More than a week after he provoked controversy by saying a Palestinian cleric inspired Hitler to carry out the Holocaust, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now says he meant no such thing.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday backtracked from a previous assertion he had made that a leading Palestinian cleric gave Adolf Hitler the idea to murder European jews in the Holocaust — a suggestion that had prompted widespread criticism.
Netanyahu had said earlier this month that he had not intended to absolve the Nazi leader of any responsibility of the murder of six million Jews during World War II, despite claiming the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, had given Hitler the idea for the so-called “Final Solution.”
In a statement, written in Hebrew and English and posted to Facebook on Friday, Netanyahu acknowledged that the “decision to move from a policy of deporting Jews to the Final Solution was made by the Nazis and was not dependent on outside influence.”
“My remarks were intended to illustrate the murderous approach of the Mufti to the Jews in his lengthy contacts with the Nazi leadership,” he wrote. “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.”
At a World Zionist Congress meeting in Jerusalem on Oct. 20, Netanyahu alleged that the mufti expressed concern to Hitler that the Nazi leader’s plan to expel Jews from Europe would result in them traveling to what was then Palestine.
According to Netayahu, when Hitler asked al-Husseini what he should do instead, the mufti replied, “Burn them.”
Holocaust scholars have said that while the mufti did support Hitler’s treatment of the Jews, his meeting with Hitler did not take place until after the German leader had decided to employ the Final Solution.
In his statement Friday, Netanyahu maintained the mufti was a “war criminal who collaborated with the Nazis and who opposed the creation of a Jewish state in any boundaries.”
When asked by the New York Times why the prime minister decided to backtrack nearly two weeks after his remarks, a senior Israeli advisor, who spoke anonymously, said he wanted to “set the record straight.”