Netanyahu: Holocaust Was a Palestinian Idea, Not Hitler's Idea

By Updated at 2015-10-22 09:56:28 +0000

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Netanyahu says Holocaust was not Hitler's idea, it was a Palestinian idea.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provoked a Holocaust controversy on Wednesday, hours before a visit to Germany, by saying that the Muslim elder in Jerusalem during the 1940s convinced Adolf Hitler to exterminate the Jews.

In a speech to the Zionist Congress late on Tuesday, Netanyahu referred to a series of Muslim attacks on Jews in Palestine during the 1920s that he said were instigated by the then-Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini.

Husseini famously flew to visit Hitler in Berlin in 1941, and Netanyahu said that meeting was instrumental in the Nazi leader's decision to launch a campaign to annihilate the Jews.

"Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews," Netanyahu said in the speech. "And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here (Palestine).'

"'So what should I do with them?'" Netanyahu said Hitler asked the mufti, who responded: "Burn them."

"The idea to rid the world of the Jews was a central theme in Hitler's ideology a long, long time before he met the mufti."

It is not clear why Netanyahu decided to launch into the issue now, but his remarks came with tensions between Israelis and Palestinians at a new peak, particularly over a Jerusalem holy site overseen by the current mufti.

A German government spokesman, asked about Netanyahu's comments, said the Holocaust was Germany's responsibility and there was no need for another view on it.


Responding to the criticism, Netanyahu said on Wednesday there was "much evidence" to back up his accusations against Husseini, including testimony by a deputy of Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Holocaust, at the Nuremberg war crimes trials after World War Two.

Netanyahu, in a statement issued by his office, did not name the aide, but he seemed to be referring to Eichmann assistant Dieter Wisliceny, who has been quoted in news reports dating back to the late 1940s as having told the war crimes court that Husseini repeatedly suggested the extermination of European Jews to Nazi leaders.

Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, accused Netanyahu of using the human tragedy of the Holocaust to try to score political points against Palestinians.

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

Netanyahu dismissed any such notion.

"It's absurd. I had no intention of absolving Hitler of his satanic responsibility for the annihilation of European Jewry. Hitler is the one who made the decision," he said.

But he added: "At the same time, it is absurd to ignore the role the mufti ... played in encouraging and motivating Hitler" and other Nazi leaders to take such action.

Husseini was sought for war crimes but never appeared at the Nuremberg trials, and later died in Beirut.

Netanyahu's defense minister, close ally Moshe Yaalon, said the prime minister had got it wrong. "It certainly wasn't (Husseini) who invented the Final Solution," he told Israel's Army Radio. "That was the evil brainchild of Hitler himself."

Kerry to urge all sides to calm rhetoric after Netanyahu remarks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hopes to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tone down his rhetoric when the two meet on Thursday, days after the Israeli leader linked a Muslim leader to the Holocaust.

Speaking just before a visit to Germany, and following three weeks of Israeli-Palestinian violence, Netanyahu suggested Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Muslim elder in Jerusalem during the 1940s, had persuaded Adolf Hitler to exterminate the Jews.

The comments have attracted wide criticism from Israeli opposition politicians and Holocaust experts, who accused the Israeli prime minister of distorting the historical record.

A senior U.S. State Department official told reporters that Kerry hopes to persuade both sides to tone down their rhetoric as he began a four-day trip to Europe and the Middle East by sitting down with Netanyahu in Berlin. "Some of the rhetoric on the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount has really fueled the tensions," the senior U.S. official said as Kerry flew to Germany, his first stop on a trip expected to include talks with top Palestinian and Jordanian officials. "The rhetoric itself helps to feed the violence," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added. "By changing the nature of the rhetoric, hopefully we can diminish some of the impetus behind the violence."

The tone mirrored that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a joint news conference with Netanyahu on Wednesday evening.

"We have to do everything to calm down the situation and in this spirit I think all sides need to make a contribution," she said.

It is not clear why Netanyahu decided to launch into the issue now, but his remarks came with tensions between Israelis and Palestinians at a new peak, particularly over a Jerusalem holy site overseen by the current mufti.

Asked about the comments at the news conference in Berlin, Netanyahu said: "Hitler is responsible for the Holocaust. No one should deny that" before adding that al-Husseini had supported the final solution.

"There is evidence to this effect in both the Nuremberg trials and of course elaborated in the Eichmann trial," he said, standing next to an uncomfortable looking Merkel.

Nine Israelis have been killed in Palestinian stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks since the start of October, while 48 Palestinians, including 24 attackers, among them children, have been killed by Israeli security forces in response.

Among the causes of the turmoil are Palestinians' anger at what they see as Jewish encroachment on the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, Islam's holiest site outside Saudi Arabia, which is also revered by Jews as the location of two ancient Jewish temples.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Noah Barkin)

(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem and Noah Barkin in Berlin; Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by Mark Heinrich)