In a speech to the 37th Zionist conference on October 20, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shocked the world by exculpating Adolf Hilter for responsibility for the Holocaust. The destruction of the European Jews, Netanyahu suggested, came from a suggestion by the Arab nationalist Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was the Mufti of Jerusalem.
In Netanyahu’s own words:
And this attack and other 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. 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.”
The first thing to say about Netanyahu’s historical narrative is that it is absurd. Husseini was a real person. It’s accurate to say he was an evil man: He led anti-Jewish riots that were motivated not just by opposition to Zionism but also anti-Semitism. He was an eager, although largely ineffectual, collaborator with the Nazis. Husseini hoped to work with the Nazis to thwart the creation of a Jewish state in Israel. To that end, he raised an army of 6,000 Arabs. This stands in contrast to the tens of thousands of Arabs who fought against the Nazis, including the 9,000 Palestinians who fought with the British. As Hussein Ibish, senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, noted in an article for The National, "The record is a complex, mixed and nuanced one, but the overarching fact is that Arab and Muslim involvement in the war was overwhelmingly on the Allied side, and was a significant factor in fighting on the ground. The overwhelming majority joined the cause voluntarily, despite British and French colonialism."
Among the millions who fought in World War II, Husseini’s brigade was a sideshow. To elevate him to the level of having “a central role in fomenting the final solution” is a lie.
Responding to Netanyahu's comments, Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, re-iterated the historical fact that Germany bears responsibility for the Holocaust. "All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilization that was the Holocaust," Seibert said. "This is taught in German schools for good reason, it must never be forgotten. And I see no reason to change our view of history in any way. We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own."
Reviewing a biography of Husseini in The New York Times, historian Tom Segev acutely described the problem of over-emphasizing Husseini's importance in the history of the Holocaust.
[O]ne can question whether Husseini “played an important role” in the Holocaust. For as Bernard Lewis wrote in “Semites and Anti-Semites”: “It seems unlikely that the Nazis needed any such additional encouragement from outside.”…
The mufti’s support for Nazi Germany definitely demonstrated the evils of extremist nationalism. However, the Arabs were not the only chauvinists in Palestine looking to make a deal with the Nazis. At the end of 1940 and again at the end of 1941, a small Zionist terrorist organization known as the Stern Gang made contact with Nazi representatives in Beirut, seeking support for its struggle against the British. One of the Sternists, in a British jail at the time, was Yitzhak Shamir, a future Israeli prime minister.
The second thing to say about Netanyahu’s statement is that he's trying to smear Palestinian nationalism as being intrinsically anti-Semitic, indeed genocidal. Netanyahu’s fanciful excursion into Holocaust historiography comes in the context of the larger argument of his speech: that the current outbreak of violence in Israel has nothing to do with Israeli management of the Temple Mount or the on-going occupation. In effect, Netanyahu is arguing that Palestinians have no grievances and are simply motiveless, violent, Jew-hating psychopaths. Which is another way of saying: Palestinians are Nazis.