A mini-storm of exaggerated hysteria has erupted over Binyamin Netanyahu’s faux pas – or maybe it was a deliberate overstatement – that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, influenced Hitler to exterminate the Jews as opposed to “just” expelling them.
Historians both new and old, respected and revisionist, have been having a field day at Bibi’s expense, mocking him for his ignorance and roundly criticising him for exonerating Hitler, even Holocaust revisionism.
But Bibi wasn’t so wrong – and maybe he had a plan in his controversial statement. First let’s look at some of the criticism:
Lyn Julius, a historian of Jews in the Middle East, says:
Historians have quite rightly pointed out that the extermination of the Jews of Europe was well underway by the time the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, met Adolph Hitler in 1941.
Journalist Ben-Dror Yemini writes:
The fact that the Mufti was a devout Nazi is not up for debate. In all matters concerning the systematic murder of Jews, he seems to have been a Nazi before the Nazis even existed. But Wisliceny’s claims created controversy among historians.
In any case, there’s no reason to give Hitler a free pass. He certainly didn’t need the Mufti in order to hate the Jews and the Mufti didn’t need him. They simply found soul mates in one another. After all, birds of a feather flock together.
In less measured tones, Noah Klieger accuses Bibi of lying:
How can the prime minister of Israel claim that Haj Amin al-Husseini, one of the biggest Israel haters in the history of mankind and a person who was “addicted” to the Führer, was the one who suggested that Hitler burn the Jews, when during their meeting more than one million Jews had already been massacred and annihilated in Germany and in occupied Europe?
There is no doubt that the mufti from Jerusalem praised and glorified Hitler for his actions, but it’s also clear that he was not the inventor of the method. It’s also true that al-Husseini organized and founded Muslim SS units which fought alongside the German forces, but he did not invent the “patent.” He only took advantage of it.
But now let’s see what some other historians have to say about the Mufti’s role in the Holocaust:
In their article The truth about the Mufti, Hitler and the Holocaust, Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Dr. Harold Brackman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center say that although Netanyahu went “too far” in remarking that the Mufti fomented the Final Solution, he had a point:
But Netanyahu was right when he emphasized the Mufti’s Holocaust complicity and activities before, during and after the war — when the Mufti lied about alleged Jewish intentions to expel Muslims and Islam from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. This is the very same lie that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas repeats today in support of the current “knife Intifada.”
Who was Haj Amin al-Husseini and what was his historical significance? A relative of Yasser Arafat, as well as an ally of Hassan al-Banna — the originator of Hamas’ parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood — the Grand Mufti was a moving force behind Palestinian Jew hatred. His activities span from the riots of 1920 and 1929 through the 1936-1939 bloody Arab uprising against the Holy Land’s Jewish community, long before his World War II support of Nazi Germany.
The Grand Mufti also helped organize a Muslim Waffen SS Battalion, known as the Hanjars, which slaughtered 90 percent of Bosnia’s Jews, and were dispatched to Croatia and Hungary. The Mufti also made broadcasts to the Middle East, urging Arabs and Muslims to honor Allah by implementing their own Final Solution.
History Profesor Jeffrey Herf, an expert on Nazi ideology, both chides Netanyahu for his mis-statement but concedes a larger point:
Though Netanyahu is thus wrong about Husseini’s role in the decisions that led to the Holocaust of the Jews in Europe, he is right to draw attention to Husseini’s disastrous impact on Palestinian politics and society. In response to the storm of criticism that greeted his remarks, Netanyahu replied:
My intention was not to absolve Hitler of his responsibility, but rather to show that the forefathers of the Palestinian nation, without a country and without the so-called ‘occupation’, without land and without settlements, even then aspired to systematic incitement to exterminate the Jews.”
Husseini absolutely wanted to exterminate the Jews, above all, the Jews of pre-state Palestine, and then the Jews of Israel. The evidence of Husseini’s pleas to kill the Jews, of his boundless hatred of Judaism as a religion and the Jews as a people is well documented in Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World.
Netanyahu added the following:
Unfortunately, Haj Amin al-Husseini is still a revered figure in Palestinian society. He appears in textbooks and it is taught that he is one of the founding fathers of the nation, and this incitement that started then with him, inciting the murder of Jews – continues. Not in the same format, but in a different one, and this is the root of the problem. To stop the murders, it is necessary to stop the incitement. What is important is to recognize the historical facts and not ignore them, not then and not today.”
Here the Prime Minister is on rock solid ground. Far from denouncing Husseini for spreading lies, absurd conspiracy theories and radical anti-Semitism, he has remained a revered figure in Palestinian political memory. The absurdities for which Husseini became famous in the 1940s have continued to play a far too prominent role in the Palestinian political culture ever since. He did incite others to murder Jews. He did spread ridiculous conspiracy theories comparable to those of the Nazis. He did all that he could to help the Nazis in a failing effort to spread the Holocaust to the Middle East and to win the war in Europe. He left behind a legacy of hatred, paranoia, religious fanaticism and celebration of terror so long as it was aimed at Jews and Israelis. The Palestinian authority and Hamas even more so has kept that legacy is alive and well and fills the heads of Palestinian teenagers with rubbish that has led to the terror wave of recent weeks.
For those who might still doubt the Mufti’s role, watch this disturbing video:
Lyn Julius, in her article I linked to earlier, stresses that Bibi’s critics must not commit Mufti-denial:
But most disturbing is that, among the the chorus of political opponents and Palestinians accusing Netanyahu of distortion and even ‘Holocaust denial’, there are those who are irresponsibly introducing another dangerous distortion into the historical record. They are whitewashing the Mufti’s active role in WW 2 and his enduring legacy of genocidal antisemitism.
I repeat, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu was wrong. However, it is beyond doubt that the Mufti did everything possible to encourage the Final Solution. When the Nazis wavered, he ensured that expulsion was not an option. Each time a German was bribed to free Jews from the camps, the Mufti intervened to block the deal. He sabotaged the exchange of 1,200 Jewish children for German PoWs and sent them to their deaths. He was indirectly responsible for condemning millions of Jews to death by making sure the gates to a safe haven in Palestine were firmly shut.
Those who claim that Bibi singled out the Mufti from among hundreds of Nazi fellow-travellers and antisemites to ‘delegitimise’ the Palestinian cause ‘for political gain’ are engaging in ‘Mufti denial’.
How many antisemites went as far as the Mufti and recruited tens of thousands of Muslims to his three SS Bosnian Muslim divisions? They committed crimes so unspeakable that Yugoslavia demanded that the Mufti be indicted at the Nuremberg trials. According to Dr. Yosef Sharvit, the Mufti was even considered a greater Nazi criminal than Adolf Eichmann.
The failure of the Allies to bring the Mufti to trial meant that the Arab world was never de-nazified. Instead, 2,000 Nazi war criminals were given shelter in the Arab world, there to take antisemitism to stratospheric heights.
And finally, Caroline Glick thinks that Netanyahu committed the gaffe on purpose, davka to draw attention to the vitriolic incitement that is still prevalent today, and which stems from the “original sin” of the Mufti and his malign influence. Glick calls Netanyahu Crazy like a fox:
Netanyahu recognizes that the media has sided with the Palestinians in their war to destroy Israel through a mix of terror and propaganda. He knows that the only stories they will report on events are stories with an anti-Israel angle. It is reasonable then to assume that he decided to use their embrace of every possible angle of attack as a means to get the truth out about the nature of the war.
By exaggerating Husseini’s importance in the Holocaust, Netanyahu gave the media a means of attacking him. But by doing so, he forced the New York Times itself to report on the role the
Palestinians’ founding father played in the destruction of European Jewry and his desire to reenact the “Final Solution” in the Middle East. They would have ignored the issue if Netanyahu had not exaggerated Husseini’s actual role.
Due to his “gaffe,” every Western media outlet reported on Husseini’s actions. Some even mentioned that in his PhD dissertation, current Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said the Holocaust was both a myth and a joint Zionist-Nazi project. For most Westerners, this was the first they’d heard of the fact that the Palestinian’s George Washington was a Nazi war criminal.
Like I said, crazy as a fox.
Indeed, Netanyahu has placed the Mufti, Muslim Jew-hatred and Palestinian incitement front and center of the entire international media. Whether planned or accidental, I would say “well played sir”.