Holocaust denial and Israel’s ongoing war against the Palestinians

As if things in Palestine are not bad enough, with summary executions by trigger happy Israeli security forces of Palestinians suspected of violence against Israeli Jews and even of a migrant worker whose identity was mistaken for Palestinian, and with Israelis fearful of acts of violence to which, I believe, Palestinians are fully entitled in resisting occupation and siege – Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has on October 20 managed to further fan the flames.

Not known to mince his words, Netanyahu distorted historical facts when he claimed in a speech to Jewish leaders last week that it was not the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler who was responsible for the extermination of six million Jewish Europeans. Rather, Netanyahu insisted, it was actually the Palestinian religious Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini who should be charged with the responsibility for the Final Solution. Netanyahu’s speech presented a simplified version of events, arguing that Hitler merely wanted to expel the Jews, not annihilate them. By contrast to this benevolent portrayal, Al-Husseini, who was sympathetic to the Nazi cause, and having instigated attacks on Zionist settler colonials in Palestine, suggested to Hitler to ‘burn the Jews’ rather than expel them.

If this speech was not part of a long tradition of blaming the Palestinians for their own victimisation by their Israeli occupiers, it would be unbelievable that Netanyahu, a historian’s son, would pay so little attention to historical facts.

To clarify: while the roots of the Nazi Final Solution, central to Hitler’s racist ideology, had already been planted in the 1930s, the meeting between Hitler and Al-Husseini took place only in late 1941. Indeed, Hitler spoke openly about the need to make sure the ‘Jewish-Bolshevik elite’ would be killed, as well as all ‘Jews and card-carrying Communists’ in the lands Germany took over from the Soviet Union already in March 1941. March 1941 was also when Heinrich Himmler, the dreaded leader of the SS, carried Hitler’s orders by instructing the Nazi Einsatzgruppen to murder all Jews. In July 1941 the phrase ‘the final solution of the Jewish question’ was first uttered by Nazi leader Hermann Goering, and in October 1941 the work on the Nazi killing centres in Poland began under the so-called Operation Reinhard, a whole month before the meeting between Hitler and Al-Husseini in November 1941.

As the leader of a state that shouts ‘antisemitism’ whenever anyone criticises its excesses, Netanyahu is not alone in blaming the Palestinians and in nurturing post-Holocaust Jewish victimhood. Meanwhile, Palestinians are extra-judicially executed by Israel, put under administrative detention without trial, forced to live under siege and prevented from free movement in their own occupied land, and the list goes on and on.

Shifting the blame from the Nazis to the Palestinians makes no historical sense. Even German chancellor Angela Merkel has immediately rejected Netanyahu’s claim, taking full collective responsibility for the Shoah, which had clearly nothing to do with the Palestinians. However ironic, the distortion of the history of the Holocaust by Netanyahu makes sense in the context of Israel’s goal of controlling the land of Palestine and denying Palestinians rights. Indeed, shifting the blame from the Nazis to the Palestinians is in line with Israel’s occupation and siege politics. One can only hope that the absurdity of its leader’s claim will finally backfire on Israel.