NEW YORK – On Dec. 7, 1988, Yasser Arafat stated in Stockholm that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) accepted the existence of the state of Israel. At a news conference that day, Arafat said, “We accept two states, the Palestine state and the Jewish state.” Despite the clear message of Arafat’s statement, it was dismissed by Israel and greeted coldly by the United States.
On his address to the Knesset honoring the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the 20th anniversary of his assassination, Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said, “The Palestinians aren’t prepared to recognize once and for all the national state of the Jewish people, they are not truly prepared to end the conflict and give up the dream of returning to Haifa, Jaffa and Acre.”
This is not the first time that Netanyahu’s words conflict with historical facts. Recently, at the 37th International Zionist Congress, he stated that a grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, an Arab nationalist and a zealous foe of Zionism, was one of the main instigators of the Holocaust. With these assertions, Netanyahu not only shows his ignorance of history but, more seriously, contributes to the demonization of the Arab peoples, particularly the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s words intend to give the impression that resistance of the Palestinians is based on their hatred of the Jewish people, and not in the miserable occupation that they have been undergoing for decades. Although it has been historically proven that Husseini met with Hitler in 1941 seeking his support, there is no evidence that he communicated to Hitler the idea of the “Final Solution.” This is not the first time that Netanyahu has made such an outrageous assertion. He said something similar in a speech before the Knesset in 2012.
Netanyahu’s statement was later denied by a spokesman of the German government who, in an unusual move, admitted that Nazi Germany was exclusively responsible for the murder of 6 million Jews. Although he later toned down his original assertion, Netanyahu’s words only serve to inflame an already violent situation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s declaration wasn’t a slip of the tongue. He read it from a prepared text that soon after it was spoken was translated into Hebrew and appeared on the Prime Minister Bureau website. Professor Dina Porat, chief historian of Yad Vashem — Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust — and a professor in the Department of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University, said that Netanyahu’s statements were “completely erroneous, on all counts.” More pointedly, she declared to Haaretz: “Hitler did not need anyone to encourage the final solution. In terms of the facts, there’s no debate … all these actions, Hitler’s obsessions, have no link to the mufti.”
According to Porat, Hitler told the mufti that he “would continue his plans” that had already began, and didn’t need the approval of the mufti. Porat said that Hitler’s plans to exterminate the European Jews were drawn years before his meeting with Husseini, and there are even references to it in “Mein Kampf,” which was published in 1925.
Netanyahu has a unique capacity for creating his own reality, which in many cases contrasts with the facts. Increasingly, he is accused of lack of credibility and leadership. Speaking at a meeting of the Israel Democracy Institute, Gideon Sa’ar, a former Likud minister, called for a real leader “that takes responsibility and doesn’t pass the buck, that strives to make decisions, including tough decisions, and doesn’t evade them.” And he added, “Israel is crying out for a proactive leadership. We are sated with words. …”
Netanyahu’s assertions regarding the Holocaust are not supported by history. They also threaten to exacerbate a volatile situation of antagonism that can give rise to even more violent conflicts, and doom forever the possibility for peace in the region.
Dr. Cesar Chelala is a New York writer and winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.
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