An oft-noted failing of the dreaded "mainstream media" is their tendency to bogus neutrality—as when they give climate-change denialists equal weight with representatives of the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. We hope we don't smell something similar in coverage of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wildly fictional comments asserting that the idea for the Nazi Holocaust originated not with Adolf Hitler but the Mufti of Jerusalem. Here is the offending text, according to the Israeli Prime Minister's Office:
My grandfather came to this land in 1920 and he landed in Jaffa, and very shortly after he landed he went to the immigration office in Jaffa. And a few months later it was burned down by marauders. These attackers, Arab attackers, murdered several Jews, including our celebrated writer Brenner.
And this 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. 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 asked. He said, "Burn them."
OK, Haj Amin al-Husseini did meet with Hitler in Berlin in November 1941. He was sought for war crimes after the war but never appeared at the Nuremberg Trials, dying in Beirut in 1974. The war crimes charges mostly concerned recruiting Muslims to join Nazi-collaborationist forces in the Balkans and other areas with Muslim populations under Axis control. But the wheels of the Nazi death-machine were already well in motion by November 1941, and grinding up hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives across Axis-controlled Europe. As the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (which we can hopefully agree is a legitimate source here) states:
After the June 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, SS and police units (acting as mobile killing units) began massive killing operations aimed at entire Jewish communities. By autumn 1941, the SS and police introduced mobile gas vans. These paneled trucks had exhaust pipes reconfigured to pump poisonous carbon monoxide gas into sealed spaces, killing those locked within. They were designed to complement ongoing shooting operations.
On July 17, 1941, four weeks after the invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler tasked SS chief Heinrich Himmler with responsibility for all security matters in the occupied Soviet Union. Hitler gave Himmler broad authority to physically eliminate any perceived threats to permanent German rule. Two weeks later, on July 31, 1941, Nazi leader Hermann Goering authorized SS General Reinhard Heydrich to make preparations for the implementation of a "complete solution of the Jewish question."
The USHMM website also makes note of the Hitler-Mufti confab, and describes Husseini's agenda at the meeting as to win "recognition from the Axis powers of his status as leader of a proposed Arab nation." Nothing about exterminating the Jews.
The scholars at Israel's own Holocaust museum similarly reject Netanyahu's revisionism. As BBC reports, Prof. Dina Porat of Jerusalem's Yad Vashem memorial told newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth: "You cannot say that it was the mufti who gave Hitler the idea to kill or burn Jews."
The January 1942 Wannsee Conference, called by SS commander Reinhard Heydrich in a Berlin suburb, is seen by historians as cementing the decision to implement the Final Solution. (It is portrayed this way by both the Yad Vashem and the German History Documents and Images websites.) But as the Times of Israel notes in its coverage of the Netanyahu controversy:
[C]ommentators pointed out that Hitler had discussed the possible extermination of European Jewry as early as 1939, even before World War II began and certainly before he met with Husseini. The order to carry out a Final Solution against Jews was given in July 1941—months ahead of the mufti and Hitler's meeting—after which the infamous Wannsee Conference was called in order to finalize the logistics and details of the mass-murder operation.
Ironically, it is the New York Times that appears to give more credence to Netanyahu than the Israeli press. Its account gives plenty of play to the critics:
Professor Meir Litvak, a historian at Tel Aviv University, called the speech "a lie" and "a disgrace." Professor Moshe Zimmermann, a specialist of German history at Hebrew University, said, "With this, Netanyahu joins a long line of people that we would call Holocaust deniers."
It also notes Netanyahu's half-hearted back-pedaling:
"My intention was not to absolve Hitler of his responsibility," he said, according to a statement provided by his office as he left Israel for Germany, where he was to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel. "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."
And efforts by Netanyahu's staff to back up the claim:
Mark Regev, the prime minister's spokesman, referred reporters to Netanyahu's 1993 book, "A Place Among the Nations," which details the mufti's close ties to Nazis, protests of their plan to expel European Jews and support of the Final Solution, quoting from the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals. "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 1 million had perished.
Furthermore, as we've noted, Wisliceny was himself executed as a war criminal in 1948. Might it not have occurred to Bibi that a Nazi war criminal facing the gallows would have incentive to scapegoat a wog?
The Times offers more from Netanyahu's critics:
[Prof. Moshe] Zimmermann, the Hebrew University historian, said on Israel Radio that Netanyahu was "doing something he must not do," and that in "the protocol" of the 1941 meeting between the mufti and Hitler, "the text that Netanyahu speaks of does not appear."
"He moves the responsibility of the Holocaust, for the destruction of the Jews, to the mufti and the Arab world," Zimmermann said. "This is a trick intended to stain the Arabs of today because of the Arabs of the past. To pile on the Arabs of the past by easing up on the Germans of the past."
[Prof. Meir] Litvak of Tel Aviv University said the speech was "the height of the distortion of history."
But the Times follows this up with a "but"…
But Edy Cohen of Bar-Ilan University, an expert on Arab collaboration with the Nazis, said he supported Netanyahu's take on history, though he said it was impossible to precisely balance blame for the extermination idea. "What I can surely say is that both men mutually inspired each other," Cohen said, adding that the mufti promoted plans to bring Jews from the Middle East to concentration camps in what was then mandatory Palestine. "One can't be in their heads and know who hated Jews more."
The Times closes its account on this thoroughly disingenuous note. There is no evidence that the "extermination idea" emerged from al-Husseini, and changing the question to whether Hitler or al-Husseini "hated Jews more" is just moving the goal-post. The propaganda exploitation of the Hitler-Husseini affair paradoxically legitimizes the Holocaust deniers—and reveals that they share a common interest with Netanyahu in letting Hitler off the hook. We've noted Bibi's penchant for doublethink before, but this is pretty special, even for him.
As we've also said before: Israel's leaders and apologists are the first to get all bent out of shape at crude "Zionism = Nazism" analogies. So you'd think they'd be a little less promiscuous with their own rhetoric. We say Godwin's Law should be rigorously invoked to laugh all Nazi references off the stage in the Israeli-Palestinian question.