Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, meeting with Hitler in 1941
Israeli PM Netanyahu has come under fire from Leftist politicians in the country after he claimed in a speech today that Adolf Hitler did not initially want to annihilate the Jews but rather to expel them, and that it was the Palestinian Mufti Hajj Amin Al Husseini who convinced him to murder them.
Netanyahu was accused of "absolving Hitler of the Holocaust". He denied that charge, but added that "it is absurd to ignore the role that the Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini, a war criminal, played in encouraging Hitler, Ribbentrop, Himmler and others, to annihilate the Jews of Europe. There are numerous testimonies to this, including that of Eichmann's deputy in the Nuremberg trials, not now but after World War Two."
It seems to me that the PM is getting slightly confused on this. His central claim is that the idea of exterminating the Jews first arose during a meeting between the Mufti and Hitler, when Hitler had suggested expelling the Jews from Europe. Al-Husseini had argued that if this happened, the Jewish refugees would simply flee to Palestine, where they obviously wouldn't be welcome, and that therefore the best solution was to destroy them.
The confusion arises because Netanyahu seems to believe that this exchange occurred during the pair's first meeting, which occurred on 28th November 1941, around the time that Hitler authorised the Final Solution. But in actual fact, al-Husseini's pleas not to allow the Jews to emigrate to Palestine were delivered later, in 1944, when the extermination of the Jewish people had already been well underway for at least two years.
In a letter to the German Foreign Minister dated 25th July 1944, Husseini complained about the emigration of Jews from Europe, and added that "if there are reasons which make their removal necessary, it would be essential and infinitely preferable to send them to other countries where they would find themselves under active control, as for example Poland [i.e. in the death camps], thus avoiding danger and preventing damage." He also wrote in his memoirs that he had written to Ribbentrop, Himmler and Hitler to protest "the attempt by world Jewry in 1944 to bring about the immigration of Eastern European Jewry to Palestine".
Despite this historical blunder, Benjamin Netanyahu's central point remains of paramount importance. Although the Mufti of Jerusalem did not instigate the Holocaust, there is no doubt that he supported it, facilitated it and actively participated in it. You can find some more information about this here. I also highly recommend the rare book The Mufti of Jerusalem: Haj-Amin el-Husseini and National-Socialism, by Jennie Lebel. It is an exceptionally informative and engaging read, if you can track a copy down (my edition claims on the insert pages that there were only 300 copies in circulation).
Netanyahu's main point was to highlight the general lack of understanding about the role that the Mufti played in the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews during the Second World War. He also made the following critical observations (emphasis mine]:
My goal was not to absolve Hitler for the responsibility he bears, but to show that the father of the Palestinian[sic] at that time, with no [Jewish] state and no so-called 'occupation,' no territories and no settlements, already sought, through systematic incitement, to annihilate the Jews. Regrettably, Hajj Amin al-Husseini is still a venerated figure in Palestinian society, he appears in study books and is exalted as the father of the nation, and this incitement that began then, incitement to kill Jews, continues. Not in the same form, in a different form, and it is the root problem. To stop the murder, the incitement must stop.
Netanyahu really does understand what Israel is up against here: an annihilationist religious agenda that is founded upon the dual pillars of Jew-hatred and apocalyptic, genocidal total war (i.e. jihad). But that will not stop him being demonised and mocked not just by his suicidal opponents inside Israel, but by the international community at large.