The Slatest

Benjamin Netanyahu Backtracks: Palestinian Didn’t Inspire Holocaust

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses international Jewish leaders during the 37th Zionist congress in Jerusalem on October 20, 2015.  

Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

After lots of outrage locally and internationally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retracted claims that an Islamic leader was the one who gave Adolf Hitler the idea of killing Europe’s Jews. Netanyahu took to Facebook to clarify earlier remarks in which he said that Jerusalem’s then-grand mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, told Hitler that he shouldn’t just deport Jews from Europe but kill them.

“Contrary to the impression that was created, I did not mean to claim that in his conversation with Hitler in November 1941 the Mufti convinced him to adopt the Final Solution,” Netanyahu wrote. “The Nazis decided on that by themselves.”

Although Netanyahu tried to characterize the statement as a clarification to avoid misinterpretations, critics aren’t quite buying it. “In reality,” notes Haaretz, “Netanyahu’s announcement wasn’t a clarification but a complete rejection of his previous comments.”

In his comments earlier this month at the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu outright said that the Nazi leadership had no intention of killing all of Europe’s Jews in 1941. “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jew,” Netanyahu said. “And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here (to Palestine).’” According to the version of history espoused by Netanyahu, Hitler then asked: “What should I do with them?” The reply: “Burn them.”

Yet his earlier remarks shouldn’t be seen as a retelling of history because all he wanted to do was “to illustrate the murderous approach of the Mufti to the Jews in his lengthy contacts with the Nazi leadership,” Netanyahu wrote on Facebook in both Hebrew and English. “The Nazis saw in the Mufti a collaborator, but they did not need him to decide on the systematic destruction of European Jewry, which began in June 1941.”

The controversy over Netanyahu’s remarks on Oct. 20 had mostly died down, leading some to wonder why the Israeli leader felt the need to discuss the issue again. He wanted to “set the record straight,” a senior Israeli official told the New York Times.

Read Netanyahu’s full statement below: