Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Hitler got the idea for the extermination of the Jews from a Palestinian leader, the mufti of Jerusalem, is continuing to draw widespread scorn, though leading American Jewish groups are trying to deemphasize the hatefulness of the comments.
Today Secretary of State John Kerry met Netanyahu in Berlin and appeared to criticize Netanyahu’s comments as a form of incitement:
We have to stop incitement, we have to stop the violence. And I think it’s critical. Obviously, this conversation that you and I will have is very important to settle on the steps that will be taken that take us beyond the condemnation and beyond the rhetoric. It is absolutely critical to end all incitement and all violence, and to find a road forward to build the possibility that is not there today for a larger process.
At yesterday’s press briefing at the State Department, State spox John Kirby characterized Netanyahu’s comments as “inflammatory” and “factually incorrect” and contradicted by “scholarly evidence.” A questioner suggested that Netanyahu was practicing Holocaust denial, but State didn’t rise to the challenge:
JOHN KIRBY: We’ve certainly seen and we’re aware of the prime minister’s statements. And as President Obama said, certainly Secretary Kerry has made clear, we want to stress publicly and privately the importance of preventing inflammatory rhetoric, accusations, or actions on both sides that can lead to violence...
QUESTION: Is it historically correct? Do you believe that —
MR KIRBY: I’m also not going to get into a historical debate about this. We’ve seen the press reports of his comments, and if you look at them they would connote that the scholarly evidence does not support that position...
QUESTION: … Come on. You stand at this podium day after day and you talk about incitement and the Palestinians incite something, and then the prime minister says something that is not only obviously factually incorrect but just so exploitative in this environment, and you’re dancing around the fact that it was inappropriate without just kind of saying what you’re hinting at, that these were inflammatory remarks that only contribute to the type of destabilization that you’re asking.
MR KIRBY: Right. No, Elise, I mean, I understand where you’re coming from. I’ve been, I think, consistent and I’m going to stay consistent that we’re not going to get into a characterization of each and every incident and each and every word spoken. What we want to see and we want – I think what we want to do is for everybody to take a few steps back, and we want to see the inflammatory rhetoric, we want to see inflammatory actions, we want to see provocative movements, all that stuff stop so that there can be an end to the violence, so that there can be some political breathing space for some real solutions.
QUESTION: May I? When you go – I mean, you do say when there are Holocaust deniers and such, you’re quick to point out the inaccuracy of their statements. So I take it to mean that the reason that you’re not publicly criticizing it is because you think that this would just contribute to a bad climate of – what?
MR KIRBY: Well, I think I’m going to leave my answer the way it was. We’ve seen the press reports of the prime minister’s comments, and in those reports you can see for yourself the scholarly evidence obviously supports a different position. But again, what we – what needs to happen here and why the Secretary is going is to try to find ways – practical, tangible, concrete ways – to reduce the violence.
The Anti Defamation League has spoken out against Netanyahu’s remarks in the mildest possible manner:
We must always be careful in talking about the Holocaust.Even if unintended, the PM’s words trivialize Hitler’s role pic.twitter.com/7BM3Etvxi7
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) October 21, 2015
J Street is soft-peddling the prime minister’s remarks. It hardly touches on them when assailing Palestinian and Israeli leaders for practicing the blame game:
“[Palestinians] don’t want a state to end the conflict; because they want a state to continue the conflict and eradicate the Jewish state. This is what this conflict has always been about,” Netanyahu said. And the Holocaust rhetoric has been ramped up, too; in the same WZC speech, Netanyahu blamed the Mufti of Jerusalem for convincing Hitler to exterminate Jews.
Alan Elsner of J Street also softly rebuked the PM in a statement yesterday that concluded, “The two sides are drowning in mutual hatred,” so the U.S. needs to play a role.
Here’s a Facebook report on Netanyahu’s travels to Berlin, from Yossi Bartal, citing the ways his Holocaust claims violate German speech regulations:
The German police just arrested an Israeli Jew in the Palestinian demo against Netanyahu for supposedly inciting antisemitism because of a sign accusing the prime minister of Holocaust denial. Update: he was released and the accusation changed to ” insulting a foreign head of state”. Another Palestinian feminist activist was arrested as well, for holding a sign with the exact citation of Netanyahu on Hitler. She was accused of “racial incitement”.
This is laughable. CNN reports on Netanyahu’s so-called liberal opposition.
Netanyahu has also been blasted in Israel. Isaac Herzog, the head of that country’s opposition Zionist Union party, said Netanyahu, through his comments, “has forgotten that he is not only the Israeli Prime Minister but also the Prime Minister of the Jewish people.”…
“This is a dangerous distortion of history and I demand that Netanyahu fix it immediately, because it trivializes the Holocaust, trivializes the Nazis and the share of the terrible dictator Adolf Hitler’s terrible tragedy of our people during the Holocaust,” Herzog wrote on his Facebook page.
Finally, a great tweet from Ben White on the Prime Minister’s record.
— Ben White (@benabyad) October 22, 2015