Commentary

Netanyahu Holocaust Comments Denounced

Middle East In Focus

Middle East Policy Council

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has drawn international condemnation for recent comments he made laying the blame for the Holocaust on Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, a prominent Palestinian Arab nationalist. Citing as evidence a meeting between Adolf Hitler and al-Husseini, Netanyahu claims that Hitler was simply planning to expel the Jews until al-Husseini told him to “burn them.” Many historians and experts in the field have denounced Netanyahu's comments as false and inflammatory. However, there are a few who have come to his defense, primarily among the far right.

Giulio Meotti, for instance, in an op-ed in the right-wing Arutz Sheva, attempts to buttress Netanyahu’s comments by asserting that al-Husseini was involved in the Holocaust, pointing toward today's violence and the Palestinians alleged racism today as evidence: “This is not a historical discussion, but a super political one...Netanyahu is right in saying that the Mufti played an active role in the elimination of the Jews. Israel has published a book on the mufti in the Holocaust, ‘Death Camps in Croatia.’ ‘For the Mufti, Hitler was to do its job in eliminating the Jews of Europe, while the Palestinian Arabs would take care of the Jews in the Middle East. Every Friday the mosques repeat this hatred of the Jews, ‘the sons of pigs and monkey.’” The Third Intifada is the manifestation of this hatred that dates back to ancient Koran.”

Such arguments are nor reserved only for the pages of the far-right papers. Bill Mehlman, in an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post again comes to the defense of Netanyahu and states that it is not unthinkable that the two were allied, since both were staunchly anti-Semitic and provides evidence that the meeting and the results of that meeting were not fabricated: "The Nuremberg Protocols, confirming Husseini’s conviction, include citations by senior SS prosecution witnesses identifying him as being instrumental in Hitler’s decision to exterminate rather than seek to ransom the Jews. He underscored his participation in that decision by recruiting an Islamic division for the Waffen SS that contributed to the subsequent decimation of Yugoslavia’s Jewish population....Golda Meir is said to have importuned the Mossad to apprehend Husseini so he could be seated in the glass enclosure alongside Adolf Eichmann. Golda had it right, and so does Bibi."

Additionally, while Caroline B. Glick provides some much needed nuance in the debate and acknowledges that the Holocaust was Hitler's idea, and not al-Husseini's, she claims that the two were still in it together: "No, the Holocaust was not Husseini’s idea....But he was a partner in perpetrating and promoting it. He also made it inevitable....By exaggerating Husseini’s importance in the Holocaust, Netanyahu gave the media a means of attacking him. But by doing so, he forced the Times to report on the Palestinians’ founding father’s role in destroying European Jewry and his desire to carry out the Final Solution in the Middle East. They would have ignored the issue if Netanyahu had not exaggerated his actual role."

But these commentaries aside, the reaction has been overwhelmingly negative. Yedioth Ahranoth’s Noah Klieger calls Netanyahu's remark a ‘blatant historical lie’: "The mistake made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday was both diabolical and blatant and ridiculous. Had he been wrong about the era of Nero Claudius Caesar or about the era of Vercingetorix, so be it. But Netanyahu wasn’t wrong about something that happened 2,000 years ago, he was wrong about events that happened only 70 years ago. There are hundreds if not thousands of experts on that period in the world today. Erring on something like that is foolish and despicable."

Writing for the Palestinian Information Center, Khalid Amayreh notes that Netanyahu has done this before: "In a new outburst of brash lying, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has claimed that it was Haj Amin Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who convinced Nazi leader Adolph Hitler to exterminate Jews during the Second World War....Netanyahu's remarks are viewed as a kind of exoneration of the Fuhrer of having sought and planned ‘the final solution by shifting responsibility for the holocaust to the Palestinians."

Others are even more blunt in their criticism of the Israeli prime minister. Nehemia Shtrasler, for example, in an opinion piece in Haaretz takes a clearly sarcastic tone as he rails against Netanyahu's claims that it was the Grand Mufti who had anything to do with Hitler's Final Solution: "Until now, we have always screened hard-to-watch films about the Nazi extermination machine and the shocking testimonies of survivors. We thought, naively, that it was Hitler who initiated the Final Solution, and that the German people happily cooperated with him. Yet we were wrong. Netanyahu taught us that Hitler only wanted to expel the Jews. But at a meeting with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in November 1941, the Mufti said to him, 'Burn them.' Hitler hit himself on the forehead and said, 'Wow! There’s an idea – why didn’t I think of that before?'"

Israel’s neighbors have not taken kindly to Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks. Warning of the potential escalation that this type of rhetorical can cause, The National’s Hussein Ibish and David N Myers blast Netanyahu’s remarks as not factual and a blatant political act to brand all Palestinians are Nazi sympathizers: “No good can come of regarding the Palestinians as the embodiment of a Nazi-like existential threat to Jews. A statement such as this will further poison the waters in the region, which is boiling over in violence as it is. It will seriously erode the confidence needed to return to negotiations, which Israel needs if it is to remain meaningfully either Jewish or democratic, and which Palestinians need if they are to gain their freedom and independence. And it does a profound disservice to future generations, who are placed at risk of growing up with dangerously mistaken views of the past on the basis of which they will be inclined to act.”


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