Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his statements on a World War II-era mufti’s involvement in the Holocaust in no way absolve Adolf Hitler of guilt, but carry critical lessons about incitement today.
Netanyahu was speaking to the 37th Zionist Congress about lies spread by the Palestinians in their campaign of incitement.
“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,” the prime minister 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 asked. He said, ‘Burn them.'”
“And he was sought in, during the Nuremberg trials for prosecution. He escaped it and later died of cancer, after the war, died of cancer in Cairo. But this is what Haj Amin al-Husseini said. He said, ‘The Jews seek to destroy the Temple Mount.’ My grandfather in 1920 seeks to destroy…? Sorry, the al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Thus, “this lie” perpetrated by the Palestinians today, he said, “is about a hundred years old. It fomented many, many attacks. The Temple Mount stands. The al-Aqsa Mosque stands. But the lie stands too, persists.”
Israelis who spoke out against Netanyahu’s comments, including opposition leader Isaac Herzog, claimed he distorted history as the extermination of the Jews began before al-Husseini and Hitler’s meeting at which the fuhrer committed to “the annihilation of Jewry living in Arab space.”
Before leaving for Berlin today, where he’ll meet with Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, Netanyahu called the criticism of his remarks “absurd.”
“I had no intention to absolve Hitler of responsibility for his diabolical destruction of European Jewry. Hitler was responsible for the Final Solution to exterminate six million Jews. He made the decision,” Netanyahu said. “It is equally absurd to ignore the role played by the Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, a war criminal, for encouraging and urging Hitler, Ribbentropp, Himmler and others, to exterminate European Jewry. There is much evidence about this, including the testimony of Eichmann’s deputy at the Nuremberg trials, not now, but after World War II.”
“He said: ‘The Mufti was instrumental in the decision to exterminate the Jews of Europe. The importance of his role must not be ignored. The Mufti repeatedly proposed to the authorities, primarily Hitler, Ribbentropp and Himmler, to exterminate the Jews of Europe. He considered it a suitable solution for the Palestinian question.’ Eichmann’s deputy, added: ‘The Mufti was one of the instigators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry and was a partner and adviser to Eichmann and Hitler for carrying out this plan.'”
Netanyahu added that “the attempt by certain scholars and people to be apologists for the key and important role of Haj Amin al-Husseini is clear. Many other researchers cite this testimony and others regarding the role of Haj Amin al-Husseini.”
“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 continued.
“Unfortunately, Haj Amin al-Husseini is still a revered figure in Palestinian society, he appears in textbooks and it is taught that he is one of the founding fathers of the nation, and this incitement that started then with him, inciting the murder of Jews, continues. Not in the same format, but in a different one and this is the root of the problem. To stop the murders, it is necessary to stop the incitement. What is important is to recognize the historical facts and not ignore them, not then and not today.”
The Palestinians are now accusing Netanyahu of “incitement.”
At the State Department today, press secretary John Kirby said he’s “not going to get into specific characterizations” about whether the prime minister’s words equaled incitement.
“We’ve certainly seen and we’re aware of the prime minister’s statements, and as President Obama said, certainly Secretary Kerry has made clear, we want to stress publicly and privately the importance of preventing inflammatory rhetoric accusations or actions on both sides that can lead to violence,” Kirby said.
“I’m also not going to get into, you know, a historical debate about this. I — we’ve seen the press reports of his comments, and if you look at them, they would connote that the scholarly evidence does not support that position.”