Of all the articles dealing with the Netanyahu-Mufti controversy, this one by Melanie Phillips in the Jerusalem Post is possibly the best. She explains that Netanyahu was fundamentally right: it is thanks to the Mufti’s intervention, that mass murder became genocide.
The Grand Mufti meets Hitler in November 1941
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the role played
in the Holocaust by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini,
he cannot have imagined the reaction he would detonate.
said was this: “He [Husseini] 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 [Hitler] asked.
He [Husseini] said, ‘Burn them.’” In the subsequent global firestorm,
Netanyahu was denounced for exonerating Hitler. It was said he had
claimed the mufti had given Hitler the idea of exterminating the Jews
when the two met in November 1941; that he was cynically trying to
tarnish today’s Palestinians; even that he was a Holocaust denier.
His subsequent protest that he had no intention of absolving Hitler of
responsibility fell on deaf ears. Even those who acknowledged that the
mufti had allied with the Nazis insisted Netanyahu had turned history
back to front.
Most of this reaction, however, is at best wide of
the mark and at worst quite obscene. For Netanyahu was fundamentally
There can be no doubt he spoke too loosely. He has
provided no source for the words he quoted from both Husseini and Hitler
at that November 1941 meeting. And he should have acknowledged that the
mass murder of European Jews was already well under way, and that
Hitler had talked about exterminating the Jews since the 1920s.
But mass murder is not the same as genocide. And the precise moment when
Hitler decided to exterminate the whole of European Jewry – the “Final
Solution” – has long been disputed by historians.
For even while
the Nazis were rounding up Jews for slaughter they were also deporting
them – more than 500,000 between 1933 and 1941. And recently unearthed
documentary evidence suggests that the mufti and Hitler egged each other
on in a mutual genocidal frenzy.
A book published last year,
Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, by Barry
Rubin and Wolfgang Schwanitz, argues that the mufti’s alliance with
Hitler turned the extermination of the whole of European Jewry into a
As late as July 1941, according to Hermann
Göring, Hitler thought the last of the Jews could be removed from
Germany by “emigration or evacuation.”
The authors write: “Yet
since other countries refused to take many or any Jewish refugees,
Palestine was the only possible refuge, as designated by the League of
Nations in 1922. If that last safe haven was closed, mass murder would
be Hitler’s only alternative.”
Rubin and Schwanitz make clear
that the November 1941 meeting between Hitler and Husseini merely
continued a dialogue that had started earlier that year about the
mufti’s opposition to Hitler’s deportation of European Jews.
February 1941, Hitler had received al-Husaini’s proposal for an alliance
of which one condition – paragraph seven – was that Germany stop Jewish
emigration from Europe. After Hitler promised al-Husaini on March 11 to
do so, Germany’s expulsion of the Jews was impossible and only mass
“… After agreeing in early June to meet
al-Husaini to discuss the issue, Hitler ordered SS leader Reinhard
Heydrich on July 31, 1941 to prepare an ‘overall solution for the Jewish
question in Europe.’ On October 31, he ended the legal emigration of
Jews from German-ruled areas.
But the specific final decision had not yet been taken.”
On November 28, Hitler met the mufti in Berlin. “Behind closed doors,
Hitler promised al-Husaini that Arab aspirations would be fulfilled.
Once ‘we win’ the battle against world Jewry, Hitler said, Germany would
eliminate the Jews in the Middle East, too.” The following day, “he
ordered Heydrich to organise a conference within ten days to prepare
‘the final solution of the Jewish question.’” As the book also shows,
the mufti was making common cause with Hitler long before 1941. By 1936,
he was courting the Nazis for arms and money. In 1940, he sent Hitler a
nine-page letter detailing a proposed alliance. The Palestine question,
he said, united them in their joint hatred of the British and the Jews.
He proposed to make Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Transjordan a single
federated state with a Nazi-style system. In return, he wanted Hitler’s
help to wipe out all Jews in the Middle East.
Evidence that the
mufti played a key role in the Holocaust was provided at the Nuremberg
Tribunal by Eichmann’s close associate in the extermination program,
Dieter Wisliceny. He said: “The mufti was one of the instigators of the
systematic extermination of European Jewry and was a partner and adviser
to Eichmann and Hitler for carrying out this plan.”
corroborated at the tribunal by two witnesses, Andrej Steiner and Rudolf
Kasztner, who confirmed that Wisliceny had talked about Husseini in
these terms during the war.
Some useful links: