Last week, responding to international criticism of Israeli plans to build new Jewish homes in an Arab neighborhood of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman “ordered embassies abroad to use a photo of Adolf Hitler meeting a top Palestinian cleric.”People differ on the Palestinian/Israeli issue. But no matter where you stand on that, you should agree that this is odious if you pretend to even a shred of intellectual decency. This goes far beyond hasbara; it's quite simply the most vicious sort of libel imaginable.The decision to circulate a 1941 photo featuring the Nazi dictator sitting with the then grand mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini is aimed at easing pressure on Israel over a construction project on land in annexed east Jerusalem once owned by the cleric, [an Israeli] official told AFP.Appointed “grand mufti” in 1921 by the British mandate authorities as a means to dividing and controlling competing Palestinian factions (the title and position itself was a British creation), Husseini eventually fled Palestine and attempted to form an alliance with Nazi Germany. Husseini hoped that, by collaborating with the enemy of the British, who he believed were facilitating the takeover of Palestine by Zionist settlers, he might be able both to prevent the creation of a Jewish state and establish himself as a regional power.
There is little doubt that Husseini had extreme, racist views of Jews, and that he gave support to the Nazis in hopes of gaining advantage against the British and Zionist forces in Palestine. What this specifically has to do with Israeli settlement activity in East Jerusalem, however, is less clear.
Doing his part to push the Israeli line, yesterday Alan Dershowitz took it even further. In his Jerusalem Post column — which, in a bit of unintentional irony, is called “Double Standard Watch” — Dershowitz questioned whether the Palestinian people, collectively, bore any responsibility for the Holocaust. “The truth,” wrote Dershowitz, “is that the Palestinian leadership, supported by the Palestinian masses, played a significant role in Hitler’s Holocaust.”
This claim is preposterous. And, needless to say, Dershowitz utterly fails to prove it, managing only to establish the already known facts that a Palestinian leader, Husseini, had a relationship with the Nazis, and that many Palestinians still consider Husseini something of a nationalist hero. The idea that Husseini, let alone the Palestinians as a whole, played a “significant role in Hitler’s Holocaust” is laughable, as if the Nazis required one of the sub-human races to sign off on their plans for mass murder.
This is obviously not scholarship, but nor is it simply polemic. It is the attempted slander of the Palestinian people, in order to diminish their historical claim to a state with Jerusalem as its capital. In his Cairo speech, President Obama importantly recognized this claim as being co-equal with Israel’s, and admirably rejected the childishly one-sided narrative of the conflict that Dershowitz is peddling.
It’s important not to lose sight of what’s really at issue here. Lieberman’s order to push the Husseini photo and its attendant anti-Palestinian propaganda is aimed at deflecting attention away from Israel’s extremely provocative efforts to thicken the Jewish presence in occupied areas of Jerusalem. These efforts inflict an enormous cost on Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants, who are prohibited from expanding their homes and neighborhoods, even as Jewish residents are encouraged to — and aided in it by the Israeli government and private American donors.
I can understand why the extremist Lieberman would pursue it, but I would have thought that even Dershowitz would have had more sense than this. No such luck, I suppose.