by Zachary Braiterman
Note: This post originally appeared on the author’s blog, Jewish Philosophy Place.
A philosophical problem, it’s impossible to ascertain what’s inside another person’s head at the moment he or she mangles a foundational historical truth that is basic to the constitution and self-constitution of so many people and peoples –the Jewish people, the State of Israel, Germany and the nations of Europe.
Prime Minster Netanyahu’s cynical and suddenly infamous remarks about the Mufti of Jerusalem as the brains behind the Holocaust are like a bomb dropped. Now it appears that Hitler only wanted to expel the Jews, but that it was the Mufti of Jerusalem who encouraged their extermination? You can read the speech here. Spoken by a sitting Prime Minister, reckless and destructive words enjoy an official, institutional imprimatur. Utterly deranged, they suggest that one should look at them as a symptom of some strange and violent unhinging of “the Israeli mind.”
What stands out ironically about this gross counterfactual is that it was intentionally formulated as part of a history lesson with Palestinian perfidy placed squarely in the center. The remarks put so many balls in the air –history and the misrepresentation of history, political manipulation and crude cultural performance, fantasy and the displacement of memory as the conflict with the Palestinian people begins to push in the background the Nazi extermination of the Jewish people.
By no means an innocent, Haj Amin al-Husseini was a complex and polarizing figure, even in Arab Palestinian society during the time of the British Mandate. His legacy is in part a legacy of Arab incitement, particularly in relation to the Noble Sanctuary-Temple Mount. But for the Prime Minister of Israel to put the onus of the Holocaust on him, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, can count only its own act of incitement, this one against Islam at precisely that juncture at which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict begins to veer into the dangerous territory of religious war.
What did the Grand Mufti say to Hitler and what did Hitler say to him? You can read here the official German record of the meeting between Adolf Hitler and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, on November 28, 1941, at the Reich Chancellory. It should be very clear that Hitler’s intention was to exterminate the Jews in his war against the British Empire and Bolshevism. There was no public announcement following the meeting, just the official record and photograph.