Experienced debaters know that when the facts are strongly in your favor be sure not to overstate them in any fashion. If one does, the debate will quickly focus on the one point of exaggeration, and one's entire advantage lost.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is an excellent debater. But his failure to adhere to the above rule in a recent speech to the World Zionist Congress caused his major and extremely important point to be lost. Netanyahu argued that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj-Amin al-Husseini, persuaded Hitler, ym"sh, at a November 28, 1941 meeting in Berlin to embark on the Final Solution.
In the subsequent controversy over that claim, Netanyahu's major point was lost: the Palestinian national movement has been deeply infected with what the late scholar of anti-Semitism Robert Wistrich termed "exterminationist anti-Semitism" from the start, and the infection has continued to spread until today.
A case could perhaps be made for Netanyahu's claim. (Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, zt"l, once made a similar argument in the Jewish Observer.) Dieter Wisliceny, the right-hand man to Adolph Eichmann, who conducted extensive negotiations towards the end of the war with various Jewish rescue activists, testified at Nuremberg that "the Grand Mufti . . . played a role in the decision of the German government to exterminate the European Jews, the importance of which must not be disregarded. He had repeatedly suggested to various authorities with whom he has been in contact, above all before Hitler, . . . the extermination of European Jewry."
And Professor Wistrich once told me that he does not think that Hitler made the final decision to kill every Jew until Pearl Harbor. With the entry of America into the war, it became, in Hitler's mind, a true world war, the cataclysmic final war between Aryans and Jews he had always anticipated. The meeting between the Mufti and Hitler preceded Pearl Harbor by a little more than a week.
Nevertheless, the consensus of historians of the Final Solution is that of Christopher Browning, author of The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942: Hitler, euphoric over the early success of Russian campaign, decided to implement the Final Solution by October 1941 – in other words, before his November meeting with the Mufti.
BUT ALL THIS IS BESIDE THE POINT. What is undisputed is that the Mufti pressed for the total eradication of every European Jew, lest any find their way to Palestine, in every meeting with Nazi officials, including at his meeting with Hitler. At that meeting, Hitler affirmed his commitment to the "total destruction of the Judeo-Communist empire in Europe."
In addition, Hitler expressed an eagerness to enlist the Mufti's assistance. Historian Jeffrey Herf studied the Nazi transcript of the Hitler-Mufti meeting for his Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World. It records the following understanding: "[As the German armies drive south from the Caucuses,] Germany's objective would then be solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab under the protection of British power. In that hour, the Mufti would be the most authoritative spokesman for the Arab world. It would then be his task to set off the Arab operations, which he had secretly prepared."
The Mufti repeatedly extolled Hitler in his wartime broadcasts for having fully grasped the nature of the "Jewish peril" and for "having resolved to find a Final Solution to liberate the world from this danger. He synthesized Nazism with the teachings of "the Prophet" on the perfidy of the Jews in all times and places.
And as Rommel's Afrika Korps threatened to conquer Palestine in the summer of 1942, the Mufti incited constantly on the radio "to kill the Jews." German historians Michael Mallman and Martin Cuppers have documented at length in Nazi Palestine: Plans for the Extermination of the Jews of Palestine the Nazi plans for the murder of the Jews of Palestine. Had Rommel prevailed at Al Alamein, the Nazis planned to send a SS Ensatzgrubbe to employ the same techniques as in Poland and Russia on the Jews of Egypt. Fortunately, Rommel's tanks ran out of gas, and he was defeated at Al Alamein.
In short, not only was the Mufti a constant advocate for the murder of every Jew, but he eagerly anticipated playing a lead role in the destruction of Jews in Palestine and beyond. In addition, he was the principle recruiter of at least ten thousand Bosnian and Albanian Muslims into the SS.
AL HUSSEINI'S CLOSE ALLIANCE with Hitler is not just a matter of historical interest. And that is why Prime Minister Netanyahu chose to emphasize it. The Mufti, writes Herf, "is still a revered figure in Palestinian society. He appears in the textbooks, and it is taught that he is one of the founding fathers of the nation." He was viewed as a mentor and hero by both Yasir Arafat, to whom he was related, and Arafat's successor Mahmoud Abbas.
The techniques of incitement against Jews that he used to instigate the 1921, 1929, and between 1936 and 1939, are the same techniques that are being employed today. The claim voiced recently by Abbas that Jews were defiling the Temple Mount with their dirty feet was employed by the Mufti to incite the riots of 1936-39. And Arafat referred in a speech to a "Jewish desire" to seize Islamic holy sites, including the Al-Aksa Mosque.
Nor was the Mufti, the only Arab leader deeply attracted by Nazism and fascism. Hitler was a hero to Michel Aflaq, the founder of Syrian and Iraqi Baathism. Moslem Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb wrote Our Struggle with the Jews, an obvious reference to Hitler's Mein Kampf (My Struggle), in which he rejected any possible cessation in the "liberating struggle of jihad" against the Jews, and threatened any Arab country that contemplated any form of accommodation with Israel.
Hassan al-Banna, the founding ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is one offshoot), was deeply attracted by the fascist death cult. He melded virulent anti-Semitism with the celebration of death in his 1938 work, "The Art of Death." It proved an attractive brew in the Arab world. Between 1936 and 1938, the Muslim Brotherhood grew from 800 members to 200,000.
Islamofascism, with its death cult and cosmology of civilizational struggle between the forces of righteousness and demonic evil (represented by Israel and the Jews), today holds thrall millions of Muslims, from alienated Muslim youth in Europe eager to join ISIS to Hamas to citizens of 57 Islamic countries.
That same death cult is seen today in the Palestinian celebration of suicide bombers as holy martyrs, after whom streets, parks, and schools are named, and in the current wave of attacks on Israeli Jews, in which the majority of perpetrators have been killed.
YET TO POINT to the impact of Nazism on contemporary Palestinian and Arab society is to break a taboo. That is what Netanyahu did at the World Zionist Congress.
In his The Flight of the Intellectuals, Paul Berman lists a number of things that it is forbidden to say in better company today. First, that Islamism, or what is sometimes referred to as Islamofascism, is a modern political tendency, that arose out of fraternal harmony with the fascists of Europe in the 1930s and '40s. Second, that Nazi inspirations have visibly taken root among present-day Islamists, notably in regard to the demonic nature of Jewish conspiracies and the virtues of genocide. Berman ignores both taboos in his detailed study of the ideological roots of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Despite its subtitle, Robert Wistrich's A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad primarily focuses on modern Muslim anti-Semitism. Yet even with that focus, there is no padding in the tightly-packed 938 pages and several hundred pages of accompanying notes. I once asked Professor Wistrich why he felt the necessity to document the most virulent anti-Semitism at such length. He told me that he did not want anyone to say that his quotations were not representative or cherry-picked.
Only by so copiously documenting the phenomenon, he explained, could he establish that virulent anti-Semitism is not, as some would have it, a minor phenomenon in the Muslim world. It permeates Muslim society. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion has been reprinted numerous times in every Muslim country. In 2005, when Israeli and Turkey were still strategic allies, it was the second best-selling book in Turkey. And the Protocols were dramatized over 24 weeks on Egyptian TV.
The depth and breadth of contemporary Arab anti-Semitism, following in the footsteps of the Mufti, Qutb, and al-Banna, is of great significance, though Western leaders and many Israeli Jews do not wish to acknowledge that significance. To wit, Palestinian nationalism is not primarily over borders and territory, and therefore the Palestinian-Israel conflict cannot be resolved by territorial compromise. Sermons on official PA media repeatedly command the faithful, "Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them. Wherever you meet them, kill them."
Far from abating since the days of the Mufti, the anti-Semitism has only gotten worse fueled by the twin humiliation of repeated military defeat at the hands of Israel and Israeli's economic flourishing compared to its neighbors. Bernard Lewis, the doyen of Middle East scholars, points out that the Jew was always viewed as a "coward" in Islamic society, and as a consequence being defeated by Jews has proven especially humiliating. Only military victory, not territorial arrangements, can remove the stain.
SHIMON PERES once said, "I don't care what the Arabs say, only what's written in agreements." A stupider statement was never made. Agreements without the intention to fulfill them are worthless, like a piece of the action with Bernie Madoff.
How the Palestinians speak about Jews and the incitement in which Palestinian children are saturated are the best indicators of their intentions and the best predictors of future actions, including the chances for a solution based on territorial compromise.
That was – or should have been – Netanyahu's point. And it is one to which we should all pay attention.