The other day, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Adolf Hitler only had plans to expel Jews from Europe until his infamous meeting with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who instructed him to “burn them.”
You can imagine what happened next.
It was interesting watching some of the most stridently anti-Israel pundits—people who typically justify or ignore the stream of Holocaust-denying and Jew-hating that oozes from the Muslim world—pretending to be most insulted by this supposed cheapening of the memory of Holocaust. Others compared Netanyahu to a Holocaust denier. What really offended them, of course, was that someone had pointed out that intellectual and spiritual founder of Palestinian independence was an active Nazi. That is a fact that might be overlooked.
Now, it should be said that there’s zero historic evidence that Hitler’s conversation with al-Husseini instigated any change in Nazi plans for the Jews. Netanyahu should not have claimed otherwise. But it was a big speech, and Netanyahu’s larger point, as he later clarified, was just as important:
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. So this lie 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.
Netanyahu makes a case that much of the paranoia about Jews in the Middle East is not new. Long before any “occupation,” Husseini supported the Holocaust and had a desire to import Nazi tactics to the Middle East. In an effort to inflame violence and anti-Semitism, Arabs had, as they’re doing today, spread false rumors about the intention of Jews to occupy or expel Muslims from holy sites. This is what Haj Amin al-Husseini did. This is what Yasser Arafat did. This is what Fatah is doing today, as Palestinians continue to stab Jewish civilians in another spasm of irrationally murderous and self-destructive behavior.
Before Israel ever existed, much less retook East Jerusalem, the mufti helped to personally engineer or incited massacres of Jews in 1920, 1929, and 1936. The Hebron massacre in 1929 saw 70 Jewish civilians killed, many of them students and teachers, after the mufti (like Fatah does today) spread rumors about Jews taking control of the Temple Mount.
It’s also worth noting that today the only people not allowed to openly pray at their holiest site in Jerusalem are the Jews. Israel protects holy sites of all faiths. Meanwhile, Joseph’s Tomb is being desecrated by a mob of Palestinians, which is apparently less newsworthy.
Husseini also directly participated in war on Jews during World War II. As a guest of Hitler, after a failed coup in Iraq, he helped recruit thousands of Muslims to join a division of the Waffen-SS—who then played an active role in the destruction of Yugoslavian Jewry. On Berlin radio, the Husseini speeches would include lines like: “Kill the Jews wherever you find them—this pleases God, history and religion.” He personally, with the backing of Himmler, Eichmann, and others, intervened to stop the issuing of at least 400,000 visas to Jews trying to emigrate to British Palestine. Most of those people ended up in concentration camps.
In 1943, after hearing that some Germany allies were negotiating with the International Red Cross and others to transport thousands of Jewish children to Palestine to avoid death, he lobbied to prevent the rescue, pushing to have them sent to Poland to perish. Husseini was accused of war crimes by the Nuremberg tribunal. He escaped prosecution.
In Howard Sachar’s “A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to our Time,” the author contends that al-Husseini wasn’t only effective in helping hasten the blood-soaked modern thinking that has infected the Arab world (to be fair, if it wasn’t him, it would probably have been someone else), but that he added another ingredient that would later make the conflict even more combustible: religious xenophobia.
“Unlike earlier Arab spokesmen,” writes Sachar, “the Mufti had no illusions that the British would cooperate in the suppression of the Jewish National Home. He taught his followers to regard the mandatory as an infidel tyranny in alliance with other, Jewish, non- believers.”
Today, Palestinian groups utilize comparable tactics and language to perpetrate their own violence. Justifications for those acts are churned out by the far Left and Right here and in Europe, and Husseini is still revered by Palestinian leaders. In the book “Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam,” David Dalin and John Rothmann document in detail that Husseini is considered the “George Washington” of the Palestinian people. Should we be offended?
It is somewhat ironic that so many Palestinians deny the Holocaust when one of their founding fathers was intimately part of that ugly history. Netanyahu clarified his statement. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s 1982 dissertation, “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism” is one part Holocaust denialism and one part conspiracy theory, claiming that Zionists collaborated with Nazis as a way to spur Jewish immigration to British Palestine. Shouldn’t we be offended?
But back to Netanyahu. It’s completely plausible that the Husseini would have asked Hitler to “burn them,” though it’s doubtful the Fuhrer would have cared very much what the Husseini had to say or that he needed much prodding. But the two certainly shared a similar attitude towards the Jews. Yet we’re supposed to believe Netanyahu views Hitler as a “moderate,” as Glenn Greenwald preposterously claims? And Israel’s sins are never to be forgotten. Surely pointing out that Arab leadership played an active role in the Holocaust, and that its leadership today still venerates the man who led the charge, is worthwhile. too.