Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, claimed at the 27th Zionist Congress on the 20th of October that Adolf Hitler did not want to kill Jews and that he was only convinced to do so by Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the then-Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, in an extraordinary attempt at whitewashing the Nazi Genocide and Hitler’s culpability in it. You may wish to read the whole speech if you want – if you’re familiar with Netanyahu, it’s the usual -, but here’s the relevant extract:
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.”
The statement was widely condemned by Holocaust historians, and rightly so. Moshe Zimmermann said the comments essentially made Netanyahu a Holocaust denier. “Any attempt to deflect the burden from Hitler to others is a form of Holocaust denial,” he told The Associated Press. Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said that “Netanyahu hates Palestinians so much that he is willing to absolve Hitler of the murder of 6 million Jews.”
Netanyahu’s claim does not need debunking. It never happened. Pure fiction. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to try and link the fate of the Jews under European fascists (and under so-called Western democracies I might add) with Palestinian resistance to Zionist Settler Colonialism. It is such a preposterous position that one can only react to it in disgust.
Just think about what Netanyahu is trying to do. I don’t know about you, but I always thought that Adolf Hitler was a genocidal monster obsessed with racial purity, not some passive well-meaning and misguided individual who was mysteriously convinced by some Muslim man from Palestine to commit genocide. While it’s true that Haj Amin Al-Husseini was a criminal and an all-round despicable man, whitewashing Nazism in such a way is itself despicable and an insult to those who suffered from Anti-Semitism in Fascist Europe.
It doesn’t take much to realize that Netanyahu is trying to bring up the Holocaust, once again, to justify Zionist dehumanization of Palestinians. Which brings me to my final point, namely that abusing the memory of past suffering is an all-too-common feature of Zionism. There is a parallel to be made between Zionist political opportunism today and in the early years of the 20th century, particularly between the two World Wars and during WWII.
Compare Netanyahu’s 2014 visit to Paris right after the Charlie Hebdo massacre calling on all French Jews to immigrate to Israel with this June 1947 Manifesto by the Jewish League for the Struggle Against Zionism, part of Egypt’s then-Democratic Movement for National Liberation, in which Egyptian Jewish Communists denounced Zionism’s shameless opportunism:
We denounced the Zionists for taking an interest in deported Jews only to the extent that it serves their own narrow egotistical interests, for their refuse to consider any solutions to the problems of these unfortunates [Jewish refugees] other than emigration to Palestine. Thus they prolong the deportees’ suffering for the purpose of exploiting it to Zionist political ends. (Gilbert Achcar, ‘The Arabs and the Holocaust‘)
What can be more insulting to Jews than to assume that you know where they should belong? Isn’t the whole point of condemning anti-semitism based on the principle that Jews have the right, like anyone, to identify themselves? Why can’t a French Jew ‘belong’ to France like any French Catholic, Atheist, Muslim or otherwise?
It was understood back in 1947, just as it is now, that Zionism never shies away from using tragedy for political gains.
Its immoral opportunism was denounced in a March 1943 speech in Jaffa by Ridwan Al-Hilu, the Arab secretary of the Palestinian Communist Party:
Anti-Jewish terror in the fascist countries is in reality a criminal act perpetrated by fascism that undermines the Arab cause and helps Zionism. [Zionism] knows this very well; it knows that the liquidation of racism and chauvinism in Europe would entail its own liquidation and that of its projects and ambitions. That is why it welcomes anti-Jewish terror and thwarts all plans that might channel emigration toward a country other than Palestine. This happened, for example, at the 1939 Evian Conference, when, at a meeting of the representatives of the Jews of England, America and Poland, the Jewish Agency opposed all plans that might divert Jewish emigration from Palestine. It was happier to see the Jews remain in Germany, where they are subject to torture, terror, and privation, than to transport them to any country other than Palestine. This clearly shows that Zionism’s concern is not to save Jews from the terror that is overwhelming them; its sole concern is to profit from that terror. (Gilbert Achcar, ‘The Arabs and the Holocaust‘)
Without such a context, it is easy to be outraged by Netanyahu’s lack of any moral compass. Here is a man who is willing to use and abuse the memory of those Jews that were slaughtered during the Nazi Genocide in order to pander to his Islamophobic, racist and fascist followers. But is it really that unusual?