Last week, the Obama Administration publicly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu for incitement against Palestinians. What had he done? In a speech expounding the long history of Palestinian incitement and violence, predating Israel’s establishment by decades, Netanyahu had focused on the role of Haj Amin el-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem during the British Palestine Mandate, in urging Adolf Hitler to carry out the genocide of European Jewry.
Netanyahu’s point is undebatable: Husseini was not only a wartime Nazi ally, but, already in 1937, issued a seething, anti-Semitic declaration, calling upon Muslims everywhere to fight and kill the Jews, whom he described as the arch-enemies of Muslims and, indeed, mankind, and who were allegedly seeking to seize the Muslim and Christian holy places.
During the war, Husseini’s declaration was published by the Nazis as Islam und Judentum (Islam and Jewry). It was distributed to the mostly Muslim members of the SS Handschar Division he was involved in forming and which participated in the murder of almost all of Bosnia’s 14,000 Jews and other opponents of the Third Reich.
Husseini’s role in the Nazi genocide and fanning Muslim anti-Semitism has been the subject of numerous scholarly books in recent years, including by Klaus Gensicke (2007), David G. Dalin and John F. Rothmann (2008), Klaus-
Michael Mallmann and Martin Cuppers (2010), Andrew G. Bostom (2013), Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz (2014) and David Motadel (2014).
Indeed, in his The Mufti of Jerusalem and the Nazis, Gensicke writes that Husseini’s “hatred of Jews knew no mercy and he always intervened with particular zeal whenever he feared that some of the Jews could escape annihilation.”
However, Netanyahu erred on one point: in rightly pointing to Husseini’s pioneering role in inciting Palestinian violence against Jews, he wrongly assigned to Husseini the inspiration for the Nazi genocide.
Perhaps Netanyahu was misled by recent revelations (soon to be the subject of a book by Bar Ilan University scholar, Edy Cohen) that Husseini planned building a death camp near Nablus for incinerating Middle Eastern Jews in the event of a Nazi victory. Nonetheless, the exchange recounted by Netanyahu between Hitler and Husseini at their November 1941 meeting, in which Husseini supposedly advised Hitler to “burn” European Jews, didn’t actually take place.
Yet, despite the manifest truth of Netanyahu’s larger point about the abundantly documented Mufti’s Nazi collaboration, the White House fastened instead onto Netanyahu’s subsidiary inaccuracy.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz declared, “I don’t think there’s any doubt … who is responsible for the Holocaust” — as though Netanyahu had suggested the Nazis weren’t. (After all, even had it been true that Husseini inspired the Nazis to murder the Jews, it was still the Nazi apparatus that carried it out).
Continued Schultz: “We … continue to stress … the importance of preventing inflammatory rhetoric, accusations or actions on both sides can feed the violence” — as if Husseini’s record as Nazi collaborator were sordid Netanyahu lies, intended to stir up Jewish attacks on Arabs.
The most remarkable aspect of the White House’s rebuke of the Israeli Prime Minister is not its breathtaking magnification of Netanyahu’s mistake, but its political purpose: running interference for Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA).
Recall that the recent murderous attacks on Jews have been thoroughly abetted by the PA and Abbas who, in a speech broadcast last month on PA TV, declaimed, Husseini-like, that “The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours … and [the Jews] have no right to defile it with their filthy feet … We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem … blood spilled for Allah.” Abbas has also spoken of a wholly imaginary “fierce attack taking place against the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Abbas’ ugly and incendiary Muslim supremacism and incitement isn’t even new. He was doing the same a year ago, which helped to produce a spate of terror that claimed the lives of 11 Israelis.
Yet, last year and again now, the Obama Administration was utterly mute on Abbas’ genuine — and successful — incitement to violence. But when Netanyahu refers to Husseini’s inciting anti-Jewish murder and Nazi collaboration, the White House speaks of “inflammatory rhetoric.”
This astonishing perversion of Netanyahu’s words while consigning to the memory hole Abbas’ actual incitement produces only one outcome: tarring Netanyahu rather than Abbas with responsibility for the current unrest — which was presumably the object of the exercise.
Prudence and morality alike should have led President Obama to stand by Israel and denounce Abbas’ incitement and the violence he has repeatedly produced. Any president interested in promoting peace and thus in dis-incentivizing incitement and violence would have done so.
That Obama did the opposite leads to only one conclusion: contrary to predictions (for example, by former U.S. Mideast envoy Dennis Ross) that he will seek to ease tensions with Israel following clashes over his nuclear pact with Iran, Obama seems set to intensify them.
Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America.