy in the Middle East of committing '50 Holocausts,' while standing in Germany, is something that only someone with as little character and sense of morality as Abbas could rationalize," Zeldin said in a statement. "Six million Jews and millions of others were brutally murdered during the Holocaust. There has been absolutely no equivalence to that at any time anywhere in the world."
The most public comment from the State Department came from its special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, Deborah Lipstadt, who took to Twitter to criticize Abbas's remarks. "Abbas's claim that Israel committed '50 Holocausts' is unacceptable," Lipstadt wrote. "Holocaust distortion can have dangerous consequences and fuels anti-Semitism."
While Lipstadt's comments were welcome, some in the pro-Israel community expressed concerns that the State Department is not taking the issue as seriously as it should.
"It is patently insufficient to simply reject [Abbas's] remarks, without any consequences," Arsen Ostrovsky, a human rights attorney who serves as CEO of the International Legal Forum, a group that represents more than 3,500 lawyers and advocates, told the Free Beacon. "The international community, led by the United States, must stop coddling Mahmoud Abbas, and finally hold him to account, without which he will have no incentive to change behavior, whether that is distorting history, inciting violence, or paying the salaries of Palestinian terrorists. Enough is enough."
Following pressure from Israel, German officials, and others, Abbas ultimately clarified his remarks, saying the Holocaust "is the most heinous crime in history," but he did not explicitly apologize.