Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu garbled up some inflammatory history to suggest that a Palestinian mufti was responsible for the Holocaust, but the underlying message was even more troubling, a suggestion that Palestinians as a group share the guilt, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar explains.
By Paul R. Pillar
Benjamin Netanyahu’s bit of revisionist history about the origins of the Holocaust certainly deserves the outraged response it got this past week. One wonders why he chose to push this line given the well-established and easily cited historical fact, which many of his critics did cite, that the Nazi regime’s mass killing that would become known as the Holocaust was well under way before the meeting to which Netanyahu referred, between Adolf Hitler and the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini.
One further wonders why, given that if Netanyahu wanted to make a sharply negative comment about the mufti, who, as also has been well established, was a strongly anti-Jewish collaborator of the Nazis, he could have done so without adding his historically inaccurate twist about the significance of the meeting, and it would have been in order and unremarkable for him or any other prime minister of Israel to have done so.
Moving beyond denunciations of Netanyahu for playing fast and loose with history, this week’s rhetorical episode invites some other observations, one of which goes well beyond Netanyahu himself. The comment does involve a crass exploitation of the Holocaust to make a point about current issues, and such usage tends to demean and diminish the significance of the Holocaust itself.
(Critics of Netanyahu are less justified in charging that he was relieving the Nazis of responsibility; what Hitler did would still have been horrendously evil even if the mufti really had given him such ideas.)
But cheap comparative references to the Nazis have long been the most grossly and inappropriately used historical allusions in circulation. The problem goes far beyond Netanyahu, and also beyond Israel. The usage is prevalent in foreign policy debates in the United States. And the usage extends not just to issues involving Israel.
All manner of foreign foes who aren’t at all equivalent to Hitler have been likened to him, and many policies and diplomatic transactions have been likened to Munich that aren’t at all like a parley over the Sudentenland. It is likely that some of those waving their fingers disapprovingly at Netanyahu for the controversial passage in his speech have themselves been crass users of allusions to the Nazis.
Another observation involves the substance of the fanciful dialogue that supposedly took place at the meeting between the mufti and the fÃ¼hrer. According to Netanyahu, the mufti in essence said, “If you have a problem with Jews, don’t foist the problem on us Palestinians.”
That sounds a lot like the question that later Palestinians, with far greater innocence than can be attributed to the mufti, have asked of Western powers, “If you have a problem with what the Nazis did, why foist the problem on us Palestinians?”
Today that question no longer should refer to the Zionist movement, given that Israel is an established and legitimate state. The question does refer appropriately to the continued plight of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. Was a subtext of Netanyahu’s fictional vignette to cast aspersions on the asking of that question? Perhaps. In any case the question goes unanswered.
As for what the controversial passage in the speech says about Netanyahu’s own methods and message, we can refer to his follow-up statement in which he did not back down from his assertion about what took place in the 1940s. Instead he spelled out more specifically what he was saying.
He said his intention was “to show that the forefathers of the Palestinian nation, without a country and without the so-called occupation, without land and without settlements, even then aspired to systematic incitement to exterminate the Jews.” In other words, to enumerate his specific messages even more clearly: (1) occupation and settlements have nothing to do with Palestinians’ aspirations or any militant and unfriendly thoughts they may have, so stop bugging us about those things; and (2) Palestinians of today have intentions just as vile and lethal as that Nazi-loving mufti, so don’t expect us to make concessions or do business with people like that.
The first of those messages is a grossly inaccurate portrayal of why so many Palestinians feel the frustration and anger that they do, including those who today are feeling it to the point of conducting suicidal knife attacks on Jewish Israelis.
The equating, per the second message, of an entire ethnically or religiously defined people with the words or actions of an extreme few, and the further assumption that the negative qualities so attributed are innate and permanent, has become a standard Netanyahu technique. He has used it with more than one bÃªte noire in the course of a political career built on fear-mongering.
With Palestinians, it means that if one’s a terrorist, then supposedly they are all, well, if not terrorists, then either inciting terrorism, or supporting it, or having in their hearts the same kind of thoughts that terrorists have. With Iranians, it means that if so much as one Iranian leader makes some derogatory comment about Israel, then supposedly Iranians in general are determined to wipe Israel off the map, and it would be dangerous to have any dealings with Iran at all.
Netanyahu has applied in a slightly different way to his own community the technique of equating an entire ethnically or religiously defined people with something much narrower. He repeatedly tries to present himself and his government as leading and representing not only Israel but also world Jewry. Many non-Israeli Jews have begged to differ. In particular, many progressive-minded American Jews have made clear that the Israeli prime minister, or at least this prime minister, does not speak for them.
This particular attempt by Netanyahu at a false equation can have a deleterious effect that gets us back to Haj Amin al-Husseini and the Nazis. If the same Israeli leader who tells us that Palestinians today are just like the mufti also tells us that his government is acting on behalf of all Jews, it should not be surprising if some people who dislike with good reason that government’s policies transfer some of those negative feelings to all Jews.
For some people that may mean a belief that Jews are racist oppressors. That prejudicial perception would be just as badly mistaken as a belief that all Palestinians have genocidal aspirations, but it is a thought process that naturally follows the rhetoric.
Yes, there has long been, and there still is, anti-Jewish sentiment that is based on the malign workings of biased minds and does not require a government’s policies or even its rhetoric to exist. And no, Israeli policies regarding the occupation and the territories are not the only reason for whatever hateful thoughts may exist in some Palestinian minds.
But Benjamin Netanyahu’s shameless manipulation of fears and even historical facts can, in addition to his policies, only make the emotions that surround the unresolved conflict between his country and the Palestinians even worse.
Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)
Netanyahu’s comments show that facts have no place in his thinking about Israel and the Palestinians. Therefore he is acting completely in bad faith. Nothing he says can be believed or trusted. In practical terms, he is detached from reality. He cannot be negotiated with as if he were a rational actor. He has demonstrated conclusively that he is an irrational actor. The conflict can only be resolved by accepting that fact and proceeding accordingly. Coercion of some sort will be needed.
Well, Miliekowski / “Netanyahu” , a true “gift from God”!
George Soros/Schwartz opinion of him would be really interesting. But I suspect he would never open up on that.
A while ago a reader left a reply mentioning Arab historical viewpoints which where neglected by Western historians. The Hebrew Bible was miss interpreted (by 70 Jewish scribes) into Greek, and of course parts of the Bible and both are a base for Islam’s Koran. They utilized the same historical errors.
1. No Arab historical material refers to the Egyptian king as Pharaoh.
2. A town of Mizraim in SW Saudi Arabia titled its chief, Faraon (sounds much like Pharaoh)
3. Mizraim was on the major camel caravan route up the Red sea to the Levant and Egypt.
4. The story of Pharaoh and Moses in Hebrew text referred to Mizraim or Misrim. This was somehow said to refer to Egypt and yet no Arab historical text ever refers to Egypt by such a name.
5. The thesis is that when the camel caravans became history like the horse and buggy, the people of Mizraim moved north into Egypt and the Levant but not a slaves. Thus Jews are found in SW Saudi Arabia, and the Levant.
6. Place names and geography in the region of SW Saudi Arabia and Yemen fit with the early stories in the Bible so was this the promised land.
I’m not a Historian but it would be interesting to hear from someone who is familiar with Arab history of the region.
The articles can be found by Googling:
Al-Hijaz, Homeland of Abraham and the Israeli Prophets
The Real Exodus: End of Israel
Hijacking History in Jew’s Unholy Book
Egypt Knew No Pharoah Nor Moses
The first is most interesting but in some areas the translation from Arabic has a few errors in spelling and text, but really very interesting. It was produced by the Al-Tajdeed Cultural and Social Society in Bahrain.
The last three talk about the findings in the first text.
May I suggest “Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times” by Donald B. Redford. It’s not an expensive book, but the thing is mighty heavy reading. A much easier book is “The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts” by Israel Finkelstein.
It’s easy enough to demonstrate that the entire story of the Exodus is one long fairy tale, but these days there isn’t much of a market for books about THAT topic. In addition, it could get a person accused of “antisemitism” because without the 3500-year-old official Land Grant from God, the Zionists haven’t even a shadow of a claim to the Palestinian land they’re ruthlessly stealing.
It is my understanding that al-Husseini decided to try and get German help in WWII to free his land. He had long given up on the British. Around the 1920s Jewish citizens in the region, not the Zionist immigrants, didn’t want these Zionists coming in and destroying the peace. Zionists came in, bought land using foreign funds created for the purpose, laid off the local Arab workers and in time passed a law that Jewish workers were only to work on these estates. That created a lot of bad feeling between Zionists and the indigenous people(Jew, Muslim and Christian), particularly the Muslim faction who were mainly labourers, while the Christian Palestinian element were more into commerce. Today the Palestinians are together.
What if a white skinned U.S. President, were to come out, and blame Sitting Bull, or Fredrick Douglas, for the ‘Financial Crash of 1893’? Would not, at least someone accuse the white skinned president of stirring up trouble, and that this white skinned leader was at the very least a pure racist at heart? Netanyahu’s mistake, gaff, flub, or whatever you call it, is proving himself to be nothing more, but yet another trouble maker, in a land starved of fairness, and human sensibility. Israel, should reconfigure itself, into becoming a true democracy. A democracy that would have representation for all it’s varied people. “Mr. Netanyahu, Tear Down this Wall!” Where’s ‘the Gripper’ when you need him?
ISRAEL, PALESTINE, AND NETANYAHU’S REPETITIONS….
Based on absolutely no proof whatsoever (stop reading
here if you crave proof) one can only guess that
Netanyahu and Revisionist Israel have a need once
more to re-emphasize the Holocaust as its reason
I addressed the absurdity of this in a comment yesterday
in which I referred to Gabriel Kolko and others’
analyses. That needs no repetatiion here.
One can only add that there was no holocaust when
“Jewish state” was conceived. At that time it
was not an overwhelming identification of “worldwide
Jewry”. Zionism was a weak minority faction. Most
Jews if they migrated did not want to go to Palestine.
For every Jew that went to Palestine, 27 went
elsewhere in the western hemisphere between
1890 and 1924. In 1924 the US—with the blessings
of Zionism—all but closed off the possibility to
migrating to the US. (THERE HAD NOT BEEN A
HOLOCAUST at that time!) But the US was
not the only choice….
Why then this sudden link with the holocaust
Is there something else, something unsaid,
some weakness unnamed that is at the
bottom of Netanyahu’s rhetoric?
With no holocaust would there have been
a need for Israel at all. Perhaps. Perhaps not.
(See Norman Finkelstein’s THE HOLOCAUST
INDUSTRY among other sources.)
—-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA
Peter, you always add something to this sites comment board, that gives a person something to think about. Recently, I have been slowly reading through a book of Albert Einstein letters. Einstein, in his day believed that the Jews needed a homeland. Somewhere, they could go to escape persecution. Einstein even pointed to certain projects, and events happening in Israel, that benefitted everyone in that land, so what went wrong. My theory is racial nationalism took over. Listen, in my time, I have known Jewish business people who would rather do business with an Italian (like me) over doing business with another Jewish person. I don’t know why, they just said they liked me better. I have also known Italians who preferred doing most of their business with other Italians, nothing is ever that easy, is it? But, when it comes to what may have gone wrong in Israel (better put Palestine pre1948) I would lean heavily towards the problem being the Israeli’s played the race card, to the extreme….I mean to the extreme. I’m no doubt wrong on this, but then why are all those Palestinians fenced in?
I think you nailed it,as usual.Yahoo(wiley c.) doesn’t believe the propaganda either.
Hitler yes bad man.No doubt.
But all his misdeeds are certified by his victims,a most troublesome judgement.
I read recently where Golda Meir said,after Dresden,(US and British)the Europeans had no business dictating to Israel.Because we won,all our atrocities were swept under the table,and we have murdered millions,uncounted by US.So all talk of bad men of yesteryear is made hollow,by today’s cruds.
That may be correct, and it may not. Since I don’t read either German or Arabic, so I’m left wondering how much information about that al-Husseini fellow is accurate. If it has been filtered through the Zionist lie machine, it’s really suspect. But since I DO read English, I can state with confidence that what the quote above says about anti-Jewish collaborators of the Nazis actually does apply to Charles Lindbergh, a fellow who President Eisenhower rehabilitated as soon as he took office in 1952.
The Tikun olam site has an article about the Netanyahu claims.
No doubt there really are some suicidal knife attacks by Palestinians. It is also true that the thugs and murderers in the police forces in that shitty & thieving little nation aren’t missing any chances to kill those who are merely trying to survive in the hellhole the Israelis have created. From the SteveLendmanBlog:
Casual murder, and another part of the State-Sponsored terror campaign. In a later post on this site, the blogger speaks of Netanyahu’s campaign to strip the Palestinians of Jerusalem of their residency rights. Where will they go? Why would the Head Dingleberry care? And for that matter, not a single Good Christian Zionist in the US of A will give a hoot either – in the unlikely event they even hear of the scheme.