Netanyahu trivializing the Holocaust for selfish political gain

Netanyahu trivializing the Holocaust for selfish political gain
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Using the Holocaust for politics is disgusting. When Arabs do it it is criticized. When Israelis do it, it undermines the issue of the Holocaust. Israelis like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exploit the Holocaust all the time because scoring political points to him means more than the unprecedented human suffering that Jews and others suffered at the hands of the Nazi tyrants

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania covering Chicago City Hall (1976-1992)

Ray Hanania
covering Chicago
City Hall
(1976-1992)

Whenever Israelis want to change the topic from their refusal to support peace or their rejection of the creation of a Palestine State or rejection of Palestinian rights, they exploit the tragedy of the Holocaust and viciously blame it on the Arabs.

When Arabs criticize Israelis as acting like Nazis with vicious policies, Israelis are quick to claim it is shameful exploitation. Any criticism of Israel is denounced as “anti-Semitism” by pro-Israel fanatics. Yet, when Israelis do it, and they do it all the time, what should we think?

This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the outrageous blood libel that it was a Palestinian who came up with the idea to gas and burn Jews in Concentration Camps. Netanyahu claimed in the most outrageous selfish political motivation that 1940s Palestinian leader Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the head of the Arab Higher Committee during the British Occupation of Palestine in the years before the rise of Nazism in Germany and the start of World War II, had urged a reluctant Hitler to murder the Jews.

According to Netanyahu, Hitler was hesitant to kill the Jews but he was convinced to do so because of the urging of Hajj Amin.

It is the most obnoxious thing that has ever been uttered by a rightwing Israeli leader.

His Eminence the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Haj...

His Eminence the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Haj Amin Effendi el-Husseini. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hajj Amin did oppose British policy to allow increased Jewish immigration to Palestine. And, he did meet with German Chancellor Adolph Hitler. Yet, so did many world leaders including many Jews. Why is it that when an Arab meets with Hitler it is sinister but when a Jewish leader meets with Hitler, it’s alright.

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Leaders of the Jewish Agency met with Hitler many times to negotiate for the release of some Jews from Nazi detention before and during the War. In fact, some might argue that their attempts to free only some Jews encouraged Hitler that he could get away with the murder of millions of Jews.

Why did Hajj Amin meet with the Nazis? Because at the time, the Nazis were opposed to British policy to turn Palestine, which had a majority Muslim and Christian population, into a Jewish State. To distort that fact and motivation into accusing the Palestinians of conceiving of and encouraging Hitler to launch the Holocaust against the Jews is so outrageous it is nauseating for anyone to hear.

Yet, the point is irrelevant. Hitler and his Nazi henchmen devised, schemed and planned the Holocaust. They developed the Final Solution and built concentration Camps throughout the areas controlled by Germany even before the war. The Nazi focus on murdering the Jews increased as the war turned against the Nazi butchers.

The Nazis were careful to hide their atrocities against the Jews and also against gypsies, Poles, Russians and others whom they hated. Even early stories during the war were read with some skepticism. No one could believe that the Nazis would gas innocent men, women and children in gas chambers and then burn their bodies simply to eliminate an entire race of people. As the war progressed and the Nazis began to lose ground, Hitler stepped up the murders. Jews were rounded up and shot.

English: Russian president Vladimir Putin with...

English: Russian president Vladimir Putin with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jewish Community Centre in Moscow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But to take one of the world’s greatest atrocities — and the Holocaust targeting the Jews was in fact one of the most horrendous crimes in human history — and exploit it simply to score points by libeling an Arab who died years ago is outrageous. It shows how little Netanyhu cares about truth. It shows how little Netanyahu cares about peace. It shows how little Netanyahu cares about civil rights and humanity.

As the violence in the Middle East escalates and Palestinians and Israelis kill each other, Netanyahu is merely throwing fuel on the fire to make the flames larger. Netanyhu knows that the violence allows him to secure his objective, which is to prevent the creation of a Palestinian State and to block peace. Netanyahu does not want peace. Conflict serves his interests.

Defaming the memory of the Holocaust and libeling the Palestinians is outrageous. Both sides committed atrocities in the 1940s and since. Palestinians and Israelis. Deir Yassin was a Palestinian village where the civilians were massacred brutally. Women, children and old men were massacred. It looked like a Nazi death camp when it was over.

But both sides engaged in violence and terrorism, including Netanyahu’s Israeli colleagues, such as the first real terrorists in the region in the 1940s, former Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir.

This is an analysis from the Israel Policy Forum and writer Michael Koplow that was sent to me this morning that I think touches on some important facets of this issue and is worth reading. You can set Koplow’s politically motivated and unjustified accusations against Hajj Amin aside. But the opinion conclusions offer a good analysis of Netanyahu’s reckless disregard for truth, peace and non-violence.

Haj al-Husseini and Holocaust Hucksterism

By Michael J. Koplow

Most anyone familiar with the give and take of discourse on blogs and social media knows about Godwin’s Law. Godwin’s Law is the proposition that the longer an online discussion takes place, the greater the chance of someone making an analogy to Hitler or Nazis, until at some point such an analogy becomes inevitable. It might be time to create a new corollary to this principle, which is that the more that Prime Minister Netanyahu discusses Israel’s external foes, the more inevitable the eventual Holocaust analogy becomes. In light of Netanyahu’s comments this week to the 37th Zionist Congress about Jerusalem Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini and his responsibility for the Final Solution, the corollary seems to be in full swing.

Auschwitz concentration camp, arrival of Hunga...

Auschwitz concentration camp, arrival of Hungarian Jews, Summer 1944 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In his Tuesday speech, Netanyahu brought up al-Husseini’s well-known connection to the Nazis and vocal support of Hitler in warning about the dangers of Palestinian incitement regarding Israel’s alleged efforts to alter the status quo on the Temple Mount. His connection between these two seemingly disparate threads was that al-Husseini had instigated riots in the 1920s by accusing the Jews of wanting to destroy al-Aqsa, and he later met with Hitler in 1941 and – in Netanyahu’s telling – convinced Hitler to exterminate European Jewry rather than expel them. So the implication is that false warnings about Jews trying to take over al-Aqsa, or to even just change the Temple Mount status quo, lead to attempts to exterminate Jews, including the Holocaust. If the logic of this is lost on you, then you are not alone, and it certainly is not the first time that Netanyahu has used Hitler, the Nazis, or the Holocaust to make a point about legitimate dangers to Jews in situations where the Holocaust has no place in the discussion.

The condemnations have come fast and furious for reasons large and small, from trivializing the Holocaust and giving succor to Holocaust deniers, to absolving Hitler from even a single ounce of the blame that he deserves, to distorting history by overstating the mufti’s role (even if he would have carried out the Holocaust if given the chance). I am positive that it was not Netanyahu’s intention in his poorly written and even more poorly conceived speech to trivialize the Holocaust or take the blame for it away from Hitler, but in his zeal to tie current Palestinian propaganda about the Temple Mount to a larger campaign to eliminate Jews wherever they may be, his words had that unintended effect. Furthermore, in getting his history wrong and overstating the role of the mufti – who was a virulent anti-Semite and a cheerleader of genocide but who was not the inspiration for the Final Solution, which started before Hitler and al-Husseini met – and linking Palestinian accusations about the Temple Mount to the Holocaust, Netanyahu makes it seem as if his grip on reality is lost. Anyone who found Ben Carson’s comments about guns and the Holocaust earlier this month to be irresponsible demagoguery should feel the same about Netanyahu’s ahistorical stream of consciousness.

While the focus on the inappropriateness of Netanyahu’s comments is important and is taking up most of the oxygen surrounding this sorry episode, the larger issue of the real-world consequences of Netanyahu’s comments is being neglected. In misappropriating historical memory while using the Holocaust to score political points and advance Israel’s agenda, Netanyahu instead accomplishes the precise opposite. Rather than alert the world to the dangers that Israel faces, Netanyahu ensures that the world will not take them seriously. This ham-handed effort at exposing lies, as Netanyahu put it in his speech, erodes Israeli credibility and desensitizes observers to the risks inherent in the daily life of Israel’s citizens.

Not for the first time, Netanyahu risks becoming the boy who cried Holocaust, seeing the ultimate marriage of threats to Jews and ability to carry those threats out at every turn. While vigilance is a virtue for any prime minister of Israel, the constant Holocaust analogies end up trivializing legitimate threats and make it far more difficult to take Netanyahu’s warnings seriously. After all, if Netanyahu is warning that al-Husseini was the inspiration for the Holocaust and that therefore current Palestinian claims about the Temple Mount should be viewed in that light, who is going to still be paying attention when Netanyahu warns about other issues? The incitement over the Temple Mount is, in fact, a legitimately dangerous issue, but it is hard to press that point once the duo of Haj Amin al-Husseini and Hitler have been turned into a social media meme. Reducing the Holocaust to just another genocide, which is what happens when every security challenge or episode of anti-Semitism is connected back to Hitler, waters down Jewish and Israeli credibility when it comes to true threats against Israel and Jews.

Then there is the issue of misuse of historical memory for instrumental purposes. One cannot decry those who, like President Obama in Cairo in 2009, point to the Holocaust as the primary motivating factor for Israel’s legitimacy – and argue instead that Israel’s existence is rooted as much in Jewish nationalism and historical claims to the land of Israel as it is to the need for a safe haven following Hitler’s campaign of extermination – and then turn around and use the Holocaust as a shield against any attempts to attack Israel in any way. Yes, the mufti of Jerusalem was a really bad guy, and yes, he encouraged Hitler to kill Jews. If that historical truth is used to create a historical fiction about the Final Solution, which then mushrooms into a larger historical misappropriation that connects genocidal extermination of Jews to limited violence motivated by false claims about the Temple Mount, then the historical crime being committed is taking place in the here and now.

There are Palestinians who do not like Jews and who will never accept Israel, and who attack Jews for no reason other than being Jewish and living in Tel Aviv. But many Palestinians bitterly resent the occupation of the West Bank or blatant discrimination within Israeli municipalities and push back against perceived and actual threats and injustices, and that pushback can be inhumane and is frequently directed against civilians. The fact that targeting civilians is unacceptable does not mean that there isn’t a tangible motivation behind it that is connected to more than blind hatred. Trotting out the Holocaust as a worldview that explains all of the violence and incitement that happens in Israel eludes reality, and places Israel in a dangerous position by missing what is actually going on and preventing an appropriate policy response. Many are laughing at what Netanyahu said on Tuesday, but the larger consequences of his ahistorical blather are no laughing matter.

Dr. Michael Koplow is Israel Policy Forum’s newly announced Policy Director, based in Washington, DC. To contact Michael please email him at mkoplow@ipforum.org.

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