A media storm has stricken the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu following his statements at the Zionist Congress gathering in Jerusalem. Netanyahu said that “Hitler had no intention of exterminating the Jews at that time.[1] He wanted to expel them. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem[2] went to meet Hitler in order to tell him “If you expel the Jews, they will all go there [to Palestine].” Hitler asked him “then what should I do with them ?” “burn them,” replied the Grand Mufti.

Journalists, chroniclers, intellectuals and historians of various horizons became plagued by a collective hysteria. Netanyahu was accused of ignorance, Holocaust denial, inciting hatred, clearing the Nazis and political opportunism. Even the German Chancellor felt she had to emphasize that the Germans were indeed responsible for the Holocaust. Almost no one bothered to actually focus on Netanyahu’s statements with discernment or to verify them, even though his sources are freely available.

Mohammed Amin al-Husseini was Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from 1921 until the proclamation of the State of Israel in 1948. Close to the Muslim Brotherhood, he did not only favor the liquidation of the Palestinian Jews, but also to that of Jews worldwide. He is one of the spiritual fathers of the radical Islam of our times, which calls for the eradication of Israel and the extermination of Jews wherever they may be. Mohammed Amin al-Husseini is nevertheless worshipped by the Palestinians as a national hero and remains a reference on religious matters.

Not surprisingly was the Grand Mufti impressed by the Nazis when they came to power in 1933, so much so that he became the greatest collaborator in the Arab world.[3] As a reward he was consecrated « Honorary Aryan » and swore allegiance to Hitler, declaring “the Arab nations are convinced that Germany will win the war. They are Germany’s natural allies because they have common enemies, namely the British, the Jews and the communists. Therefore they are wholeheartedly prepared to cooperate with Germany and join them in the war, namely by forming an Arab legion.” He fulfilled this promise by creating an Arab section of the Waffen SS.[4]

The philosopher Hannah Arendt recalls that during Eichmann’s trial[5]the Grand Mufti’s connections with the Nazis were public knowledge since he was expecting them to help him implement a variation of the Final Solution in the Middle East.”[6]

After the war the Grand Mufti took refuge in Paris under the complacent eye of the local authorities, even though he was wanted by Great Britain and Yugoslavia as a war criminal. France refused to extradite him by fear of the Arab world, and ended up by letting him escape with the complicity of the Foreign Ministry[7] which provided him a false passport.

Dieter Wisliceny, one of Eichmann’s aides, testified at the Nuremberg trials that “The Grand Mufti had suggested exterminating the Jewish people to Hitler, Ribbentrop, and Himmler on many occasions because he considered this was the best way to solve the Palestinian problem.”[8] Numerous comments aired by the Grand Mufti from his exile in Germany reveals his support for the Final Solution.[9] In his radio broadcasts aimed at the Arab world he incited them to “kill the Jews wherever they are, because that is God’s will.”

There is no doubt that when the Nazis came to power they firmly intended to get rid of the Jews. However It may well be that they never thought through where this could lead a decade later. They were convinced at the time that by making life impossible for the Jews these would end up leaving, as they had done during their expulsion from Spain five centuries earlier.

The 1935 Nuremberg racial laws brought about a general boycott on Jews, their dismissal from civil service, disbarment of lawyers, exclusion of doctors, banning of artists, firing of journalists, a ban from health resorts, cinemas, libraries and public transport, not to forget random pogroms.

During this period, Eichmann was instructed to take Zionism on board as a means to promote emigration of the Jews to Palestine. He contacted Zionist circles in order to speed up the process, and in 1937 he traveled to Palestine to inquiry about the issue, after which he undertook to intensify the emigration. His achievements were highly praised by his superiors, and his methods were seen as a model for handling Jewish affairs. He was entrusted with organizing compulsory emigration through a mixture of terror and chicanery.[10]

The “Haavara” was an agreement finalized in 1933 between the Nazi regime and the Zionist Federation of Germany. It consisted in facilitating transfer of Jewish property to Palestine in order to encourage Jews to settle over there. From the Nazi point of view this was a smooth way to rid Germany of the Jews. Werner Otto Von Hentig, a high-level official in charge of Palestinian affairs strongly supported the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. More than 50.000 Jews managed to emigrate based on this agreement, which remained in force until 1942, the year of the Wannsee Conference.

In 1938, Eichmann drafted a memorandum to support Jewish emigration outside Europe[11] and was instructed to coordinate the deportation of four million people to Madagascar. He created a dossier outlining the transportation of one million Jews per year. The plan would deprive them from their belongings in order to finance the logistics, after which they would be forced to emigrate. The SS would be in charge of deporting the Jews to the island and administrating it. However Madagascar was then under British control, and since the Germans never managed to drive them out, this plan was never enacted.

Eichmann continued to support emigration by other means, and worked with Zionist smugglers in order to drive Jews to Palestine. Furthermore the Nazis also envisioned expelling Jews to Russia once the Red Army would be defeated.[12]

The Grand Mufti’s meeting with Hitler was driven by his concern regarding the consequences of a possible expulsion of the Jews from the Reich, many of whom were likely to end up in Palestine, thus strengthening the Yishuv.[13]

However this prospect was no longer an option in 1941 because the British had barred the Jews to immigrate in Palestine by means of the White Paper[14]. As no other country was prepared to welcome Jews anyway, the Nazis concluded that the only remaining solution, which had to be final, consisted in systematically and industrially exterminate them.

Netanyahu rightly to remind that at the time of the meeting between the Grand Mufti and Hitler the Nazis were still expelling Jews, although it is true that killings had already begun and that the random murder of civilians was widespread wherever the Nazis took control.

What Netanyahu wanted to highlight was that the Grand Mufti and Hitler had theorized their anti-Semitic psychosis long before the Holocaust, but that the Grand Mufti was the first to envision a genocide as early as in the 1920’s with regard to the Jewish presence in Palestine. Netanyahu never stated the Grand Mufti gave Hitler the idea of the Final Solution, but rather that he played an important role by campaigning relentlessly against Jewish emigration from Germany.

Finally, Netanyahu wanted to portray the implacable nature of the fascist, Nazi, and anti-Semitic ideology incarnated by the Grand Mufti, who is at the heart of the current Intifada of the Knives.

[1]“That time” refers to the meeting between the Grand Mufti and Hitler in 1941. Most commentators seem to have ignored this point. Without this Netanyahu’s sentence would have had a quite meaning.

[2] A mufti is a Muslim cleric who has the authority to issue fatwas. In each state of the Ottoman Empire, the Grand Mufti was the supreme religious authority in the country.

[3] Study by Matthias Küntzel published in the Jewish Political Studies Review

[4] A Nazi paramilitary and police organization

[5] A Nazi war criminal responsible for the logistics of the Final Solution

[6] Eichmann in Jerusalem : Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt

[7] Tsilla Hershco: « The History of an Escape [archive] », Controverses, n°1, March 2006.

[8] Zvi Elpeleg, Hamufti Hagado 1989, pp. 74,75

[9] Zvi Elpeleg, Through the Eyes of the Mufti: The Essays of Haj Amin

[10] David Cesarini(September 5, 2013). Adolf Eichmann

[11]David Cesarini(September 5, 2013). Adolf Eichmann.

[12]                 David Cesarini(September 5, 2013). Adolf Eichmann.

[13]                 The term Yishuv refers to the Jewish community in Palestine before the creation of the state of Israel.

[14]                 In May 1939, when the Jews were being persecuted by the Third Reich, the British reduced their access to Palestine by draconian measures.