Adolf, Amin and Bibi
By Uri Avnery
October 31, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - IT IS not very
pleasant when serious people around the world – historians,
psychiatrists, diplomats – ask themselves if my prime minister is
But this is happening now.
And not only abroad. More and more people in Israel are asking
themselves the same question.
All this is the result of one event. But people
are now looking at many other events - past and present – in a new
Until now, many strange actions and utterances by
Binyamin Netanyahu have been seen as the manipulations of a clever
politician, a talented demagogue who knows the soul of his
constituents and supplies them with ample lies.
Not anymore. A troubling suspicion is getting
around: that our prime minister has serious mental problems. Is he
losing his marbles?
IT ALL started two weeks ago, when Netanyahu made
a speech to a world-wide Zionist assembly. What he said was
Adolf Hitler, he pontificated, did not really want
to exterminate the Jews. He just wanted to expel them. But then he
met the Mufti of Jerusalem, who convinced him to "burn" the Jews.
Thus the Holocaust was born.
The conclusion? Hitler was not so bad after all.
The Germans are not really to blame. It was the Palestinians who
were the instigators of the murder of six million Jews.
If the subject had been different, this speech
could be considered as one of the usual lies and falsifications
typical of Netanyahu. Hitler was really not so bad, the Palestinians
are to blame, the Mufti was the forerunner of Mahmoud Abbas. Just a
routine piece of political propaganda.
But this concerns the Holocaust, of the most
atrocious events of modern times, and by far the most important
event in modern Jewish history. This event has a direct bearing on
the lives of half the Jewish population of Israel (including myself)
who lost their relatives in the Holocaust, or are themselves
This speech was not just a minor political
manipulation, one of those we have become accustomed to since
Netanyahu became prime minister. This was something new, something
ALL AROUND the world there was an outcry. There
are many thousands of experts on the Holocaust. Innumerable books
have been written on Nazi Germany (including one by me). Every
single detail has been researched over and over again.
Holocaust survivors were shocked, because
Netanyahu was really absolving Hitler, and the Germans in general,
of the main blame for the horrendous crime. So Hitler was not so
bad, after all. He just wanted to expel the Jews, not to kill them.
It was the evil Arabs who induced him to commit the atrocity of
Angela Merkel did the decent thing and issued an
immediate denial, assuming again the total blame of the German
people. Thousands of furious articles appeared around the world,
many hundreds of them in Israel.
This particular utterance of Netanyahu's was not
just stupid, not just ignorant. It borders on the insane.
A MUFTI is a religious scholar, a high ranking
authority in an Islamic society, well above a mere judge. A Grand
Mufti is the highest local religious authority. In Islam there is no
The Grand Mufti in this story is Hajj Amin al-Husseini,
who was chosen by the British authorities in Palestine for the
office of Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. As it turned out, this was a
The man who made the mistake was a Jew – Herbert
Samuel, the first High Commissioner of the British Mandated
territory of Palestine after World War I. Young Hajj Amin was
already known as a firebrand, and Samuel followed the
well-established colonial practice of appointing enemies to high
office, to quiet them down.
The Husseini family is the foremost Hamula
(extended family) in Jerusalem. It has some 5000 members and
occupies an entire neighborhood. It is one of the three or four most
distinguished families in town, and for many generations a Husseini
has been either the Mufti, the mayor or another dignitary in Arab
Hajj Amin (hajj is the appellation of a Muslim who
has made the obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca) was a trouble-maker
right from the beginning. He saw early on the danger of the Zionist
immigration for the Arab community in Palestine, and several times
incited anti-British and anti-Jewish riots. These came to a head in
the Great Rebellion of 1936 – known to the Jews as "the events" –
which shook the country for three years, until World War II.
During "the events", many Jews and many British
were killed, but most of the victims were Arabs. The Mufti (as
everybody called him) used the opportunity to have all his rivals
and competitors killed off. For the Jews in Palestine he became the
symbol of evil, the object of intense hatred.
By now, the British, too, had had enough of him.
They chased the Mufti out of the country. He went to Lebanon, but
when this country was occupied by the British in World War II (to
drive out the troops of the French Vichy regime) the Mufti fled to
Iraq, which was in the hands of anti-British and pro-Nazi rebels.
When the British re-conquered Iraq, the Mufti fled to Italy, which
was leading the Fascist "Axis" effort to win over the Arabs. The
Mufti, whose main enemies were the British, acted upon the theory
that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. (At the same time, a leader
of the Jewish underground in Palestine, Abraham Stern, acting upon
the same theory, also sought contact with the Italians and Germans.)
It seems that the Italians were not too keen on
having Hajj Amin around, so the Mufti moved to Nazi Germany. At the
time, the SS was trying to enlist Muslim volunteers for the war
against Russia, and somebody had the bright idea that a picture of
the Grand Mufti with Hitler might be useful.
Hitler did not like the idea at all. He was a true
believer in the race theory, and the Arabs are Semites – an inferior
and detestable race, just like the Jews. But in the end he was
weighed upon to receive this Arab refugee for what we now call a
"photo opportunity". A picture was taken – the only picture of the
only meeting between these two persons. (There are also photos of
the Mufti with Muslim Bosnian SS volunteers).
The meeting was short, a perfunctory protocol was
taken, the Jews appear nowhere in it. The whole episode was
insignificant. Until Netanyahu.
It is ridiculous to crown the Mufti as the father
of the Palestinian nation. In all my hundreds of meetings with
Palestinians, from Arafat down, I have never heard a good word about
Hajj Amin, not even from the wonderful Faisal al-Husseini, a remote
relative. They unanimously described him as a real Palestinian
patriot, but a person with limited education and narrow-minded
outlook, who bears part of the blame for the disaster that befell
the Palestinian people in 1948. The bloodbath he carried out among
the Palestinians in the 1936-1939 rebellion weakened the
Palestinians so much, that when the crucial test came – the 1947
partition of Palestine and the 1948 war – the nation was devoid of
any effective leadership.
The idea that the mighty Fuehrer needed or heeded
the advice of a fugitive Semite in order to decide on the Holocaust
is preposterous. Indeed, it is crazy.
Also, the dates don't jibe. The photo-meeting took
place at the end of 1941. The extermination started immediately
after the conquest of Poland in 1939, and took on its monstrous
dimensions with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in the middle
of 1941. It acquired its final, industrial format when Heinrich
Himmler, the SS chief, decided that "one cannot demand of a decent
German" to shoot all this Jewish scum. The Mufti had absolutely
nothing to do with this, and the very idea is insane.
Until 1939, Hitler did indeed further the
expulsion of the Jews, because physical extermination in a peaceful
Europe was unthinkable. But once the war broke out, he saw at once
the chance for mass extermination – and said so quite openly.
SO HOW did this son of a "renowned historian" come
to say this crazy thing?). (This appellation of Ben-Zion Netanyahu
is now de rigueur in the Israeli media, though I never met anyone
who has read his work on the Spanish inquisition.)
Perhaps he heard it from some crackpot hired by
Sheldon Adelson – but even so, the fact that he did not reject it
outright shows not only that he is a complete ignoramus about the
most important chapter in modern Jewish history, but also that he
may have some mental problem.
In this light, many others of his decisions now
look different, including this week's decision to take measures to
cancel the "inhabitant" status of tens of thousands of Arab
Jerusalemites. When East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in 1967,
the inhabitants were not granted Israeli citizenship, only reduced
resident's rights, which deny them the right to vote for the
Knesset. They were graciously allowed to apply for citizenship
individually, but, of course, almost nobody did, since this would
mean recognition of the annexation.
Now I am afraid. If indeed we are governed by a
man with mental problems – just where is he leading us?
Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and founder of the
Gush Shalom peace movement. A member of the Irgun as a teenager,
Avnery sat in the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981.