Addressing the 37th World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, narrated an alleged conversation between Hitler and the Grand Mufti of Palestine, Hajj Muhammad Amin al-Husseini, at their meeting in Berlin in November 1941: “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?’ Hitler asked. He said, ‘Burn them.’” Netanyahu ended his speech by saying, “The facts win over the fiction if they’re repeated clearly, responsibly, firmly. This is what I ask all of you to do for the sake of the Jewish state and for the sake of the Jewish people.”
It would appear that the Palestinian now is the latest fiction being cast as the new ‘fact’ that perpetrated the Jewish Holocaust. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-1945, (Series D, Vol. XIII, London, 1964, pp.881 ff), include an official transcript of the Hitler-Husseini meeting of November 28, 1941. According to the transcript, it was not Mufti al-Husseini but Hitler himself who resolved that he “would carry on the battle to the total destruction of the Judeo-Communist empire in Europe”.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has forcefully refuted Netanyahu’s claim. Its secretary general, Saeb Erekat, has said that “on behalf of the thousands of Palestinians that fought alongside the Allied troops in defence of international justice, the state of Palestine denounces these morally indefensible and inflammatory statements … It is a sad day in history when the leader of the Israeli government hates his neighbour so much that he is willing to absolve the most notorious war criminal.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also rejected Netanyahu’s suggestion and admitted German culpability for the Jewish Holocaust by saying that “we abide by our responsibility for the Shoah (Holocaust)”. She saw no reason to revise history in the light of the new insinuation against Palestinians. Repudiating Netanyahu’s apology for Hitler, several Israeli scholars themselves took the initiative to isolate ‘fact’ from fiction. Professor Dan Michman, the head of the Institute of Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Memorial), said that Hitler met with Mufti al-Husseini but only after the Final Solution had begun. Similar views have been expressed by another Israeli professor, Dina Porat, a specialist in Holocaust Studies: “Hitler did not need anyone to encourage the Final Solution. In terms of the facts, there’s no debate … all these actions, Hitler’s obsessions, have no link to the mufti.” According to Porat, Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews pre-dates his meeting with al-Husseini. Moreover, there are references in Hitler’s Mein Kampf and his remarks in the Reichstag in 1939, where he threatened to “exterminate the Jewish people”.
There is consensus that the decision to implement the Final Solution was made by Hitler prior to his meeting with al-Husseini. The Mufti, therefore, was not in a position to influence Nazi policies against European Jews. Portraying him otherwise is to falsely turn him into something larger than life. Under the prevailing circumstances and the British occupation of Palestine, al-Husseini as an Arab nationalist leader sought help from Germany against the Allied forces. Though Barry Rubin and Wolfgang Schwanitz, in their recent work Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East highlight al-Husseini’s support for Hitler, they make no mention of the so-called Hitler-Husseini dialogue as alleged by Netanyahu. Yet their book is being ‘credited’ as the inspiration for Netanyahu’s statement regarding al-Husseini’s supposed instigation for the Jewish mass extermination. What an amazing incident of intellectual deception that an earlier documented history, The Israel-Arab Reader, co-edited by one of the above authors (Rubin), did contain the transcript of the Hitler-Husseini dialogue that served as a source for its reproduction by the Jewish Virtual Library.
Nonetheless, these authors make a veiled attempt to put the onus of the Holocaust upon Muslims and Arabs by saying that “Hitler reached the conclusion to exterminate the Jews because of his desire to nurture Husseini, who opposed the transfer of Jews to pre-state Israel”. This statement, without any moral or ethical justification, is meant to foment hatred against Muslims and Arabs by making the Holocaust survivors and others believe that millions perished just because Hitler wanted to appease Muslims and Arabs. This is a petty attempt to conceal the facts of centuries of ruthless persecution of Jews and anti-Semitism throughout Christendom — that culminated in the Holocaust. Calling Netanyahu a historical revisionist, Gilad Atzmon, an Israel-born British political activist and writer, has said that “Berlin has recently become the new Jerusalem for the Israelis. Thousand (sic) of young Israelis have moved to Berlin in recent years in a migration wave that in Hebrew is called, ‘Olim le-Berlin’ (Ascending to Berlin)… PM Netanyahu joined the call of the Israeli youth, and he has finally vindicated Hitler and the Germans.”
Historical revisionism is often condemned as an attempt to deny the claim that more than six million Jews perished in the Holocaust as a result of crimes committed by the Nazi regime. Spreading hate against Jews; expressing any doubts about the occurrence of such atrocities; denying the Holocaust; and exonerating the Nazi party or Hitler of their wickedness is regarded as part of anti-Semitism. An increasing number of European and Latin American countries have legislations proscribing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Any violation of these laws may result in imprisonments and fines. Robert Kahn recounts the principal Holocaust-denial trials and scandals of the 1970s through the 1990s. It remains to be seen how Netanyahu’s statement that “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews” would stand the rigour of legislative scrutiny. Netanyahu expressed somewhat similar thoughts in his address to the Knesset in 2012. As JJ Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Forward, aptly sums it up, if Netanyahu’s goal is, “as he says it is, to discourage slander, demonisation and incitement, practicing those very things is a bad first step”.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2015.