Netanyahu needs a Holocaust history lesson

Abdallah Schleifer
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Well, we all got it wrong. Millions of us. Turns out, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem this week, it was a Palestinian, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini who “gave Hitler the idea of exterminating Europe’s Jews.”

Haj Amin al-Husseini, in flight from the British for his role in the 1936 Arab Revolt in Palestine, eventually ended up taking refuge in Nazi Germany and broadcasting on Radio Berlin. Haj Amin al-Husseini had only one meeting with Hitler in November 1941, and according to Netanyahu until that meeting Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews; he only wanted to expel them.


It was Haj Amin al-Husseini, according to Netanyahu, who persuaded Hitler to kill them instead.

I believe this is unmitigated nonsense. Back in 1939, with Germany poised to invade Poland, Hitler warned France that if they declared war against Germany, at what Hitler described as the instigation of world Jewry, “the result would be the destruction of the Jewish race.” So more than two years before Hitler met the Mufti, the “Final Solution” was on the table.

Netanyahu, according to historian accounts and the documentation of the deaths, has lied.

Abdallah Schleifer.

And in the summer of 1941 – five months before the meeting with the Mufti – Germany invaded Russia and special extermination units of the elite SS Corps known as Einsatzgruppen began the mass murder of Eastern European and Russian Jews. According to Holocaust scholars, this was start of the “Final Solution” coming into motion. Within a year, the use of machine guns, rifles and pistols, the German Einsatzgruppen had reportedly killed around a million Jews, this was even before the use of poison gas chambers began.

So why did Haj Amin al-Husseini meet Hitler in Berlin in 1941? According to German press reports at the time, the Mufti had tried to persuade the Nazi leader to declare his support for the creation of an Arab state.

Netanyahu, according to historian accounts and the documentation of the deaths, has lied, but this time so outrageously that in an immediate reaction, Israeli historians, and opposition politicians have joined Palestinians in denouncing Netanyahu as a liar – or more politely, for engaging in “a dangerous historical distortion.”

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian peace negotiator, in a statement described Netanyahu’s remarks as “morally indefensible and inflammatory.” Erekat said that by “blaming the Palestinians for the Holocaust “ Netanyahu had completely absolved Adolph Hitler’s heinous and reprehensible genocide of the Jewish people…the leader of the Israeli government hates his neighbor so much that he is willing to absolve the most notorious war criminal in history, Adolph Hitler, of the murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust.”

Given the reaction, Netanyahu has quickly backed away from his remarks saying he wasn’t trying to absolve Hitler. But Netanyahu’s remarks were not made in a political vacuum.

He was trying to deflate the obvious, increasingly-global shared insight that the 48-year-old occupation of the West Bank – and the ever increasing settlements on stolen Palestinian land, the redirection of much the West Banks’s water resources, the imprisonment of over 5,000 Palestinians – are at the very heart of the increasing violent individual attacks by young Palestinians and as if in retaliation, the increasing excessive, and often murderous force, in breaking up Palestinian protest demonstrations in the West Bank. Netanyahu is more than just implying that Palestinian leaders have always sought to incite the murder of Jews before the occupation of the West Bank, the confiscation of land and the building of settlements.

No political vacuum

As for that violence, the core of what may be a third intifada (uprising) is in Jerusalem. Predominantly young Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem have been attacking Israelis - civilians and soldiers - in what could be described as suicide knifings, since they have mostly resulted in the death of the attackers.

The attackers have no connection with Palestinian political movements, nor have any of the organizations ordered them. This is in contrast to the suicide bombings that characterized the second intifada. When Hamas decided suicide bombing was counter-productive, they came to a halt.

These attacks are spontaneous acts of despair that escalate by example. No doubt the escalation was stimulated by the increasingly aggressive Israeli intrusions into the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), a sacred walled site containing shrines, Al-Aqsa mosque, tombs and religious schools.

Those intrusions are always protected by Israeli security forces, and of late have included MPs. Israelis, like any other foreigners, can visit the Haram, but like any other non-Muslims they are not to pray there. However, Israeli religious nationalists participating in these group visits take pride in the ways they evade the status quo and discreetly pray. So the presence of Israeli MPs in these visits was so embarrassing that Netanyahu ordered them to stop.

Without background, which routinely is not provided by news reports, it is probable that Westerners cannot understand why Palestinians - particularly those under occupation and annexation - are so fearful of Israeli intentions, as the organized intrusions have become larger in recent years.

This generation shares a reasonable conviction that Israeli governments have taken step after step to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

Abdallah Schleifer is a veteran American journalist covering the Middle East and professor emeritus at the American University in Cairo where he founded as served as first director of the Kamal Adham Center for TV and Digital Journalism. He is chief editor of the annual publication The Muslim 500; a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (USA) and at the Royal Aal al Bayt Academy for Islamic Thought (Jordan.) Schleifer has served as Al Arabiya Washington D.C. bureau chief; NBC News Cairo bureau chief; Middle East correspondent for Jeune Afrique; as special correspondent (stringer) , New York Times and managing editor of the Jerusalem Star/Palestine News in then Jordanian Arab Jerusalem.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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