I am not Jewish, I do not have Jewish ancestry, nor am I Palestinian or have Palestinian ancestry. I do not reside in Israel or in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, nor do I have any interest (business or personal) of any kind in those regions. But I am an American citizen, a registered voter who faithfully executes my privilege to vote during every election (local or national). I go to the polls no matter how I am feeling about the issues or the candidates who are seeking office. Therefore any candidate whom I vote for national office will at some time in their political careers make a decision about Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without my consultation or input. They will use my vote, one of millions cast, which allows them to hold the office they do, to make a decision on behalf of the reputation of my country, my tax dollars and me, on issues I’ve no direct input in. These decisions will most likely take place behind closed doors, in secret, with some Congressional Intelligence Committee, shielded away from the public or the press, citing security concerns. We won’t know the contents of these meetings and decisions until such information becomes declassified many decades later, when the security risk is deemed to have passed. It is with this in mind that I decided to speak about the United State’s relationship to Israel and by extension the whole Middle East Region. I normally do not like to discuss things which don’t involve me directly or subjects in which I have no direct knowledge about. I am no expert in Israeli-Palestinian or Israeli-Arab conflicts over the decades. I’ve not kept track of the ‘scores’ between these two regions. What I know about it is what I see on the nightly news and in my book, that’s nowhere near credible. But in this case, I must speak out against these atrocious claims by the Prime Minister.
The Holocaust is one of the most heinous crimes ever committed against humanity. This, apart from a few deluded and deranged groups and individuals, is a universally agreed upon fact. What’s universally agreed upon (even by the deranged and the deluded) is that Hitler, the Nazis, and Hitler’s henchmen were responsible for this crime against humanity. Though they were ultimately responsible, they also had collaborators, who were vocal and silent and pointed the Nazi thugs in the right direction, people who deliberately looked the other way while these crimes were being committed under their noses, all of whom are equally guilty. The Holocaust claimed the lives of 6 millions Jews (wiping out two-thirds of the European Jewry) and 6 million others and they include: homosexuals, mentally ill people, disabled people, political dissidents, gypsies, basically any persons who didn’t fit into the Nazi creed of racial purity were exterminated. Anything I will say in this entry will not detract from, change or diminish this fact. Hitler and the Nazis are responsible. Period.
The United States and Israel are ‘friends’. A rather strange word to describe a relationship between two nations. And we (royal we) are not only just friends, we are also ‘family’, as Bibi Netanyahu told Fareed Zakaria of CNN, the acrimony and antagony showed by Israel about the Iran Deal is just a trifle ”disagreement in the family’‘. And with friends and family like this, who needs…. (I digress). Also, with this particular ‘friend’ of ours, it’s one we can’t really ‘unfriend’. When discussing friendships between people, we can usually choose to unfriend someone or at least put them on pause when they get out of line and then ‘revisit’ the friendship when the straighten their ass out. We have no such choice with Israel. Come hell or high water, our nations are BFFs. Wouldn’t it be nice if marriages had such tenacity, again, I digress.
So, imagine the shock of the world, when our ‘friend’, Benjamin Netanyahu declared at the World Zionist Congress:
“Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jew. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here (to Palestine).’ According to Netanyahu, Hitler then asked: “What should I do with them?” and the mufti replied: “Burn them.”
This is just wrong on so many levels. So wrong that one doesn’t know where to begin. Never mind that it’s historically wrong. The fact that such utterances by the mufti of Jerusalem at the time is unproven and unsubstantiated and to repeat statements and findings by fringe historians only serve to divide not unite. Lastly, the greatest wrong is Netanyahu towards his own people that he proclaims to love so much and would do anything to protect: the Jewish people. By shifting blame or even trying to diminish the role of Hitler in the conception and execution of The Final Solution is victimizing his people all over again.
The mufti of Jerusalem in 1941, Haj Amin al-Husseini was no angel. He was virulently anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist and he did fight to keep Jews out of Palestine, which would have undoubtedly saved many Jewish lives had he allowed European Jews to come to Palestine. He also encouraged Bosnian Muslims to join the SS and ally with the Nazis (presumably to help exterminate Jews). It was also claimed by many historians that al-Husseini was aware that the Holocaust took place as it was happening (not after the fact) but did nothing to help, and in fact he was said to be ‘delighted’ or ‘unconcerned’ that millions of Jews (and others) were being sent to the gas chamber or worked to death. He never lifted a finger to help the sufferings of the Jews, he blocked their attempts to safety, even in regions outside of Palestine for the worry that the Jews might eventually end up in Palestine and he never gave them a second thought as they were being marched to their deaths. He never lost any sleep at night over the deaths he could have prevented. Like the Nazis, he viewed the Jews as a scourge to be dealt with and it won’t be in my backyard. In other words, he’s a monster.
To put this mentality in its proper historical context, and as disgusting as the actions (or inaction) of the mufti was, it was not unusual at the time. Many people, who were in positions of power, who could have helped the Jews didn’t, including their current best friend, the United States. There was no coherent plan for the rescuing of Jewish refugees until 1944, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was under pressure from American Jewish groups and the death camps of the Nazis were made known to the president, did he then relent. But by then it was too late, the end of the war was nearing and millions had already died.
While some American activists sincerely intended to assist refugees, serious obstacles to any relaxation of US immigration quotas included public opposition to immigration during a time of economic depression, xenophobia, and antisemitic feelings in both the general public and among some key government officials. Once the United States entered World War II, the State Department practiced stricter immigration policies out of fear that refugees could be blackmailed into working as agents for Germany.
The ‘not in my backyard’ sentiment was not only restricted to monsters like the mufti al-Husseini. Just like Islamophobia today, anti-semitism (overt and latent), even amongst the ‘civilized’ peoples of the West was rife during the early 20th century. There was a pervasive mistrust of Jews, that they were somehow ‘different’. This doesn’t mean society at large wanted to see Jewish people gassed and murdered but when tragedy was befalling on the Jewish people of Europe, when their homes were being confiscated and looted, their businesses being trashed, synagogues being burnt, very few people felt the inclination to help because they didn’t sympathize with them. Many people looked the other way. There was a grand conspiracy of silence.
So, back to Bibi’s assertion that had the mufti allowed the Jews to find safety in Palestine and relieved the burden from Hitler’s hands, The Final Solution wouldn’t have happened. Firstly, most credible historians and scholars doubt that such conversation took place between Hitler and Haj al-Husseini at their one and only meeting in 1941, and most agree and evidenced from the meticulous file keeping nature of the Germans, Hitler always had The Final Solution in mind, he didn’t need persuading or dissuading by anyone else. But for argument’s sake, let’s pretend the mufti did say to Hitler ‘burn them’ – do what you want, just make sure they don’t end up in Palestine and there is proof that this utterance by the mufti took place, it still doesn’t absolve Hitler from his actions, not even a little bit. We are all responsible for our actions, even if we are goaded by someone else to commit evil and we take the bait and succumb to the goading, how does that absolve us of any responsibility? The mufti can say whatever he wants to say with respect to the Jews and what to do about them, does that mean his intended audience (Hitler and his henchmen) have no choice but to listen and carry out his plans? Hitler and the Nazis were a lot of things, being weak willed wasn’t one of them. In 1941, where this meeting took place, the Nazis were at the height of their powers. Hitler thought his Third Reich was going to last a thousand years, he didn’t need to (and he wouldn’t countenance to) take any advice from anyone but himself and his Nazi henchmen.
Of course this sort of race baiting language by Netanyahu is to serve his political aim, which is to do more of nothing about a Two-State Solution with the Palestinians. By inciting recent history, the most tragic chapter in the existence of the Jewish people and how a Palestinian leader had something to do with their extermination, it’s then permissible to occupy Palestinian territories and its people. It’s then permissible to deprive millions of people their civil rights and rights of due process, rights of traveling freely and to live unharassed and unmolested, regardless if they’ve committed acts of terrorism or not. They are all treated with suspicion, as potential terrorists, guilty until proven innocent – a most un-American notion.
Every president since Harry Truman has looked the other way or defended our ‘friend’ when their actions were questionable, especially when they are not up to the standards of American civil justice. They were never condemned. At best they were excused, depending on who was in power, some presidents made excessive allowances for Israel and there are some, like our current president, President Obama decides to say nothing, no praise or rebuke, which is taken as indifference by Israel and its allies (the Republican Party who know not one jot of modern Israeli history). When Bibi decided to come to Congress and give Israel’s only friend in the world a schooling about the Iran Deal, our president said nothing, except that he won’t attend. Our Vice President was otherwise engaged, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, by default had to attend as leader of the Democratic Caucus. Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY), when the whole sorry episode was over, he said: “Now the prime minister can go home to his campaign and say he lectured Congress and the American people on things that, apparently, we didn’t know.” Former President Bill Clinton rather politely said Bibi’s actions were ‘unprecedented’ by a leader of another nation. Others showed their disapproval with their stony silence.
The fact is, this friendship is unbalanced. Unbalanced in the way that Israel needs the United States more than the United States needs Israel. In the world of polite diplomacy, in fear appearing in poor form, this fact isn’t articulated quite enough. Israel, for anyone who opposes the Prime Minister’s policies they are promptly called anti-semitic if they aren’t Jewish. If one is Jewish and opposes some of the policies of Israel, then they are a self-hating Jew.
Bibi was invited by House Speaker John Boehner, without consulting the president, which is a break with protocol and etiquette. The president chose to not meet with his ‘friend’ during his short trip because Netanyahu was in the middle of a tough re-election and Obama doesn’t want to be seen as endorsing him. Bibi and John ‘Crybaby’ Boehner both need to attend charm school and brush up on their manners, as it is sorely lacking. Obama has been accused of throwing Israel under the bus, of being indifferent to their ‘plight’ and many noted the personal animosity between Bibi and Obama and how they dislike each other, or more importantly in this scenario, how Obama never warmed to Bibi. Last I checked, it isn’t a crime to not like someone, especially someone as difficult to like as Bibi.
At the end of the day, these ‘friends’, the leaders of US and Israel, have to serve their national interests first. The reputation of the United States have suffered because of our unconditional support for Israel. This is a fact. This not a policy debate. This isn’t a biased view. The United States have also taken this unnecessary scorn from other parts of the world silently because we are being a ‘good’ friend. And what did we get in return for this loyalty and friendship? A schooling from Bibi.
However this time, Israel’s former enemy, Germany, has come to the rescue, in light of Bibi’s monumental misunderstanding of his own history. Poor Frau Merkel, she’s got to drop everything she’s doing, make a call to the Prime Minister of Israel and summon him to Germany like a naughty schoolboy being called to the principal’s office, her spokesperson Steffen Seibert released the following statement:
“All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilization that was the Holocaust. This is taught in German schools for good reason, it must never be forgotten. And I see no reason to change our view of history in any way. We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own.”
And from Frau Merkel herself: “Germany is clear on its responsibility for the Holocaust. We stand behind our responsibility and I don’t see any need to change our relation to history.” Just like the woman herself, short (in her speech, not her stature), succinct and to the point. It must be exhausting for her, to first deal with the xenophobes in Europe with respect to Syrian refugees and now she’s got to clarify her country’s history to say ‘Yes, we murdered 12 million people for no good reason other than we feel they were inferior and inflicted the worst human conflict the world has ever seen.’ Now can we go home?
And Bibi, never to back down from a fight (he wouldn’t be who he is if he did, got to give a man props for that):
“The questions about the mufti shouldn’t be directed at me,” said Netanyahu during the press conference with Merkel. “The questions should be directed to President Abbas. Why do he and the Palestinian Authority officially glorify the mufti and call him the father of the Palestinian people? It’s important to see what they’re doing in textbooks as well. During the twenties, the Mufti also said that the Jewish people want to damage the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and it was as much a lie then as it is today. Therefore we must ask Abbas – why do you glorify him?”
Oh Bibi, as a student of history, as a son of the most prominent Jewish historian of modern times, must you really insult your own intelligence and ask why Palestinians ‘glorify’ the mufti?
When a population is oppressed such as the Palestinians are, they seek to find a ‘hero’ to save them, if they can’t find him in life, then they look back to history and glorify a time in their history when they were in charge of their destiny and for now, it’s the mufti. This is how Hitler came to power, this is why Hitler is still revered in some quarters. It’s how communism came to power. Lastly, Haj al-Husseini isn’t responsible for the Holocaust, he may have looked the other way, he may have encouraged it, he may have even praised it, he may have jumped for joy at the thought of it, no doubt he’s a monster too, but he didn’t do it. The Palestinians, perhaps in a different time or different era, when their lives have improved significantly, they will regard the mufti as the monstrous person he was and may recoil at the thought that they once worshipped him but for now, the mufti is part of Palestinian history.
Moreover, as long as it’s acceptable to study Ariel Sharon in Israeli history books and regard him as a military hero even after the Sabra and Shatilla Massacre during the First Lebanon War (1982), and Sharon was never brought up on war crimes and became Prime Minister of Israel after 1982, it should not be held against the Palestinians to study about the mufti in their history books.
The United States, for all its faults, has been a good friend to Israel, at the expense of her reputation to the rest of the world. For that, Bibi, and all Prime Ministers of past and present should be grateful. And they should show their gratefulness with their actions not just with their words.