Shamelessly Distorting the Holocaust

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his energy minister, Yuval Steinitz, have both mangled the fundamental facts of the Holocaust for cynical political ends.

Shame on them.

Netanyahu, in a speech to the Zionist Congress in Jerusalem on October 20, claimed that Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, persuaded Adolf Hitler to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

Steinitz, in a talk to the Israeli American Council in Washington, D.C., on October 18, compared Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Hitler, claiming that Abbas’ incitement against Israel matches Hitler’s level of anti-Semitism against Jews.

In his comments, Netanyahu said that Hitler’s objective in late 1941 was the expulsion, rather than the extermination, of European Jews. Husseini, fearing that Palestine would be flooded with yet more Jewish refugees fleeing Germany and Nazi-occupied countries, took issue with Hitler’s alleged policy, Netanyahu said. “So what should I do with them?” Netanyahu quoted Hitler as asking the influential Palestinian religious leader. ‘Burn them,'” Husseini said.

Netanyahu claims he did not intend to absolve Hitler and the Nazi movement of the responsibility for the Holocaust, but to demonstrate the point that Husseini sought the destruction of the Jewish people.

If I understand Netanyahu’s irresponsible and inaccurate remarks correctly, Husseini, not Hitler, was the architect of the Nazi genocidal policies that resulted in the mass murder of six million Jews.

Netanyahu’s comments are so offensive that the German government intervened in the matter. “All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilization that was the Holocaust,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman told reporters yesterday, the day before Netanyahu paid an official visit Germany.

As the German government spokesman implied, Hitler and his murderous cohorts did not require Husseini’s input to launch their vile anti-Semitic campaign. When Hitler met Husseini in Berlin on November 28, 1941, the cogs in the Nazi machinery of death were already fully in place and humming.

In 1939, in an address to the Reichstag, Hitler prophesied that Jews would pay dearly in blood should war break out in Europe. During the course of the war, he would repeat this threat menacingly. By the time he met Husseini, Hitler had already banned Jewish emigration from Germany, thus dooming its demonized and disenfranchised Jewish citizens. By then, too, one million Ukrainian and Russian Jews already had been killed by mobile Nazi killing squads, known as Einsatzgruppen. And the infamous Wannsee conference, which would set into motion the systematic, industrial-scale massacre of Jews in extermination camps like Auschwitz and Treblinka, was set to take place in the following month.

The Holocaust was a Nazi project, pure and simple. Husseini, a virulent adversary of Zionism and of Jewish settlement in Palestine, concurred with Germany’s plan to murder Jews. But by no stretch of the imagination did he inspire or goad Hitler, who had already formulated the concept of exterminating Jews in his book, My Struggle, first published in the 1920s.

Netanyahu’s shameless suggestion that his comments were misunderstood is nonsense. He has shifted blame for the Holocaust from Germany to the Palestinians and confirmed the assumption that he will stop at nothing to defame and marginalize the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority.

Steinitz’s comparison likening Abbas to Hitler is just as invidious — a crude attempt to sideline Abbas as a partner for peace.

In a reference to Abbas’ alleged orchestration of the current violence directed against Israel, he said, “The level and intensity of the (Palestinian) incitement and the level of antisemitism is on the same level as Hitler.”

What is he talking about?

Abbas is certainly no angel. In a few instances during this crisis, he has made wrong-headed and inflammatory statements. But on the whole, Abbas has been relatively measured, calling for “peaceful resistance” to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and rejecting violence as a strategic tactic. Further, unlike several of Netanyahu’s key cabinet ministers, Abbas actually endorses a two-state solution. And, lest it be forgotten, he still supports Palestinian security coordination with the Israeli army in the West Bank.

It’s shocking that Steinitz would stoop so low as to compare Abbas with Hitler, the greatest mass murderer of Jews in the annals of history. To say that his comparison trivializes the Holocaust would be a profound understatement.

Abbas, in his PhD dissertation, challenged the Jewish death toll in the Holocaust and accused certain Zionists of collaborating with the Nazis. But in 2014, he described the Holocaust as “the most heinous crime … in the modern era.”

Israel and the Palestinians are locked in an increasingly bitter conflict that will claim many more lives if it is not resolved. So why are Netanyahu and Steinitz pouring oil on the fire with their misinformed and misguided comments? Isn’t the Arab-Israeli conflict complicated and convoluted enough without these useless, self-serving distractions?

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,