I really do understand Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s anger and frustration. The current campaign of stabbing and murder of usually unarmed and often female Israelis by Palestinian terrorists is grotesque. Thing is, though, the Israelis are generally reacting responsibly and moderately to this macabre dance of blood and Netanyahu has surprised his critics and won many friends with his statesmanlike response. And then came this.
In a speech to the World Zionist Congress this week, he referred to the latest wave of violence, but then claimed in speaking of the pre-war Mufti of Jerusalem and leader of many of the Palestinians: “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.’” Netanyahu continued to argue that al-Husseini had “a central role in fomenting the final solution.”
JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked an uproar in Israel on Wednesday for suggesting that a Second World War-era Palestinian leader convinced the Nazis to adopt their Final Solution to exterminate European Jews.
Holocaust experts slammed Netanyahu’s comments as historically inaccurate and serving the interests of Holocaust deniers by lessening the responsibility of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Critics also said the statement amounts to incitement against modern-day Palestinians in the midst of a wave of violent unrest and Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
Speaking to a group of Jewish leaders Tuesday, Netanyahu tried to use a historical anecdote to illustrate his point that Palestinian incitement surrounding Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site goes back decades.
For anybody who understands the Holocaust, the Shoah, the Final Solution; for anybody who understand the Arab and Muslim world of the 1920s and 30s; for anybody who genuinely cares about a safe and secure Israel, this is vehemently absurd, dangerous and pernicious. Indeed the leader of the opposition in the Knesset, Isaac Herzog, demanded that, “Netanyahu correct it immediately as it minimizes the Holocaust, Nazism and Hitler’s part in our people’s terrible disaster.”
The facts are that Hitler met with the odious Grand Mufti in November 1941, long after the Holocaust had begun. The infamous Babi Yar massacre, for example, took place two months before, and in that single incident almost 34,000 Jews were slaughtered. The actual killing machine may not have reached its full Germanic efficiency at this point, but to assume that has anything to do with Hitler meeting a relatively insignificant little man is the stuff of pure and odious fantasy. Historians at Yad Vashem, the world-renowned Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, have also condemned the Prime Minister’s comments.
Bizarrely, Netanyahu has played into the hands of those Holocaust deniers or minimizers who argue that Hitler was somehow not to blame. He was. He and the entire filth of National Socialism. To blame others is to misunderstand the way and muddy the waters.
What did happen at the referred-to meeting is that the Nazi leader made various promises about the extermination of the Jews in Palestine, and in return attempted to win Muslim support for the Nazi cause. The result was meagre: some Bosnian Muslim Waffen SS units were raised, but they were always outnumbered by Muslims in Bosnia, the Caucasus and elsewhere in the Balkans who fought with the allies against Hitler and rescued Jews, often with colossal determination. Remember, the Mufti was in Berlin during the war and his influence in Palestine was never as great as he claimed.
Within Palestine most people were largely neutral, with those on the left siding with the British and those from a more traditional and religious foundation being more open to the Germans. British imperial troops in Palestine, including Jews, seldom tell of pro-Nazi activities and there were many Palestinian and Jordanian soldiers fighting with the British.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, I know you are angry, but you have a lot of apologizing to do
Beyond Palestine’s borders the story was a little different. Within Egypt there was certainly some pro-German sentiment but it was a product more of anti-British, anti-colonial feeling that any affection for Nazism. In Syria the Vichy French held power at the beginning of the war and it was they, rather than local Muslims, who were pro-Nazi. It’s also worth remembering that the toxin of racial anti-Semitism of the European, Nazi variety, while rare, was injected into the Arab body politic not by Muslims but by Arab Christians. They were sent to late 19th-century and pre-war Europe by their wealthier, less parochial families and became drunk on the nationalism, early fascism and Jew-hatred of France and Germany. It was they, rather than indigenous Muslims, who are partly culpable for any damage done.
In the greater Arab and Muslim world there were entire regiments of Muslims soldiers fighting with the French army from North Africa; indeed my Jewish grandfather, a senior NCO in the British Army, fought alongside them in Italy. The Indian Army grew to more than 2.5 million men during the war, mostly through volunteers. Four thousand of them received medals for bravery, tens of thousands died, more were wounded and others taken prisoner — where they were frequently treated worse than their white comrades. Many of them were Muslim, some of the most valiant being from the Punjab and Baluchistan.
The Holocaust is not a Muslim issue. It breaks my heart to say it, but while Christ the Jew and Christ the Son of God was shamed, the mass murder of six million Jews was a product of Christian Europe, not Islam or the Middle East. Prime Minister Netanyahu, I know you are angry, but you have a lot of apologizing to do. Now please, before it’s too late.