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Palling Around with Nazis: Netanyahu’s political ancestors are also guilty by association

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The commentariat is working overtime trying to shame Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for claiming, in a speech last week, that Adolf Hitler wasn’t behind the plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe. It was, Netanyahu says, a Palestinian, Haj Amin al-Husayni, who gave Hitler the idea. Al-Husayni was grand mufti of Jerusalem, a Muslim leader who’d been appointed by the British administration.

According to Netanyahu, “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time – he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husayni went to Hitler and said ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here.’ ‘So what should I do with them?’ [Hitler] asked.  [Al-Husayni] said ‘Burn them.’”

Not only is Netanyahu blaming a Palestinian leader for the Holocaust – he’s letting Hitler off the hook. Try all you want, Internet. I don’t think shaming will work on this man.

The suggestion that the Holocaust was a strategy to prevent mass Jewish immigration to Palestine seems calculated to not only reinforce the idea of the Jewish state’s being a form of reparations for the Holocaust, but to imply that it’s the Palestinians who owed it.  And of course Netanyahu’s remarks are calibrated to the present moment, in which violence is ramping up on all sides. In lieu of practicable and just solutions, scapegoating is the top priority.

There’s nothing to suggest we’ll hear him recant. Stirring up ideations of vengeance with ahistoric libel is, in Netanyahu’s line of work, good for business. Inflammatory rhetoric has a way of precipitating more suspicion, more stabbings, more armed settlers out for blood, and, ultimately, more checkpoints, more land grabs, more of the same. The status quo that keeps Israel’s right-wing in power demands it; job security is the reward for cultivating a state of perpetual tension.

While Netanyahu’s account of the mufti-Hitler exchange has been swiftly and almost universally dismissed as fiction, there is one caveat: Though he didn’t mastermind the ‘Final Solution’, the mufti did align himself with axis leaders, including Hitler. In exchange for helping them fight the British, al-Husayni was hoping the axis would back him in opposing plans for a Jewish state in Palestine.  On November 28, 1941, Hitler and al-Husayni met.  There are multiple written accounts of the meeting, none of which contain anything close to Netanyahu’s imagined scenario.

As for a strategic alliance, al-Husayni and Hitler never hashed out a deal, though they did maintain an acquaintanceship. When it comes to Nazism, guilt by association goes a long way, and there’s no reason for history to be kind to al-Husayni. (Accurate would be nice, though.)

But guess who else reached out to the Nazis looking for a partnership? A group known as Lehi (or the ‘Stern Gang’), a Zionist militia which had split from the Irgun – itself a splinter of the main Jewish army, the Haganah – in 1940. (Each breakaway militia felt the tactics of its parent group weren’t aggressive enough.)

The Zionist militias were looking for help seizing Palestine from the British, so it made sense to align themselves with Hitler. They offered to help fight on Germany’s side, in exchange for the transfer of Europe’s Jews to Palestine and Hitler’s support of a ‘totalitarian’ Jewish state. As Tel Aviv University history professor Yaacov Shavit writes, when a Lehi representative met with a Nazi diplomat in Beirut in January 1941, “he proposed a political as well as military cooperation leading to the establishment of a Jewish state on a nationalist and totalitarian footing, that would be linked by a treaty to the German Reich.”

Hitler didn’t respond to the overtures – as Shavit explains,  “All that Lehi could in effect have offered Germany as its contribution to the Nazi war effort, was to act as a fifth column and try to place obstacles in the way of the British in Palestine“ – and the deal stalled.

If you’ve heard of the Irgun and Lehi, chances are it’s because of the Deir Yassin massacre, which the two militia groups carried out jointly. The massacre, of a Palestinian village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, was a pivotal episode in the 1948 war, contributing greatly to the terror that helped facilitate Palestinian displacement.

Al-Husayni, of course, didn’t manage to stop the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.  The State of Israel exists, and its leadership shows no interest in backing down from decades of occupation and settlement policy the international community considers illegal.

But what became of the Irgun and Lehi, these dissident militias? After the massacre, and the terrorist attacks (including the well-known King David Hotel bombing), and the flirtation with Nazism (not to mention a near-civil war with the Haganah), one might presume the dissidents were ultimately discredited, and shut out of Israel’s future leadership.

Not a chance.  The militias were largely folded into the new Jewish state’s military and administration. Yitzhak Shamir, a leader of Lehi, went on to become the seventh Prime Minister of the State of Israel.  The Irgun and Lehi each have a military honor named for them, and there is a museum for each in Tel Aviv. More streets and parks in Israel are named for Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of the Revisionist Zionist movement that Irgun and Lehi belonged to, than any other person in history.

Menachem Begin, leader of the Irgun, became Israel’s sixth Prime Minister. Begin, notably, was behind the bombing of the British administration headquarters at the King David Hotel, during which Irgun terrorists disguised themselves as Arabs. (That tradition of playing dress-up has endured; there are regular reports of the Israel Defense Forces sending agent provocateurs into peaceful protests as a pretext for crackdowns on Palestinian demonstrators).

Begin also founded the right-wing Herut party, which carried on the Revisionist Zionism mantle of the Irgun and Lehi.  It later merged with several other parties and became Likud.

Likud . . . where have we heard that name before? Oh, right, Likud: the party of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the guy who just accused a Palestinian of being behind the Holocaust.

About Joe Dobkin

Joe Dobkin is a freelance writer based in New York.

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29 Responses

  1. Rodneywatts
    October 27, 2015, 4:08 pm

    Thank you Joe for writing this piece, which expands somewhat on my comment under Marc Ellis’ article on Netanyahu’s Revisionism:

    In the comment to @Just I gave two links to blogs by a British Jew – Tony Greenstein – which substantiate and give extra info to that which you report:

    The second link is joint with Lenni Brenner who has authored two book and edited ‘ 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis’

    I guess Nuttyyahoo should have learnt and digested the proverb: people who live in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones’

    • JWalters
      October 27, 2015, 8:31 pm

      So much for the noble origins of the “Zionist project”. This is what you get when you have war profiteers bankrolling you, a certain lack of ethical concerns.

  2. Citizen
    October 27, 2015, 4:55 pm


  3. amigo
    October 27, 2015, 5:22 pm

    The dirty little secrets surrounding the creation of the zionist entity are coming out slowly but the pace is picking up.Much more to be shared with a long duped public and if the world is full of Jew haters , as is constantly claimed by zionists , then there is going to be hell to pay when the dam bursts.Most people resent being treated like fools , especially by those claiming they are superior.

    No sir , it will not be pretty.I just hope they separate the guilty from the innocent.

    • Mooser
      October 27, 2015, 5:29 pm

      “No sir , it will not be pretty.I just hope they separate the guilty from the innocent.”

      If I am capable of reading him and understanding it, “Hostage” pointed out lots of laws, at least for Americans, which will enable doing that. And most of the Federal sentences aren’t too long.

      On the other hand, all they really have to do is demote us to ordinary people. That might be a catastrophic penalty.

  4. pabelmont
    October 27, 2015, 5:47 pm

    Nice history. I’ll wait to hear it on NPR, but perhaps with the radio turned off — to save electric power. The New Yorker? One always hopes. The NYT? (I had a dream — )

  5. Kay24
    October 27, 2015, 5:49 pm

    Interesting article. Who knew Bibi’s own people wanted to form an alliance with Hitler. That is beyond despicable when you think about it. Netanyahu is he had any intelligence would be regretting lying about this Mufti, because it has not only backfired on him (once again, who is counting?) but brings attention to his troublemaking and lies.

    Go Bibi!

    • amigo
      October 27, 2015, 5:58 pm

      “Who knew Bibi’s own people wanted to form an alliance with Hitler – See more at:” Kay 24

      That story has been around a long time.Google” Lehi colusion with Nazis.”.Let,s see if gets the hasbaristas out of hiding.I always enjoy reading their denials as they create their own facts.

      • Kay24
        October 27, 2015, 6:05 pm

        I sense the has brats are finding it more and more difficult to defend the indefensible.

        Every day, their leader’s lies are unravelling, and he is make their father land look bad.

    • Marnie
      October 28, 2015, 1:01 am

      Be gone BB! Isn’t it great fun when BB gets all History Channel on us, and is wrong at every turn. BB stepped into a big mess pile of ziodung (borrowing a much-loved Mooserism). Hokey smokes!

  6. Mooser
    October 27, 2015, 6:25 pm

    “The Zionist militias were looking for help seizing Palestine from the British, so it made sense to align themselves with Hitler.”

    And if you click the link, (on “align” in the text of the article) you will see they are still saying what a clever move it was.

  7. diasp0ra
    October 27, 2015, 6:27 pm

    At least Al-Husseini was an appointee by the British (not voted), and what little influence he had, he lost when he left Palestine. His legacy is relatively miniscule, whereas the Zionist collaborators with Nazis on the other side went to become voted officials and leaders of Israel, immortalized on postage stamps and having towns named in their honor.

    History will be very unkind to the whole Zionist entity, just you wait.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      October 27, 2015, 7:05 pm

      “History will be very unkind to the whole Zionist entity, just you wait.”

      I have long anticipated the day when those who supported Zionism will be looked upon with the same contempt as those who supported Israel’s ally, Apartheid South Africa.

      And just as it’s now impossible to find anyone who’ll admit to having supported Apartheid (though we all know they existed) so too all those Zio useful idiots will melt away and pretend that they were for justice all along.

      Sadly for them, however, with the interwebs, there’s no hiding. We’re onto them.

      • WH
        October 28, 2015, 4:24 am

        There were no consequences for Israel’s support for SA, so why should there be any consequences for the Zionist enablers? Justice is defined by the powerful.

  8. RoHa
    October 27, 2015, 6:43 pm

    “If you’ve heard of the Irgun and Lehi, chances are it’s because”

    you’ve made the effort to learn some history of Palestine.

  9. Keith
    October 27, 2015, 6:45 pm

    In view of Zionism’s sordid history, it should be obvious that Netanyahu can even bring up the former Mufti because he is supremely confident of Zionist power to control the narrative. I agree with him on this. The attention is being diverted from the current Israeli pogrom onto the Mufti. The more extreme Natanyahu behaves, the more successful he is.

  10. amigo
    October 27, 2015, 6:47 pm

    This from the j post , (via the LA Times) before it became a zionist mouthpiece.

    “Paper Breaks Taboo on Shamir, Nazi Link : Jerusalem Post Cites Stern Gang Past, Hits Stance on Peace Now
    March 07, 1989|From Reuters

    JERUSALEM — Israel’s Jerusalem Post broke a national taboo today by writing of a 1941 link between Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s Stern Gang guerrillas and Nazi Germany.

    The episode, known to historians, is almost never mentioned in a country that reveres the memory of 6 million European Jews, including Shamir’s entire family, killed by the Nazis during World War II.

    The respected English-language daily, which bitterly opposes Shamir, broke the silence in an editorial blasting “obscene attacks” by the premier and other right-wingers on the Peace Now movement’s contacts with Palestinians.

    Noting that Shamir said there would be “no KGB in Israel” to hunt down Peace Now activists, the Post commented:

    “That might be reassuring, but for the disturbing memory (of the Stern Gang) . . . which, with the Final Solution already under way in all but name, sought out German cooperation in the setting up here of a Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis.”.

  11. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    October 27, 2015, 8:49 pm

    The caption on the photo contains a mistake: Begin belonged to the Irgun and not to the Stern Gang.

    • Mooser
      October 27, 2015, 10:33 pm

      “The caption on the photo contains a mistake: Begin belonged to the Irgun and not to the Stern Gang.”

      Well, well, let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us.The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power .

    • inbound39
      October 28, 2015, 12:33 am

      Either way…both organizations were outlawed as Terrorist groups. Israel was founded on Terrorism.

    • talknic
      October 28, 2015, 1:55 am

      @ yonah fredman “The caption on the photo contains a mistake: Begin belonged to the Irgun and not to the Stern Gang”

      So go moan to “THE PALESTINE POLICE FORCE”

      Why do Zionutters always whinge and complain to the wrong people?

      • Marnie
        October 28, 2015, 4:49 am

        Yonah “……contains a mistake…”

        And that was the only one. Yonah, you’re a hoot!

    • ziusudra
      October 28, 2015, 4:58 am

      Greetings yonah fredman,
      What’s the diff.?
      Call it Nazism, Fascism, Zionism?
      The Brits, French & US have been
      doing the same thing. No one would
      dare call the US, France or UK any of
      these ideologies.

  12. echinococcus
    October 27, 2015, 9:33 pm

    Same stinking pile.

  13. talknic
    October 28, 2015, 1:47 am

    Kristallnacht 1938

    “Lehi representative met with a Nazi diplomat in Beirut in January 1941 ” … after the Holocaust had begun!

    • Marnie
      October 28, 2015, 4:55 am

      Let’s not get all caught up in the flotsam and jetsum of historical (versus hysterical) facts. It’s much more headline-grabbing to continue screaming about a so-called holocaust creating mufti. After all, we’ve got an apartheid, colonial enterprise to keep a runnin’ and Amer’kins to keep busy footin’ the bill.

    • lysias
      October 28, 2015, 10:37 am

      To be fair, the almost universal view about Kristallnacht at the time was not that it was the beginning of an attempt to kill all Jews, but that it was a violent means of inducing the remaining German Jews to emigrate. I’m now rereading Brigitte Hamann’s life of Winifred Wagner, and it recounts how this is how Hitler justified Kristallnacht to intimates.

      After the conquest of Poland in September-October 1939, one can say now that it was the beginning of the Holocaust. The SS Einsatzgruppen were established, and they shot a lot of Polish Jews (as well as Poles, especially of the elite classes). The Polish Jews were all herded into ghettos, which made their eventual extermination much easier. But in 1939-40, this only seemed to be a particularly violent pogrom, which was directed against both non-Jewish Poles and Polish Jews.

      • Keith
        October 28, 2015, 5:30 pm

        LYSIAS- “To be fair, the almost universal view about Kristallnacht at the time was not that it was the beginning of an attempt to kill all Jews, but that it was a violent means of inducing the remaining German Jews to emigrate.”

        Sounds like Deir Yassin, specifically targeted because the village had cooperated with the Yishuv, therefore, the message that all Arabs should leave would be unmistakable. Yet another parallel that dares not speak its name!

  14. Misterioso
    October 28, 2015, 1:38 pm

    For the record:

    After WWII, a memorandum dated January 11, 1941, was discovered in Ankara. Prepared by the German Naval Attaché in Turkey, it revealed that Naftali Lubentschik, a representative of the Stern Gang (one of the Yishuv’s terrorist organizations), had met with German Nazis, Otto Von Hentig and Rudolph Rosen in Vichy controlled Beirut and proposed that in exchange for military aid and freedom to recruit European Jews for Palestine, the Stern Gang was prepared “…to take an active part in the war on Germany’s side…and [this cooperation] would also be in line with one [of Hitler’s recent speeches, which] stressed that any alliance would be entered into in order to isolate England and defeat it.”

    The proposition presented to the Nazis pointed out that “the establishment of the historical Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis and bound by a treaty with the German Reich would be in the interest of maintaining and strengthening the future German position of power in the Near East.” (Quoted by Klaus Polkehn, “The Secret Contacts: Zionist-Nazi Relations, 1933-1941;” Lenny Brenner, Zionism in the Age of Dictators, Westport, Conn., Lawrence Hill & Co., 1983, p. 267; and Yediot Aharnot, February 4/1983).

    The Nazis considered the Stern Gang’s proposal to be sheer lunacy and rejected it out of hand.

    Following Avraham Stern’s death at the hands of the British in 1942, three of his lieutenants (one of whom was Yitzhak Shamir) took over leadership of the Gang.

    It is revealing to note that despite Abraham Stern’s ignominious record and his flirtation with the Nazis, Ben-Gurion later referred to him as “one of the finest and most outstanding figures of the era.”

    Uri Avnery, renowned Jewish Israeli journalist:
    “Adolf Hitler, who took his racism seriously, applied it to all Semites. He could not stand Arabs either. Contrary to legend, he disliked the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who had fled to Germany. After meeting him once for a photo-opportunity arranged by the Nazi propaganda machine, he never agreed to meet him again.”

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