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Netanyahu: Palestinian mufti, not Hitler, wanted to exterminate Jews

The Israeli PM told the 37th Zionist Congress that the Mufti of Jerusalem flew to Berlin and convinced Hitler to exterminate Jews
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday blamed Palestinian religious leaders for the Holocaust, raising tensions further after almost three weeks of unrest in Israel and the Palestinian territories. 

His comments were made during an address to the 37th Zionist Congress and came after a day of violence that saw five Palestinians, including alleged attackers, killed in the occupied territories and an Israeli killed in a traffic incident in the West Bank. 

In his speech, Netanyahu focused on incitement, saying Palestinian incitement could be traced back to before the creation of the Israeli state, and claiming that a Palestinian religious leader had encouraged Adolf Hitler to carry out the Holocaust.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, "flew to Berlin," Netanyahu said. "Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews."

"And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here.' 'So what should I do with them?' he asked. He said, 'Burn them.'"

Netanyahu's claim is dismissed by most Holocaust scholars, who insist the first death camps were formed before the 1941 meeting between Husseini and Hitler. However, the idea is promoted by a few fringe researchers, Haaretz reported. 

Author Zaid Jilani pointed out in an article that there were several historical references to the Nazis' "final solution" and even moves to implement the Holocaust months before the meeting. 

"This statement is almost too absurd to debunk," Jilani wrote.

"The killing centres in Poland were organised under so-called Operation Reinhard, and work on these units began in October 1941, a month before the Mufti visited Jerusalem."

 
Critics were quick to slam Netanyahu's comments on social media.

Violence continues in West Bank, Gaza as Ban visits

Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers after one of them allegedly stabbed a soldier in the Old City of Hebron in the southern West Bank, local media reported.

The Palestinian news agency Maan quoted an Israeli military spokesperson as saying: "Two suspects approached a military post in Hebron, one of the assailants stabbed a soldier, with forces shooting both suspects."

Maan named the teenagers as Bashar Nidal al-Jabari, 15, and 17-year-old Hussam Ismail Jamil al-Jabari.

A total of five Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces so far on Tuesday, including four attack suspects in the West Bank and one Palestinian in Gaza.
 
Palestinian media reported that the man was shot during a protest, but an Israeli military spokesperson told Israeli media that the Palestinian was part of a "sniper cell" preparing to fire on Israeli forces.
 
Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned Israelis and Palestinians they were at a "dangerous abyss" and must act quickly to calm nearly three weeks of unrest before it spirals further out of control.
 
"My visit reflects the sense of global alarm at the dangerous escalation in violence between Israelis and Palestinians," Ban said after meeting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

"If we do not act fast, the dynamics on the ground will only get worse."

Ban added that "it is not too late to avoid a broader crisis" and urged renewed peace efforts, with negotiations at a standstill for more than a year.

"Beyond the immediate tensions, what is missing is the resolve to restore a political horizon for talks, and a political process that delivers real results and peace.

"We must, for the future of our children, come back from this dangerous abyss, safeguard the two-state solution, and lead people back to the road toward peace."

Ban is due to hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday morning. He is also due to brief the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

Ban made the request to urgently speak to council members by video-conference from the Palestinian West Bank city of Ramallah.

The closed-door emergency meeting is scheduled for 1900 GMT.

In a sign of growing international worry, US Secretary of State John Kerry will also meet Netanyahu in Germany this week and Abbas later at an unspecified location in the Middle East.

The stark comments came as the UN secretary general made an unannounced visit to Jerusalem to try to ease tensions that have led to mounting international concern.

As he met Netanyahu, Ban also spoke of the danger of allowing an escalation "into a religious conflict with potential regional implications" and urged efforts to ensure that did not occur.

The Israeli military has responded with deadly force to protests and a wave of Palestinian attacks, raising fears of a full-scale Palestinian uprising.