In Shakespeare’s famous play “King Lear”, Lear himself says, “When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.”
I was reminded of these words after reading Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu state that the late grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, an Arab nationalist and a zealous foe of Zionism, was one of the main instigators of the Holocaust. Netanyahu not only shows his ignorance of history but, more seriously, contributes to the demonisation of Arabs, particularly Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s words intend to give the impression that Palestinians’ resistance is based on their hatred of the Jewish people, and not because of the miserable occupation they have been suffering for decades. Although it has been historically proved that Al-Husseini met with Hitler in 1941, seeking his support, there is no evidence that he communicated to Hitler the idea of the “final solution”. This is not the first time Netanyahu makes such an outrageous accusation. He made a similar claim in a speech before the Knesset in 2012.
Netanyahu’s statement was later denied by a spokesman of the German Government who, in an unusual move, admitted that Nazi Germany was exclusively responsible for the murder of six million Jews. Although he later toned down his original claim, Netanyahu’s words only serve to inflame an already violent situation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s declaration was not an ordinary slip of the tongue. He read it from a prepared text, which soon after was translated into Hebrew and appeared on the Prime Minister Bureau website. Professor Dina Porat, chief historian of Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and professor at the Department of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University, said Netanyahu’s statements were “completely erroneous, on all counts”.
She told Haaretz: “Hitler did not need anyone to encourage the final solution. In terms of the facts, there’s no debate…all these actions, Hitler’s obsessions, have no link to the mufti”.
According to Porat, Hitler told the mufti that he “would continue his plans” which had already began and was not waiting for approval. Porat said Hitler’s plans to exterminate the European Jews were drawn years before his meeting with Al-Husseini and there are even references to it in “Mein Kampf”, which was published in 1925.
Netanyahu has a unique capacity for creating his own reality, which in many cases contradicts with the facts. Increasingly, Netanyahu is accused of lack of credibility and leadership. Speaking at a meeting of the Israel Democracy Institute, Gideon Sa’ar, a former Likud minister, called for a real leader “that takes responsibility and does not pass the buck, that strives to make decisions, including tough decisions, and does not evade them. Israel is crying out for a proactive leadership. We are sated with words…”
Netanyahu’s claims regarding the Holocaust are not supported by history. They also threaten to exacerbate a situation of antagonism that can give rise to even more violent conflicts and forever doom the possibility for peace in the region.
Cesar Chelala is a New York writer and a winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.