Opinion: Netenyahu must look at his own history
2015-11-15 15:06:42 -
World News

Mohammed Samaana


Recent comments made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he blamed the then Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Huseini, for giving Adolf Hitler the idea of annihilating Europe’s Jews during the Second World War, caused outrage even amongst Israeli Jewish historians and politicians who rightly accused him of absolving the Nazis of their responsibility.


Issac Herzog, leader of the Israeli opposition, reminded that Hitler announced his intentions towards the Jews in 1939, years before his first meeting with Haj Amin was in 1941. Prof Meir Litvak, a historian at Tel Aviv University, called Netenyahu’s statement “a lie” and “a disgrace”, while Prof Moshe Zimmermann, a specialist in German history at the Hebrew University, said the Israeli leader had joined a long line of Holocaust deniers.


Haj Amin himself was appointed as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem by Britain, which occupied Palestine between 1917 and 1948. He escaped Palestine, and arrest by the occupying power, over his political activism in opposing British rule and Britain’s intention to create the state of Israel on Palestinian land. 


The meeting with Hitler was not out of support to the Nazi ideology as such, but rather to ensure Germany’s support to the independence of the Arab countries of British and French occupation if the Axis powers won the war. Relations with the Third Reich were no more than a reaction to Britain’s colonial policy in the Arab world.


Additionally, Haj Amin wrote about how Muslims and Jews had good relations in the Arab countries. During a meeting with a German official, he said that he was not against the Jews and not in favour of killing them. According to my parents who lived during that period, Haj Amin was initially popular among Palestinians, but after a while they considered him a traitor to their cause.


Looking further, one can count a number of Arab intellectuals who wrote against the Nazis during the war, and warned against any alliance with them. For example, Palestinian writer Mohammed Najati Sidki pointed out that Nazism is incompatible with Islam. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of Arab soldiers – including 9,000 Palestinians – fought bravely against the Nazis.


If Netenyahu was looking for links with the Nazis and the fascists, he’d better start with his own Likud party. Its roots go back to the extremist Zionist group Irgun, which was responsible for a number of atrocities against Palestinian civilians. Irgun was led by Menachim Begin, who is also a founder of the Likud party. Begin was a member of the Zionist youth organisation Betar, which had its own squadron at the maritime academy in that other Axis power, fascist Italy.


Famous American Jews of the time, none more so than Albert Einstein, published a letter in The New York Times in 1948 criticising Begin’s visit to America, in which they described his party as “closely akin in its organisation, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organisation.”


Digging a little deeper, historical documents show that Lehi, another Zionist terror group that was led by the former Likud leader and Israel’s seventh prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, contacted the Nazis in the 1940s and offered to help them during the war in exchange for transferring European Jews to Palestine.


Both Lehi and Irgun belong to the trend of revisionist Zionism that was started by Vladimir Jabotinsky who also founded Betar. Jabotinsky was an admirer and advocate of fascist Italy, and his secretary was no one other than Benzion Netanyahu, the father of the current Israeli leader.



Mohammed Samaana is a freelance writer based in Belfast.

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