Netanyahu and The Holocaust: Distorting History for Political Gain

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Israeli Prime Minister and the leader of the Likud Party Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at the party's election headquarters after the first results of the Israeli general election. 3/18/15
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A new wave of violence in the Middle East has left ten Israelis and 47 Palestinians dead over the last month.

Palestinian and Israeli leaders have intensified their rhetoric in the midst of the violence, crossing the line from fact into fiction. Last week, Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas falsely accused Israelis of executing a Palestinian boy who had attacked Israelis with a knife. The 13-year-old was actually recovering in an Israeli hospital.

This week, at the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to shift blame for the Holocaust from Adolf Hitler to Haj Amin al-Husseini, then the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

"Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time; he wanted to expel the Jews," Netanyahu said. "And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to him and said if you expel them they'll all come here."

"So what should I do with them?," Hitler supposedly asked, according to Netanyahu. "Burn them!" al-Husseini supposedly replied.

The Holocaust has also become a popular, often-misunderstood, political touchstone in the United States. Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson recently told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that "the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed."

Gavriel Rosenfeld, author of “Hi Hitler: How the Nazi Past Is being Normalized in Contemporary Culture” and professor of history at Fairfield University, says we lose historical truth—and perspective on our present—in these misdirected comparisons. 

What you'll learn from this segment:

  • The real history as it relates to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
  • How Netanyahu is misusing this history.
  • Why the Holocaust has become such a popular historical touchstone in the U.S.