News and Commentary

Netanyahu Wrong About Hitler, Right About Palestinian Mufti

On Tuesday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech to the Zionist Congress in which he implied that the Grand Mufti of Palestine, Haj Amin al-Husseini, gave Adolf Hitler the idea for the Final Solution.

“Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time,” said Netanyahu, “he wanted to expel the Jews. And Hajj 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.'”

Historical transcripts prove, without a doubt, that Hajj Amin collaborated with the Third Reich and offered Germany moral support and incentives to slaughter Jews. However, Netanyahu’s anecdote purportedly hinges on claims made in Prime Minister’s own book: “A Place Among Nations.” Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, directed reporters to the prime minister’s 1993 book in an effort to defend the comments. Notably, the book itself appears to contradict the Prime Minister’s bold claims. The New York Times provides excerpts to the relevant sections and supplements the text with historical context:

The mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry and had been a collaborator and adviser” in the “execution of this plan,” the book quotes Adolf Eichmann’s deputy, Dieter Wisliceny, as having testified. “He was one of Eichmann’s best friends and had constantly incited him to accelerate the extermination measures.”

But the book says that the mufti “met Hitler in person for the first time” on Nov. 28, 1941 — two months before the Final Solution was formalized and the construction of extermination camps accelerated, according to historians, but after the mass murder of Jews had begun, and roughly one million had perished.

Netanyahu’s assertions in his 1993 book are invariably true and factually accurate. The Grand Mufti of Palestine collaborated with Hitler and enthusiastically encouraged the wholesale genocide of Jews at the hands of the Nazis. But Hitler certainly wanted genocide before the Mufti backed the Holocaust.

On Israeli Army Radio, Professor Litvak of Tel Aviv University clarified, “Hitler did not need Husseini to convince him. Hitler spoke of the destruction of the Jews in his famous speech in 1939, in which he prophesied that if war will break out and the Jews started it, the result will be the destruction of the Jewish race. He repeated these declarations.” Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon also said in a radio interview, “history is actually very, very clear..Hitler initiated it…Haj Amin al-Husseini joined him.”

Surprisingly, Germany itself directly responded to Netanyahu’s statements. The German government released a statement assuming culpability for the heinous crimes of Nazi Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel declared:

All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilization that was the Holocaust.

This is taught in German schools for good reason, it must never be forgotten. And 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.

Nonetheless, Prime Minister Netanyahu is still right to highlight the historical continuum between Palestinian-Arab blood-lust and Jew-hatred, promoted by nationalist-architects, during the reign of the Nazis and Palestinian incitement and knife-attacks against innocent Jews today. The crucial point that got lost in the avalanche of criticism against Netanyahu was that the brutal slaying of Jews on the streets of Jerusalem is not a result of some political grievance or scapegoat like “occupation” or “settlements,” but rather is a direct consequence of a deeply ingrained culture of genocidal anti-Semitic sentiment.

Netanyahu consequently clarified his remarks, and redirected the focus of public discourse. Before leaving Israel for a meeting with Chancellor Merkel in Germany on Wednesday, Netanyahu insisted:

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.

Hitler was responsible for the Final Solution to exterminate six million Jews; he made the decision. It is equally absurd to ignore the role played by the mufti, Haj Amin al -Husseini, a war criminal, for encouraging and urging Hitler.

Not only did Hajj al-Husseini conspire with Hitler accelerate the genocide of Jews in Europe, but he systematically instigated the slaughter of Jews in Mandate Palestine. Netanyahu is firmly footed in historical veracity when he says that Jews in Israel have faced unending pogroms in the last century. Hajj al-Husseini was the primary architect of violent anti-Jewish pogroms of 1920, 1921, and 1929. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) notes:

In August 1929, anti-Jewish violence again erupted in Palestine. On August 23, Arab crowds marched into the orthodox Jewish quarter of Jerusalem and initiated a wave of violence over access for Jews to the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, in Jerusalem that degenerated into regional violence that left 133 Jews and 116 Arabs dead, and 339 Jews and 232 Arabs injured

Hajj al-Husseini’s inflammatory, anti-Jewish rhetoric spread across the British territories of the Middle East like wildfire. USHMM documents:

On May 9, al-Husayni issued a fatwa on Baghdad radio, urging all Muslims to support Iraq in a Holy War against England. The British occupied Baghdad on June 2, 1941. Before the arrival of British troops, Iraqi civilians mounted a pogrom, known as theFarhud, against the Jewish population of Baghdad on June 1-2, 1941, that claimed the lives of 128 Jews and the destruction of almost 1,500 businesses and homes. Although al-Husayni later blamed the Jews for the defeat in Iraq…

The Mufti’s alignment with Hitler was strategic as well as ideological. Al-Husseini’s vile anti-Semitic teachings made common bedfellows with Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Moreover, the Mufti felt as though Nazi Germany would be sympathetic to the anti-Zionist Arab political crusade. USHMM explains the perverse politics of al-Husseini’s plan for Palestinian nationalism:

As Mufti of Jerusalem, al-Husayni sought assistance from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany beginning in 1933. Nazi Germany’s anti-Jewish radicalism and hostility to the Western democracies (Britain and France) led the Mufti to perceive Germany to be a natural ally of Arab causes in Palestine. Al-Husayni approached German Foreign Office officials as early as 1933. By late 1938, he also had contacts with the German Armed Forces High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht-OKW) Military Intelligence Service (Amt Auslands/Abwehr, or Abwehr).

Ultimately, Netanyahu was wrong about Hitler’s Final Solution. The seeds of Jewish genocide were planted and nourished in Hitler’s mind as he was consolidating Nazi hegemony. But he was right about the roots of Palestinian genocidal hatred. There is a reason that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a PhD in Holocaust denial. Hajj al-Husseini’s ghost haunts the ongoing knife-attacks against innocents, celebrating each drop of Jewish blood that hits the cobbled stone streets of Jerusalem. The Grand Mufti does not deserve credit for giving Hitler the idea to exterminate the Jews in Germany; instead, he deserves full-credit for enshrining a doctrine of hatred, one that inspires anti-Semitic blood-lust and pogroms to this day.

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