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Israel's Netanyahu retracts 'Palestinians inspired Holocaust' gaffe

'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'
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset (Israeli parliament) on 12 October in Jerusalem (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement on Friday retracting his statements against a Palestinian cleric he accused of inspiring Hitler to carry out the Holocaust.

In the statement Netanyahu said he never intended to absolve Hitler of responsibility for the Holocaust by blaming the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, reported the New York Times.

Since his accusations, Netanyahu has met wide local and international condemnation, with Israeli historians saying the prime minister had distorted facts.

Following his statement, the prime minister further reached out to the public to rectify the situation. 

“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,” Netanyahu posted in English and Hebrew on Facebook

“The Nazis saw in the Mufti a collaborator, but they did not need him to decide on the systematic destruction of European Jewry, which began in June 1941.

“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. The Nazis decided on that by themselves,” he wrote.

In a speech on 20 October to the World Zionist Congress Netanyahu recounted the meeting between Hitler and Husseini, saying: “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time - he wanted to expel the Jews.”

The Israeli prime minister quoted Hussein as saying: “If you expel them, they’ll all come here,” referring to Palestine, and then said Hitler had asked: “So what should I do with them?” The mufti replied: “Burn them,” said Netanyahu.

After historians declared Netanyahu's account to be a lie, he wrote in his Facebook post that his initial “remarks were intended to illustrate the murderous approach of the mufti to the Jews in his lengthy contacts with the Nazi leadership".

According to Netanyahu, Mufti Hussein “propagated the big lie that the Jews intend to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque,” an idea that has been cited as the reason behind ongoing Israeli-Palestinian violence.

“This lie lives on and continues to exact a price in blood,” Netanyahu continued, saying that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had called the mufti "a Palestinian ‘pioneer'," in 2013.  

Netanyahu's statements come after at least 61 Palestinians, including attackers, have been killed across Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories since a wave unrest erupted at the beginning of October. Nine Israelis have been killed.

Protests in recent days have erupted over Israel’s policy of withholding the bodies of attackers. Tensions are on the rise over the al-Aqsa mosque compound, also known as Temple Mount, in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.

Palestinians have long feared Israelis seek to change the rules governing the site, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

Netanyahu has repeatedly denied seeking to allow Jews to pray at the compound, where only Muslims are allowed to pray while non-Muslims can visit.

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