What’s wrong with Netanyahu?
All this is the result of one event. But people are now looking at many other events — past and present — in a new light. Until now, many strange actions and utterances by Benjamin Netanyahu have been seen as the manipulations of a clever politician, a talented demagogue who knows the soul of his constituents and supplies them with ample lies.
Not anymore. A troubling suspicion is getting around: That our prime minister has serious mental problems. Is he losing his marbles?
It all started two weeks ago, when Netanyahu made a speech to a worldwide Zionist assembly. What he said was shocking. Hitler, he pontificated, did not really want to exterminate the Jews. He just wanted to expel them. But then he met the Mufti of Jerusalem, who convinced him to “burn” the Jews. Thus the Holocaust was born. The conclusion? Hitler was not so bad after all. The Germans are not really to blame. It was the Palestinians who were the instigators of the murder of six million Jews.
If the subject had been different, this speech could be considered as one of the usual lies and falsifications typical of Netanyahu. But this concerns the Holocaust, of the most atrocious events of modern times, and by far the most important event in modern Jewish history.
All around the world there was an outcry. There are many thousands of experts on the Holocaust. Innumerable books have been written on Nazi Germany (including one by me). Every single detail has been researched over and over again.
Holocaust survivors were shocked, because Netanyahu was really absolving Hitler of the main blame for the horrendous crime. Angela Merkel did the decent thing and issued an immediate denial. Thousands of furious articles appeared around the world, many hundreds of them in Israel. This particular utterance of Netanyahu’s was not just stupid, not just ignorant. It borders on the insane.
A mufti is a religious scholar, a high-ranking authority in an Islamic society, well above a mere judge. The grand mufti in this story is Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, who was chosen by the British authorities in Palestine for the office of Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
Young Hajj Amin was already known as a firebrand, and Samuel followed the well-established colonial practice of appointing enemies to high office, to quiet them down.
Amin saw early on the danger of the Zionist immigration for the Arab community in Palestine, and several times organized anti-British and anti-Jewish protests. These came to a head in the Great Rebellion of 1936 — known to the Jews as “the events.”
The British chased Amin out of the country. He went to Lebanon, but when it was occupied by the British in WWII, he fled to Iraq, which was in the hands of anti-British and pro-Nazi rebels. When the British re-conquered Iraq, Amin fled to Italy, which was leading the Fascist “Axis” effort to win over the Arabs.
It seems that the Italians were not too keen on having Amin around, so he moved to Nazi Germany. At the time, the SS was trying to enlist Muslim volunteers for the war against Russia, and somebody had the bright idea that a picture of the grand mufti with Hitler might be useful. Hitler did not like the idea at all. He was a true believer in the race theory, and the Arabs are Semites just like the Jews. But in the end he was weighed upon to receive this Arab refugee for what we now call a "photo opportunity.” A picture was taken — the only picture of the only meeting between these two persons.
The meeting was short, a perfunctory protocol was taken, the Jews appear nowhere in it. The whole episode was insignificant. Until Netanyahu.
The idea that the Fuehrer needed or heeded the advice of a fugitive Semite in order to decide on the Holocaust is preposterous. Indeed, it is crazy. Also, the dates don’t jibe. The photo-meeting took place at the end of 1941. The extermination started immediately after the conquest of Poland in 1939, and took on its monstrous dimensions with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in the middle of 1941. It acquired its final, industrial format when Heinrich Himmler, the SS chief, decided that “one cannot demand of a decent German” to shoot all this Jewish scum. Amin had absolutely nothing to do with this, and the very idea is insane.
Until 1939, Hitler did indeed further the expulsion of the Jews, because physical extermination in a peaceful Europe was unthinkable. But once the war broke out, he saw at once the chance for mass extermination — and said so quite openly.
So how did this son of a “renowned historian” come to say this crazy thing? Perhaps he heard it from some crackpot hired by Sheldon Adelson — but even so, the fact that he did not reject it outright shows not only that he is a complete ignoramus about the most important chapter in modern Jewish history, but also that he may have some mental problem. In this light, many others of his decisions now look different, including this week’s decision to take measures to cancel the “inhabitant” status of tens of thousands of Arab Jerusalemites.
Now I am afraid. If indeed we are governed by a man with mental problems — just where is he leading us?
He is an Israeli writer and former member of Knesset.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view