On Holocaust, Netanyahu countered by Israelis, Palestinians, and Germans

Netanyahu's claim that the then-grand mufti of Jerusalem, and not Hitler, conceived of the Holocaust is being ridiculed as a 'dangerous distortion' and an attempt to demonize all Palestinians.

Carlo Allegri/AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks down during a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s accusation this week that the Nazi Holocaust was principally inspired by a Palestinian mufti has received no support from Israeli historians. It also has been sharply rejected in Germany by a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who blamed Adolf Hitler for the slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II.

Speaking to the World Zionist Congress this week, Mr. Netanyahu stated that Hitler had been planning only to expel Jews from Germany until speaking with the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini in 1941.

“‘So what should I do with them?’” Netanyahu quoted Hitler as asking al-Husseini. “He said, ‘Burn them,’” reports The New York Times today. 

The statement is being attacked by historians and politicians in Israel as inaccurate and a "dangerous distortion," and by Palestinians for what appears to be the demonization of an entire people at a sensitive time of conflict.

Dina Porat, the chief historian of the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, told Haaretz today that Netanyahu’s claims are “completely erroneous, on all counts.”

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is quoted in the Guardian today saying, “It is a sad day in history when the leader of the Israeli government hates his neighbor so much so that he is willing to absolve the most notorious war criminal in history, Adolf Hitler."

The comments, part of a speech on the “10 big lies” of Palestinians, are set against an alarming surge in street violence in Israel, after a period of long-simmering anger, in which eight Israelis and 46 Palestinians have been killed.

The Washington Post today framed Netanyahu’s comments as an effort by the Israeli leader to suggest that it is not Israel’s own behavior and policies that have caused the current uprising, but rather a deeper and more inherent Palestinian problem.

His remarks were intended to underline his contention that the root cause of Palestinian violence is not Israel's 48-year-old military occupation of the West Bank, the building of Jewish settlements on lands that the Palestinians hope to make part of their future state or the partial trade and travel blockade of the Gaza Strip, but old and intractable hatred of Jews.

Hitler’s Holocaust – or “Final Solution” as the term was adopted in the Wannsee Conference held outside Berlin in 1942, when Nazi leaders agreed on the systematic extermination of Jews – is universally recognized as the result of ideology that includes racial moral superiority and the propaganda of hatred. In Germany, Nazi responsibility is official policy, and Holocaust denial is a crime.

The historical record shows the wanton slaughter of tens of thousands of Jews by SS Nazi units in Ukraine in 1941 long before Hitler and the mufti met.

Ms. Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said yesterday that, “All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis.… I see no reason to change our view of history in any way. We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own.”

Netanyahu, who arrived for a pre-scheduled trip to Germany today, earlier defended his statement in the face of German resolve, saying, “I didn’t mean to absolve Hitler of responsibility, but to show that the father of the Palestinian nation wanted to destroy Jews even without occupation,” as carried by the Guardian. 

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