Hitler is responsible for the Holocaust, but the Palestinian Arab leader at the time, Jerusalem Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, encouraged him and also wanted to see the Jews dead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, a day after triggering furious reactions for intimating Husseini had planted the idea of the Final Solution in Hitler’s mind.
Netanyahu’s clarification came as he boarded a flight to Berlin and at a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said just before the prime minister arrived that responsibility for the Holocaust “is German and very much our own,” and “I see no reason to change our view of history in any way.”
Netanyahu, speaking to the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem on Tuesday, sought to draw a line linking Husseini’s incitement against the Jews in the 1920s for supposedly endangering the Temple Mount, to Palestinian charges today that Israel is threatening the Aksa Mosque.
“And his attack and other attacks on the Jewish community in 1920, 1921, 1929 were instigated by a call of the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was later sought for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials because he had a central role in fomenting the Final Solution,” Netanyahu said.
“He flew to Berlin. 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 [Hitler] asked. He [Husseini] said, ‘Burn them,’” the prime minister said.
After some slammed these words as an effort to place the blame for the Holocaust on the mufti, thus taking it off of Hitler’s shoulders, Netanyahu clarified that he had no intention of absolving the Nazi leader of his crimes.
Hitler is responsible for the Final Solution, he said, adding that by the same token, it is “absurd” to ignore the role played by the mufti in encouraging Hitler and his henchmen to murder the Jews.
“There is abundant proof of this,” he said, including testimony by Adolf Eichmann’s deputy Dieter Wisliceny at the Nuremberg trials held after the war.
Netanyahu quoted Wisliceny as saying that the mufti played a role in the decision to destroy European Jewry; that he thought that this was a “reasonable solution to the Palestine question;” was one of the initiators of the systematic destruction of European Jewry; and was a partner and adviser to Hitler and Eichmann in implementing that plan.
Netanyahu said the attempt by certain scholars and people to act as “apologists” for Husseini was clear.
“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,” he said.
Unfortunately, Netanyahu added, the mufti continues to be a “revered figure” in Palestinian society, and is depicted in textbooks as one of the founding fathers of the Palestinian nation.
“And this incitement that began with him, incitement to kill Jews, continues,” the prime minister said. “Not in the same way, but in a different way, and that is the root of the problem.
In order to stop the murder, you have to stop the incitement. It is important not to ignore the historical truths, not then, and not today.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounced Netanyahu’s comments as “despicable and low,” accusing him of trying to “change the history” of the Jewish people by blaming Husseini instead of Hitler.
In 1982, Abbas wrote an academic dissertation on “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism,” and argued that Zionists joined forces with the Nazis to increase immigration to Palestine, even leading a “broad campaign of incitement against the Jews living under Nazi rule, in order to arouse the government’s hatred of them, to fuel vengeance against them, and to expand the mass extermination.”
He also disputed that the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust was six million, saying the figure was more likely one million.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said in a statement that “Netanyahu hates Palestinians so much that he is willing to absolve Hitler of the murder of six million Jews.”
Erekat claimed that thousands of Palestinians fought alongside the Allied troops in World War II “in defense of international justice.”
“Palestinian efforts against the Nazi regime are a deep-rooted part of our history,” he said.
“Palestine will never forget – though it seems Netanyahu’s extremist government has.”
Erekat said it was a “sad day in history when the leader of the Israeli government hates his neighbor so much that he is willing to absolve the most notorious war criminal in history, Adolf Hitler, of the murder of the six million Jews. Mr. Netanyahu should stop using this human tragedy to score points for his political end.”
Condemnation from within Israel was no less harsh.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog mocked Netanyahu, whose late father, Prof, Benzion Netanyahu, was a world renowned historian. Herzog said Netanyahu’s remarks dangerously downplayed the Holocaust, and it was wrong to bring the Holocaust into the conflict with the Palestinians.
“Even the son of a historian must be accurate in history,” Herzog said. “Netanyahu forgot that he is not only the prime minister of Israel but also the prime minister of the Jewish people.”