Netanyahu's Holocaust comments provoke outrage

Netanyahu's Holocaust comments provoke outrage
Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu is under fire for suggesting that a World War II-era Palestinian leader convinced the Nazis to adopt their Final Solution to exterminate European Jews.
3 min read
21 October, 2015
Critics charged Netnayahu's comments amounted to incitement against Palestinians [Getty]

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is under fire for suggesting on Tuesday that a World War II-era Palestinian leader convinced the Nazis to adopt their Final Solution to exterminate European Jews.

Holocaust experts are slamming Netanyahu's comments as historically inaccurate. Critics said on Wednesday the statement amounts to incitement against modern-day Palestinians in the midst of a wave of violent unrest and Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Netanyahu told a group of Jewish leaders at the 37th World Zionist Conference in Jerusalem that the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, convinced Hitler to destroy the Jews.

Critics said Netanyahu's statement amounts to incitement against modern-day Palestinians

"Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews," Netanyahu said. When Hitler asked al-Husseini what to do, Netanyahu said he replied: "Burn them."

Netanyahu's comments were criticised even inside Israel.

Dina Porat, the chief historian of Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, said Netanyahu's statements were factually incorrect, Israeli news site Ynet said.

The site also reported that even Netanyahu's defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, poured cold water on Netayahu's statement, remarking that: "Of course Hajj Amin al-Husseini did not invent 'the Final Solution to the Jewish question'."

Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary general Saeb Erekat said in a statement: "It is a sad day in history when the leader of the Israeli government hates his neighbour so much so that he is willing to absolve the most notorious war criminal in history, Adolf Hitler, of the murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust."

Netanyahu's comments also provoked a storm of outrage on social media.

Youssef Munayyer, executive director of the US campaign End the Occupation, tweeted: "Netanyahu was willing to whitewash Hitler to smear Palestinians. Just let that sink in to understand how low he has sunk."

Netanyahu also mentioned in his speech that Husseini was sought "during the Nuremberg trials for prosecution". The mufti was mentioned during the trials, of Nazi war criminals after World War II, but he was not sought for prosecution.

In a speech in the Knesset in 2012, Netanyahu described Husseini as a "leading architect" of the Holocaust, Haaretz reported.

Ban Ki-Moon appeals for calm

Meanwhile,  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for calm during a surprise visit to Jerusalem on Tuesday in a high-profile gambit to bring an end to a month long wave of violence.

The visit comes amid unrest that erupted a month ago over tensions surrounding Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site sacred to Muslims. A spate of almost daily Palestinian attacks most of which have involved stabbings, has caused panic across Israel and raised fears that the region is on the cusp of a new round of bloodshed.

"These are difficult times for Israelis and Palestinians. I am here in the hope that we can work together to end the violence, ease the tensions and begin to restore a long term political horizon of peace," Ban said.

"We need to keep the situation from escalation into a religious conflict, with potential regional implications," he added.

Over the past month, 46 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, including 25 identified by Israel as attackers, and the rest in clashes with Israeli troops.

An Eritrean migrant died after being shot by a security guard and beaten by a mob at a bus station.

The initial outbreak of Palestinian attacks was fuelled by fears that Israel was plotting to take over Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site. Unrest began about a month ago, when Palestinians repeatedly barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City.

In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry said he will be meeting soon with Netanyahu and separately with Abbas as well as King Abdullah of Jordan.