Why now? Why at this dangerous moment of acute Israeli-Palestinian tension did Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, chose to revise the most sensitive moment in history, to place a Palestinian, as the central instigator of the vilest industrial bloodletting in human history.
In a speech to the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu claimed that in 1941, the then Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin Al-Husseini "flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, "If you expel them, they'll all come here." "So what should I do with them?" he asked. He said, "Burn them."
For sure the Mufti was deeply anti-Jewish. He had long lost his standing among most Palestinians by the time he started embedding himself with the Axis powers.
Yet in the minutes of the Mufti’s one and only meeting with Hitler in November 1941 (months after plans for the final solution were already in place), there was no mention of killing all the Jews. World famous holocaust historians such as Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University, have trashed the idea as historically inaccurate.
This Holocaust revisionism by Netanyahu is arguably even Holocaust denial, by asserting that Hitler actually only wanted to deport Jews but the Mufti persuaded him otherwise.
For such a savvy, sharp and experienced media operator, fully aware of Jewish history and suffering, could this be accidental? Not for a second.Chris Doyle
The message - the Mufti, the embodiment in this view of all Palestinians, was in effect worse than Hitler. Netanyahu is arguing effectively that Hitler was a reluctant Jew killer who needed a Palestinian to plant the seeds of this in his head. It is also as many have argued a disgraceful abuse of the Holocaust for clear political purposes.
Netanyahu was forced into what was not a retraction at all or even an apology, but more of an explanation. Bibi has rarely ever admitted he was wrong about anything so he claimed that he “didn't mean to absolve Hitler of responsibility but to show that the father of the Palestinian nation wanted to destroy the Jews even without territories, without occupation, and without settlements.” Somehow the Mufti has been promoted to the “Father of the Palestinian nation”, a novel title for sure. But note - Netanyahu did refer to a Palestinian nation, a first as far as I can recall.
The German reaction shows just how breathtaking Bibi’s comments were. A spokesperson for Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel was compelled to confirm "We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own.” Yes, Germany officially had to remind an Israeli Prime Minister that Germany has the historic responsibility for this genocide.
Netanyahu was attempting to push the narrative that Palestinians are historically anti-Jewish and that incitement is not a recent issue but one that preceded the state of Israel and certainly the occupation of 1967. In other words, he wants to challenge the idea that incitement is not a product of 48 years of occupation but in fact the cause of occupation and conflict.
For such a savvy, sharp and experienced media operator, fully aware of Jewish history and suffering, could this be accidental? Not for a second. This was a set piece speech.
Selling a line
Ultimately, this like the whole issue of incitement itself is a massive distraction and clearly Netanyahu wants to divert everyone from the core issues. From the outset Netanyahu, his ministers and associated hasbaristas have tried to sell the line that the current escalation of violence is all due to Palestinian incitement and that it was Mahmoud Abbas the Palestinian Prime Minister who was the arch culprit. And just to add another example of abusing the Holocaust for political ends, the Israeli Energy Minister claimed that “the level and intensity of the incitement and the level of anti-Semitism is the same level as Hitler.” And yes there has been inexcusable anti-Jewish statements and literature (above all from Hamas sources) as there have been unacceptable anti-Palestinian statements even by Israeli ministers.
Step forward the first spoiler to this - the Israeli internal security service no less. Shin Bet made clear that Abbas had not been inciting violence and “is even instructing his security forces to prevent terror attacks as much as possible."
Undeterred Israeli ministers continued as if this had not been said. The trouble is that this incitement argument simply did not get any traction internationally and for good reason.
International agencies, human right groups and the United Nations for more than two years have warned that Israel had escalated its use of lethal force, increased the humble of home demolitions and expanded settlements at a phenomenal rate. The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry said that this was due to the settlements issue.
Actually the settlements issue is just one part of the issue but John Kerry cannot say that. He cannot even utter the word for fear of the outcry. It is of course - occupation. Across the West Bank the occupation has intensified, more lands and water have been taken from the Palestinians. And like nearly every foreign occupation in history, it engenders and triggers a violent reaction.
Stabbing of Israeli civilians is wrong. Period. Yet Netanyahu wants the world to believe that this is all due to Palestinian incitement. The reality is that the young Palestinians of the post-Oslo generation no longer listen to any Palestinian leader not least the octogenarian Mahmoud Abbas. He could not incite them to get out of bed let alone throw stones.
For both Palestinians and Israelis what has incited anger has not been words, it has been actions. Israelis are furious with the stabbings, as they are with the rocket attacks on their cities and towns and in the past, the suicide bombings. This is understandable. What has incited Palestinians amongst many things is the occupation, including the attacks on them, the disproportionate bombing and blockade of Gaza, the mass arrests, the night raids and the daily denial of their rights and freedoms.
Netanyahu did not convince the world over the last month that incitement was the key, so his reaction is to scream louder and stretch the boundaries of credibility even further. It shows how desperate he is. He has no definable strategy to end the stabbings and restore any measure of calm even if he wanted to.
It has all the hallmarks of another leader stuck in his ivory tower for too long - he is Israel’s second longest serving Prime Minister. He is so overconfident in his oratorical ability to persuade he believed that he could turn Congress against the Iran deal and now sell a revision of the Holocaust to the world and even the Jewish people. But speeches are not strategy and Netanyahu has nothing to fall back on. For its own sake, Israel needs new leadership as well as a new course.
Chris Doyle is the director of CAABU (the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding). He has worked with the Council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. As the lead spokesperson for Caabu and as an acknowledged expert on the region, Chris is a frequent commentator on TV and Radio, having given over 148 interviews on the Arab world in in 2012 alone. He gives numerous talks around the country on issues such as the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Islamophobia and the Arabs in Britain. He has had numerous articles and letters published in the British and international media. He has travelled to nearly every country in the Middle East. He has organized and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. Most recently he took Parliamentary delegations to the West Bank in April, November, December 2013 and January 2014 including with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.