Last week Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a speech to the World Zionist Congress with an extraordinary claim.
“Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time” he said. He only wanted to expel them. It was, he claimed, none other Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1920s and ’30s who convinced the Nazi leader to embark on the extermination programme which ultimately led to 6 million dead.
“Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here [to Palestine].’ ‘So what should I do with them?’ he asked. ‘Burn them!’,” Netanyahu claimed, quoting an imaginary conversation between the Palestinian leader and Hitler.
And it really was imaginary: there is no record that any such conversation ever took place, and Netanyahu’s speech has been widely criticised as ahistorical.
It seems astounding that, in an attempt to vilify the Palestinians by association with an old leader (albeit one appointed by the British occupation forces of the time), an Israeli leader would stoop even to exonerating Hitler.
The Nazis weren’t so bad, you see, in reality it was all the fault of those beastly Palestinians. But the reality of history is quite different.
Although Hitler did once meet with the Nazi leader in November 1941 by then, as my colleague Ali Abunimah notes, “by then, Hitler’s plans to exterminate the Jews were already well under way.”
The Mufti has long been a theme in anti-Palestinian propaganda by Zionist organizations of all stripes. And earlier this year the anti-Muslim fanatic Pamela Geller ran hate ads on the sides of Washington DC buses depicting the Mufti meeting with Hitler and claiming that “Islamic Jew-hatred” is “in the Quran”.
It is quite the escalation of this particular propaganda line, however, to attempt to exonerate Hitler from responsibility for the Holocaust in general. The speech was so ridiculous that even as staunch an Israeli ally as German leader Angela Merkel felt the need to go to the press making it clear that: No really, the Holocaust was our fault.
The new line of attack was widely derided even by some Zionist politicians in Israel, and some Israelis passed around images on social media mocking Netanyahu for his claim that the “Mufti made him do it”.
But the falsification of history is no laughing matter. It can have deadly consequences.
What the Israeli leader was in engaged in was, in fact, a form of Holocaust denial: one of the most dangerous forms of anti-Semitism. While his claims were pretty widely mocked around the world, had it been any other world leader (especially an Arab or Muslim one) who had sough to claim that, in 1941, Hitler only wanted to “expel the Jews” and had to be persuaded by someone else to embark on an extermination programme, they would have been (rightly) castigated for anti-Semitism.
This is part of a trend: one I call Zionist anti-Semitism.
As I have argued before, Israeli leaders and propagandists will stop at nothing to protect Israel and defend its right to embark on limitless war crimes against Palestinian and other Arab civilians.
Zionism, the religious-political ideology which was responsible for the foundation of Israel, on the back of Israeli massacres and expulsions of Palestinians, also has a deeply anti-Semitic idea at its heart.
It falsely claims that all Jews everywhere do not “belong” to their countries and are somehow all mystically linked to Palestine – what they claim as the “Land of Israel”.
While there are historical Jewish religious links to the land of Palestine, most Jewish communities around the world were founded as the result of historic Jewish evangelical efforts which date back to way before the time of Christ. In a similar way, there are historical Muslim links to Mecca and Medina, but most Muslims in the world have no familial links to Saudi Arabia.
It is a myth that all Jews are originally and secretly “eastern” peoples who do not belong in Europe. This is a myth whose main origin lies in the poison of classical European anti-Semitism: the same deadly racist force carried on to genocidal extremes by the Nazis.
But it is that very same deadly myth which was also picked up by the Zionist movement (which has its historic origins in Europe). And so, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, Zionism has a long history of anti-Semitism.
Earlier this year, we saw the latest episode in this trend, as a new book by a former Israeli spy revealed that Israel sought to encourage certain tyrannical regimes which it wanted to forge alliances with to believe that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a notorious anti-Semitic forgery concocted by the secret police of the Russian Empire) was in fact a real document: “we knew that the issue of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion plays a very important role for them. To a certain degree even, we played that card, so they’d think we have immense influence over the world, and could manipulate US policy in their favour in particular” said Yossi Alpher, former military intelligence officer.
So Netayahu’s attempt to play down Hitler’s responsibility for the Holocaust is only the latest episode in an increasingly disturbing trend of pro-Israel anti-Semitism.
An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.