Netanyahu’s fairytale about Hitler and the mufti is the last thing we need For many years historians have tried without success to determine when and how Adolf Hitler reached the decision to exterminate Europe’s Jews. Among the many mysteries accompanying the history of the second world war this is one of the most intriguing.
Wednesday 21 October 2015 20.47 BST
But now Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has found the answer. Speaking last night at the opening of the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu stated that it was actually a Palestinian, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, who gave Hitler the idea.
The mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini was appointed by the British in 1921. The title recognised his position as the major religious and political authority among the Palestinian Arabs. In accordance with the principle of “my enemy’s enemy is my ally”, the mufti sought support from Nazi Germany and in return backed Hitler’s war, including the extermination of the Jews.
He initiated the formation of a predominantly Muslim unit of the Waffen SS in Bosnia. In November 1941 he was received by Hitler in Berlin. According to Netanyahu, “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time; he wanted to expel the Jews. But Husseini protested to Hitler that “they’ll all come here” – in other words, to Palestine. “So what should I do with them?” Hitler asked, according to Netanyahu. The mufti replied: “Burn them.” Netanyahu did not describe Hitler’s response, but one can imagine that it was something like: “Wow – how come I never thought of that?”All Israeli governments have used the Holocaust as a political argument. Every Arab leader since 1948 has been compared at least once to Hitler. All Arab countries have compared Israel to the Nazis.
And the Arabs have always refused to acknowledge that the Holocaust is a central element of the Israeli identity.
This is particularly unfortunate because unless one understands one’s enemy, one cannot make peace.
Netanyahu has used such rhetoric in his flamboyant speeches against the Iran nuclear agreement, particularly in the US Congress and the UN general assembly. The story of the mufti is also not new to him; apparently it appears in one of his books. It is based on the postwar contention of one of Adolf Eichmann’s aides, Dieter Wisliceny, who also described a conducted tour of Auschwitz that the mufti was supposedly given by Adolf Eichmann. But the exact dialogue between the mufti and Hitler that Netanyahu presented this week goes far beyond anything even he has claimed before.
In addition to meeting Hitler, Husseini sat down with Eichmann and sabotaged a plan to transfer Jewish children from eastern Europe to Palestine. He should have been brought to trial along with other war criminals. His conduct during the war remains a shameful chapter in Palestinian history.
But there is no solid evidence to suggest that he played any role in the decision to exterminate the Jews.
For, as Bernard Lewis wrote in Semites and Anti-Semites, it “seems unlikely that the Nazis needed any such additional encouragement from outside”.It is equally implausible that Husseini was given a guided tour of the Auschwitz gas chambers in operation.
In fact, his meeting with Hitler, which has been established in both Arab and German records, did not go very well for the mufti, who sought a statement of support for the Palestinian national rights: a kind of German Balfour declaration for the Arabs. Hitler refused to sign such a document. Foolishly Husseini agreed to have his picture taken with Hitler, which has haunted the Palestinian cause ever since.
The mufti’s support for Nazi Germany demonstrated the evils of extremist nationalism. However, the Arabs were not the only ones who were seeking a deal with the Nazis. At the end of 1940 and again at the end of 1941, before the Holocaust reached its height in the extermination camps, a small Zionist terrorist organisation – Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, also known as the Stern Gang – made contact with Nazi representatives in Beirut, hoping for support for the struggle against the British. One of the Sternists, in a British jail at the time, was Yitzhak Shamir, a future Israeli prime minister.
Netanyahu’s fictitious dialogue between Husseini and Hitler has come at an extremely delicate moment, with a new wave of Palestinian terror once again raising fear and hatred in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. Involving the Holocaust once again can only make matters worse. This should be a moment for responsible leadership and restraining language. The last thing the present situation needs is a fairytale about Hitler and the mufti.
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfre ... -holocaust