A gross overstating is the worst that can be said about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's blaming the first "Palestinian" leader Haj Amin Al-Husseini for persuading Hitler to implement the "Final Solution to the Jewish Problem."
In his speech to the delegates to the 37
th World Zionist Congress last week, Netanyahu stated that Haj Amin Al-Husseini played a "central role in fomenting the final solution … Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time. He wanted to expel the Jews, and Haj Amin Al Husseini went to him [Hitler] and said, if you'll expel them they'll all come here [Palestine]. 'So what should I do with them' he [Hitler] asked. He [al-Husseini] said, 'burn them'."
Though criticism of this statement isn't out of place, too many of the responses from left-wing politicians and journalists are nothing more than attempts to derail what should be a proper discussion and turn it into a cheap political catfight.
Zionist Camp (Labor) MK Omer Bar-Lev's response comparing Netanyahu to Holocaust deniers is of such kind. "He is not recoiling from any means to demonize the Arabs," wrote Bar-Lev. Therefore, "in the same way we strongly denounce Holocaust deniers, so we will not allow statements demeaning Hitler's atrocities against our people."
Merav Michaeli, also a Zionist Camp (Labor) MK, said on her Facebook page that Netanyahu's statement "is extreme and dangerous, such that plays into the hands of Holocaust deniers and Israel-haters around the world."
Such false innuendoes, however, couldn't stop the surge of responses that used Netanyahu's inaccuracy to remind everybody of Haj Amin Al-Husseini's very real involvement in murderous attacks against Jews, and about his enthusiastic collaboration with Nazi Germany.
Among the many historians commenting on Netanyahu's statement was Wolfgang Schwanitz, who with Barry Rubin authored Nazis, Islamists and the Making of the Modern Middle East.
Quoting from his book, Schwanitz reminded everyone that "at their meeting [on November 28, 1941, Hitler and al-Husseini] concluded the pact of Jewish genocide in Europe and the Middle East, and immediately afterward, Hitler gave the order to prepare for the Holocaust. The next day invitations went out to thirteen Nazis for the Wannsee Conference to begin organizing the logistics of this mass murder."
Schwanitz also asserts that "al-Husseini made it clear that if Hitler wanted Muslims and Arabs as allies he must close Europe's exits to Jews. At the same time, al-Husseini and Arab rulers also told Britain that if it wanted to keep Arabs and Muslims from being enemies, it must close entrance to Palestine to all Jews. By succeeding on both fronts, al-Husseini contributed to the Holocaust doubly, directly, and from the start."
Taking into account Edward Said's acknowledgement that al-Husseini "represented the Palestinian Arab national consensus," Netanyahu's gross overstatement on the role of the mufti in the Holocaust doesn't seem to deserve the kind of criticism it received from his political opponents.
Other reliable studies on the topic differ from Netanyahu on one thing only, that Hitler and no one else is responsible for the Holocaust. This, however, can't diminish al-Husseini's role in encouraging Hitler to implement his final solution, just as it can't diminish al-Husseini's crucial involvement in sending Jews to the concentration camps.
When Netanyahu referred to the Palestinian leader as a war criminal, he was also referring to Yugoslavia seeking to indict al-Husseini for his role in recruiting 20,000 Muslim volunteers for the SS, volunteers who participated in the killing of Jews in Croatia and Hungary. The full story of al-Husseini's direct involvement in the Holocaust is found in Serbian scholar Jennie Lebl's book Haj Amin and Berlin.
If it wasn't for Netanyahu's blunder, these and other inconvenient facts about the one who "represented the Palestinian Arab national consensus" would have all but remained forgotten.