Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Netanyahu: Holocaust was a Palestinian idea, not Hitler's idea

In a speech before the World Zionist Conference Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave Adolph Hitler a bit of a pass for the Holocaust that killed more than six million Jews. As Netanyahu explained it, Hitler originally never intended to pursue the so-called "Final Solution," but instead sought merely to expel Jews from Germany.

According to Netanyahu, the proposal to wipe Jews from the face of the Earth must instead be blamed on a Palestinian leader, Haj Amin al-Husseini, at the time the grand mufti of Jerusalem. As the prime minister put it:

"(al-Husseini) 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?' (Hitler) asked. He said, 'Burn them'."

This man who merely wanted to "expel" the Jews would be the same Hitler who, in "Mein Kampf", wrote that "the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew." This would be the same Hitler who so hated Jews that he committed his entire nation to the brutal elimination of Jews wherever they could be found -- Poland, France, Italy, Hungary, Ukraine. His obsession was so overpowering that even in the final days of the war, with Nazi Germany trying desperately to stave off defeat, Hitler ordered the diversion of even more resources to the genocidal effort.

This is the man whom Netanyahu is trying to excuse to a degree so that he can put the onus on the Palestinians.

Zevaha Galon of Israel's Meretz party put it well:

"This wasn't a speech by [Austrian Holocaust denier] Jorg Haider, This wasn't a snippet of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' doctoral thesis. This was an actual quote by the prime minister of the state of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, before the World Zionist Congress. It has to be seen to be believed."

"Perhaps we should exhume the corpses of the 33,771 Jews murdered in Babi Yar in September 1941, two months before the mufti and Hitler met, and bring them up to speed on the fact that the Nazis had no intention of destroying them."

Holocaust historians are all but unanimous that Hitler needed no outside prodding or inspiration to pursue the Final Solution, and in fact intended that course all along.  "Hitler was the one who came up with the idea of the Final Solution … not the mufti," the chief historian of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum told NBC News. "Hitler did not need him to tell him what to do with the Jews. The Jews were already burning."

"It is a sad day in history when the leader of the Israeli government hates his neighbor so much so that he is willing to absolve the most notorious war criminal in history, Adolf Hitler, of the murder of 6 million Jews," Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, said in response.

As Erekat suggests, this is far more than a debate about history. By trying to hang guilt for the Holocaust around the neck of a Palestinian, Netanyahu makes it as clear as possible what most honest observers already knew: He has no intention whatsoever of allowing a two-state solution to the Middle East dilemma, nor of allowing Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to live in anything but permanent subjugation.

And if that continues to be the de facto policy of Israel as well, then in time U.S. policy in that region will have to change.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.