(This article is published in Salon.)
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s hard-line right-wing prime minister, is flirting with Holocaust revisionism, and people around the world, and especially within his own government, are furious. A professor at a prominent Israeli university has even accused the leader of Holocaust denial.
In his speech at the World Zionist Congress on Wednesday, Netanyahu blamed the Holocaust not on Hitler and Nazism, but rather on Palestinians. He claimed Hitler wanted to expel Europe’s Jews, not kill them. According to the Israeli prime minister, it was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who inspired Hitler to carry out the most heinous crime ever committed against Jews, referred to in Hebrew as the Shoah.
Haaretz — Israel’s oldest and most prestigious newspaper, often referred to as “Israel’s The New York Times” — reported the story in an article titled “Netanyahu: Hitler Didn’t Want to Exterminate the Jews.” The newspaper pointed out that this dubious, ahistorical claim is flatly rejected by the vast majority of scholars.
Moshe Zimmermann, an historian at Israel’s Hebrew University, told The New York Times that, with these egregious remarks, “Netanyahu joins a long line of people that we would call Holocaust deniers.” Meir Litvak, an historian at Israel’s Tel Aviv University, called Netanyahu’s claims “a lie” and “a disgrace.”
Critics from left-leaning Israeli parties were absolutely enraged at the staunchly conservative prime minister’s comments.