The Hitler-mufti Debacle: Netanyahu and His War on Facts

It seems that for the prime minister, serving a fleeting political interest was worth the price of minimizing Adolf Hitler's determination to destroy Europe's Jews.

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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In a photo taken with a red television camera control light in the foreground, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a news conference with German Chancellor Angela in Berlin, Oct. 21, 2015.
In a photo taken with a red television camera control light in the foreground, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a news conference with German Chancellor Angela in Berlin, Oct. 21, 2015. Credit: AP
Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

It took a post on Benjamin Netanyahu's Facebook page, a half-apologetic, half-defensive statement before boarding a Berlin-bound plane, and a passive-aggressive interview with his new, state-of-the-art parrot, MK Tzachi Hanegbi, to excuse Netanyahu's embarrassing gaffe on the subject most important to him – the Holocaust.

All this not only didn't help, but piled on humiliation and shame, forced the German government spokesman to admit, again, that Nazi Germany was exclusively responsible for the murder of 6 million Jews and provided Israel's enemies and Holocaust deniers valuable ammunition.

The latter are the only ones who might take Netanyahu's statement at the World Zionist Congress conference in Jerusalem seriously. The rest of the enlightened world will take it for what it is – a cynical, clumsy, almost sweaty effort to rewrite and distort WWII history for the purpose of transparent propaganda, consisting of lumping Mahmoud Abbas together with the Jerusalem mufti's Nazi worldview.

If Netanyahu's momentary political distress vis-à-vis the political right justifies indirectly moderating Adolf Hitler's determination to destroy Europe's Jews, so be it. It's well worth the price, as far as Israel's prime minister, son of a historian, is concerned.

On Wednesday evening, at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he retreated further, significantly toning down his original message. He looked gray, beaten and bruised.

As of Wednesday night, no serious historian or known specialist in German history could be found to support Netanyahu's version, that Haj Amin al-Husseini was the one who gave Hitler the satanic idea to annihilate Europe's Jews. Husseini supported, maybe encouraged or cheered, but he is not the author of the final solution, the historians unanimously agree.

It's unclear for whom Netanyahu's message was meant, and what it achieved. There is much sympathy in the world for the Palestinians; they are seen as the victim. But even among those who aren't sympathetic, they are not viewed as the embodiment of Nazi evil.

The prime minister's aides referred journalists to the testimony of a senior Nazi official in the Nuremberg trials, as though his version is a symbol of credibility, honesty and accuracy regarding Hitler's moves in the early '40s. According to this crooked logic, we're supposed to regard the claims of the Nazis and their helpers that they were only obeying orders with understanding.

The irony is that Netanyahu said this in a speech he described as the Palestinians' "10 lies" speech. At the end, he said our struggle is against terror, "but I think the bigger war we must fight is the war over facts." Over facts, one asks, or on facts?

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