Palestinians provoked final solution?
Tony Greenstein debunks Netanyahu’s claims about the grand mufti of Jerusalem
Addressing the 37th World Zionist Organisation Congress in Jerusalem on October 20, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu made the remarkable claim that the idea for the ‘final solution’ came from the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini.
Apparently Hitler was talked into carrying out the extermination of Europe’s Jews by the leader of the Palestinian Arabs at their meeting on the November 28 1941. Hitler had previously only been in favour of expelling the Jews from Europe (the Madagascar plan). It is a claim that will be grist to the mill for holocaust deniers.
When I first heard Netanyahu’s statement, I immediately thought of a similar claim made by pastor John Hagee, the president of Christians United for Israel. Hagee, a virulent anti-Semite, had stated in a sermon that Hitler was a “hunter” sent by God to drive the Jews to Israel.1 But now it would appear that Hitler was in fact an agent of the mufti, not God!
This would, of course, entail a massive change in our understanding of the holocaust - the industrial murder of between five and six million Jews between 1941 and 1945. Gone at a stroke are those debates between historians over intentionalism vs functionalism. Questions such as ‘Did the Nazis intend from the start to kill the Jews or was it a product of a bureaucratic fascist state, wedded to anti-Semitism and engaged in an imperialist war?’ have been rendered irrelevant at a stroke.
Netanyahu claimed in his speech that the Mufti “had a central role in fomenting the final solution”:
He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time: he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, “If you expel them, they’ll all come here.” “So what should I do with them?” he asked. He said, “Burn them.”
Netanyahu’s thesis is very convenient, since it explains both the current Palestinian uprising, the resistance to Israel’s army of occupation and the settlers, and the historic opposition of the Palestinians to Zionism and Israel. It is not the lack of even the most basic democratic control over their daily lives or a myriad of other impositions and humiliations that motivates Palestinian opposition. Good gracious, no. Everything is explicable by one simple fact: the Arabs are psychopathic Jew-haters, anti-Semitic to the core. It is in their blood and a part of their psyche. This is why they refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state and their youth, carrying on the tradition, insist on stabbing anyone who is remotely Jewish.
Like all colonisers, Israel’s settler Jewish population sees itself as the victim of blind, irrational hatred on the part of the indigenous population. This was as true of the Amerindian and Aboriginal populations as it was of South African blacks. Settler violence was normative, part of a legitimate state violence that was not even seen as violent. It was law and order, and those who offered resistance were criminals. Opposition to the state is seen as abnormal, rabid and the action of terrorists. In Israel even peaceful opposition - for example, the activities of the non-violent International Solidarity Movement, whose member, Rachel Corrie, was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer when trying to prevent a house demolition - is characterised as ‘terrorism’. Hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners are also a form of terrorism. Security minister Gilad Erdan, when proposing the force-feeding of prisoners, told the Knesset that hunger strikes are “a new type of suicide terrorist attack, through which they will threaten the state of Israel”.2
Norman Finkelstein’s explanation for Netanyahu’s outburst - that he is “a certifiable maniac”3 - does not explain the background to or the purpose of his speech. Netanyahu has simply taken the long-standing campaign to paint the mufti as a major war criminal, second only to Hitler himself, to its logical conclusion, with the Palestinian Arabs motivated by nothing more than an irrational anti-Semitic hatred.
Peter Novick has suggested that claims of Palestinian complicity in the extermination of the Jews was a defensive strategy, “a pre-emptive response to the Palestinian complaint that, if Israel was recompensed for the holocaust, it was unjust that Palestinian Muslims should pick up the bill for the crimes of European Christians”. The editors of the Encyclopaedia of the holocaust gave him a starring role.4 The article on the mufti was more than twice as long as the articles on Goebbels and Göring, longer than the articles on Himmler and Heydrich combined, longer than the article on Eichmann and only just exceeded in length by the entry for Hitler.5
The only evidence for the mufti’s involvement in the ‘final solution’ is hearsay. It came from a member of Eichmann’s Judenkommando, SS-Hauptsturmführer Dieter Wisliceny. Wisliceny had a bloody record, having presided over the first countrywide deportation of Jews, from Slovakia, to the extermination camps from March to October 1942, and then the liquidation of the Greek and Hungarian Jewish communities. He was hanged in Bratislava in 1948 despite the attempts of Rudolf Kasztner, former leader of Hungarian Zionism and later at the centre of what became known in Israel as the Kasztner trial, to save him.
At the Nuremberg trials, Wisliceny alleged that the mufti had actively encouraged the extermination of European Jews, and that he had met with Eichmann in his office to discuss the implementation of the “solution of the Jewish question in Europe”. The allegation is dismissed by virtually all holocaust historians. Even Yehuda Bauer, the most loyal of all Zionist holocaust historians (he was based at the Yad Vashem holocaust propaganda museum in Jerusalem), stated:
After the war, they caught [Wisliceny] and tried him at Nuremberg, where he tried to eschew all responsibility, saying: ‘It wasn’t Hitler, it wasn’t me: it was the mufti’ ... It’s clear that his account is untrue:6
An affidavit from Kasztner stated that Wisliceny told him that he had overheard Husseini say he had visited Auschwitz in Eichmann’s company. Eichmann denied this at his trial in Jerusalem in 1961, stating that he had only been introduced to al-Husseini during an official reception. Nonetheless the Eichmann court judges accepted Wisliceny’s testimony and found as proven that al-Husseini had aimed to implement the ‘final solution’. Clearly this was a political decision, as there was no evidentiary basis for it. Hannah Arendt, who was covering the trial for the New Yorker, concluded that the evidence for an Eichmann-al-Husseini connection was based on rumour and unfounded.7
Idith Zertal, one of Israel’s revisionist historians, describes how Zionist ideologues have endeavoured to superimpose the holocaust in Europe onto the conflict with the Palestinians. The result of this forced marriage has been to reinforce the siege mentality of Israel’s Jewish settlers and to create “a false sense of the imminent danger of mass destruction”. In the process it has also distorted the image of the holocaust, “dwarfing the magnitude of the atrocities committed by the Nazis, trivialising the unique agony of the victims and the survivors, and utterly demonising the Arabs and their leaders”.8
This transference of the holocaust from Europe to Israel was one of the key aims of David Ben-Gurion and Israel’s leaders when they staged the Eichmann trial in 1961. This was done in two ways: first, by making links between the Arab and Nazi leaders - for example, the presence of Nazi German scientists in the Arab countries; and, second, by reference to the mufti of Jerusalem’s connections with the Nazi regime and Eichmann in particular. The mufti was “depicted as a prominent designer of the final solution and a major Nazi criminal. The deeds of Eichmann and other Nazi criminals were rarely mentioned without addition of the Arab-Nazi dimension.”9
Yad Vashem has played a full part in this. As Israeli historian Tom Segev has noted, the only image of a Palestinian in Yad Vashem is “a photo featured prominently on a wall depicting the mufti sieg heiling a group of Nazi stormtroopers”. Its purpose to ensure that “the visitor is left to conclude that there is much in common between the Nazis’ plan to destroy the Jews and the Arabs’ enmity to Israel”.10
The mufti was a minor war criminal and like many nationalist leaders - for example, Subhas Chandra Bose of the Indian National Army - saw the enemy of their colonial enemy as their friend. So obviously the idea that the mufti instigated the ‘final solution’ is absurd. If anyone was a major war criminal, it was Walter Rauff, who invented the mobile gas trucks - first used in the T4 ‘Euthanasia’ programme and then the Chelmno extermination camp. Rauff had the blood of 100,000 Jews on his hands and tried, when the Nazis occupied Tunisia in 1943, to build an extermination camp at the city of Kairoun to murder its Jews. This did not prevent him becoming an Israeli agent after the war. Israel later helped him to escape to South America.11
The Mufti was responsible for recruiting three Muslim Waffen SS divisions in Bosnia - Kama, Handschar and Skandenberg - but they were primarily concerned with fighting the Serb Chetniks. They committed many atrocities against the Serbs, but had no involvement in the Jewish deportations, bar handing over 210 Jews from Kosova to the SS. Indeed such was their attitude to the Jewish question that they were sent for retraining to France, where some of them tried to desert to the resistance (!) - the only example of a rebellion within the ranks of the SS.12
What Netanyahu did not mention was the three declarations issued by senior Muslim clerics in Bosnia in opposition to Croat-Nazi measures against the Jews and Serbs in Mostar, Banja Luka and Sarajevo in 1941. Nor was he interested in the fact that Muslim Albania was the only Nazi-occupied country in Europe where the number of Jews at the end (2,000) was greater than the number at the beginning (200). Not one Jew was deported from Albania under Nazi occupation.
An examination of the transcript of the mufti’s meeting with Hitler, on November 28 1941, contains no mention of him urging Hitler to exterminate the Jews. He was only informed of the final solution in the summer of 1943 by Himmler.13
The mufti was concerned that Germany make a declaration that it supported the independence of Syria, Iraq and Palestine. Hitler refused to do this, because it would be seen as a threat to the French empire. In reality he had no intention of supporting Arab independence and upsetting Mussolini. If Germany had conquered the Arab countries, it would simply have supplanted Britain and France as the imperialist power.
By the time the mufti met with Hitler, the ‘final solution’ had already begun, following the invasion of Russia (Operation Barbarossa) on June 22 1941. The Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommando killing squads, which operated in the rear of the Wehrmacht in Byelorussia and Ukraine, murdered some one million Jews in mass shootings. Over 33,000 Jews had been murdered just in Babi Yar, outside Kiev, by the end of September 1941.
The irony though is that it was the Zionists who were responsible for Haj al Amin Husseini’s elevation. British high commissioner and devoted Zionist, Sir Herbert Samuel, who had been instrumental in lobbying for the Balfour declaration, appointed him grand mufti, despite him having come fourth in the election to the post in 1921.14 The Palestinians considered the mufti a collaborator with the British after the failure of the Arab revolt of 1936-39. At no stage had the Palestinians elected Haj al-Amin Husseini. He had been imposed on them by the British and the Zionists.
And the Nazis needed no encouragement to commit genocide. In December 1941, Goebbels wrote in his diaries:
With regard to the Jewish question, the Führer is determined to make a clean sweep. He prophesised that if they brought about another world war, they would experience their annihilation. This was no empty talk. The world war is here. The annihilation of the Jews must be the necessary consequence.15
In Mein Kampf Hitler had claimed that the “sacrifice of millions at the front” in World War I would have been prevented if “12 or 15 thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas”. And in his ‘Prophecy’ speech on January 30 1939, he spoke explicitly about annihilating the Jewish race:
Today I will once more be a prophet. If the international Jewish financiers inside and outside Europe should again succeed in plunging the nations into a world war, the result will not be the Bolshevisation of the earth and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race throughout Europe.16
It is no surprise that Zionism, a Jewish movement that welcomed the Nazis to power and then collaborated with them, should seek to rewrite the history of the holocaust17
3. Debate on Al-Jazeera: www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2015/10/netanyahu-rewrite-history-151022185209021.html.
5. P NovickThe holocaust in American lifeNew York 2000, pp157-58.
7. H Arendt Eichmann in Jerusalem - a report on the banality of evil Old Saybrook 2011, p13.
8. I Zertal Israel’s holocaust and the politics of nationhoodCambridge 2005, p100.
10. T Segev The seventh million New York 2000, p425.
12. S Schwartz, ‘The Jews, the Serbs and the truth’: http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=9203. See also G Achchar The Arabs and the holocaust London 2011, pp143-44.
13. W Lacquer and B Rubin The Israel-Arab reader London 1976, pp80-84.
14. N Weinstock Zionism: a false messiah New York 1969, p117, citing Y Porath The emergence of the Palestinian Arab national movement 1918-1929 London 1974, pp189-93.
15. Diary entry of Josef Goebbels, December 13 1941, quoted in I Kershaw Fateful choices: 10 decisions that changed the world, 1940-1941 London 2007, p431.
16. G Reitlinger The final solution London 1968, p24; footnote 44, p593: January 30 1939; January 30 1942.
17. See F Nicosia Zionism and anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany New York 2008, pp91, 146.