Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded on Wednesday to the uproar he caused a day before when he said that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was the one who planted the idea of the extermination of European Jewry in Adolf Hitler's mind.
Speaking before taking off for a diplomatic visit in Berlin, Netanyahu said that he didn't mean to diminish from Hitler's responsibility for the Holocaust. "He is responsible for the Final Solution, and he made the decision," he said.
According to Netanyahu, the criticism leveled at him by politicians from the opposition as well as historians is absurd. "It is also absurd to ignore the role played by the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was a war criminal and encouraged Hitler to exterminate European Jewry."
Netanyahu stressed that there are many testimonies of the mufti's involvement in the Final Solution. He quoted parts of the testimony given by Adolf Eichmann's deputy Dieter Wisliceny at the Nuremberg trials. Wisliceny said that "the mufti played an important role in the Final Solution and was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jews."
According to Netanyahu, there is an attempt by some academic researchers to provide apologetic explanations for the mufti's role during the Holocaust, but added there are other researchers who reference the testimonies against al-Husseini.
"I didn't mean to absolve Hitler from responsibility, but to show that the father of the Palestinian nation wanted to destroy the Jews even without territories, without occupation and without settlements," the prime minister said. "Unfortunately, [al-Husseini] is still a revered figure in Palestinian society and in their books which are filled with incitement." This incitement, Netanyahu said, "started with him and continues today – not in the same manner, but it's the root of the problem."
He added that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas aggrandizes the mufti's name.
"It's important to recognize historical facts and not to ignore them – not then and not now," he said.
He emphasized that he plans to demand John Kerry pressure Abbas to stop the incitements when he meets the Secretary of State in Berlin on Thursday. That incitement, Netanyahu said, was the source of the violence.