No se­ri­ous his­to­rian would agree with Ne­tanyahu


MOST COUN­TRIES use his­tory among their pol­icy tools. We have just had an ex­am­ple of it this week: Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping archly told our Par­lia- ment that China en­joyed the rule of law thou­sands of years ago — while our an­ces­tors were still hunt­ing and gath­er­ing around the Thames.

Some­times the sup­posed lessons of his­tory can be stretched be­yond cred­i­bil­ity. I fear that Is­rael’s Prime Min­is­ter did this in the course of his speech to the 37th World Zion­ist Congress this week.

Mr Ne­tanyahu’s speech was large- ly about the shock­ing knife at­tacks that in­no­cent Is­raelis have had to en­dure in re­cent weeks in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. But he also made one his­tor­i­cal leap too far. Per­son­al­is­ing mat­ters, Mr Ne­tanyahu spoke of how, af­ter his grand­fa­ther came to Jaffa in 1920, Arab at­tack­ers burned down the Bri­tish Man­date’s lo­cal im­mi­gra­tion of­fice. They had been in­cited by Haj Amin al-Hus­seini who, iron­i­cally enough, was later ap­pointed Mufti — or chief Mus­lim cleric — by the Bri­tish in or­der to mod­er­ate the vi­o­lence.

In fact, the Mufti was mainly re­spon­si­ble for whip­ping up Arab fears that Jews had de­signs on Tem­ple Mount’s Al Aqsa mosque, even

de­scribed al-Hus­seini as “one of the lead­ing ar­chi­tects of the Fi­nal So­lu­tion”.

Op­po­si­tion politi­cians have dis­missed Mr Ne­tanyahu’s as­ser­tion. Labour Party leader Isaac Her­zog said that the words could be seen as triv­i­al­is­ing the Holo­caust.

“This is a dan­ger­ous his­tor­i­cal dis­tor­tion and I de­mand Ne­tanyahu cor­rect it i mme­di­ately as it min­imises the Holo­caust, Nazism and Hitler’s part in our peo­ple’s ter­ri­ble dis­as­ter,” said Mr Her­zog.

Some com­men­ta­tors said that Mr Ne­tanyahu’s words re­vealed either that he sees the con­flict be­tween Is­rael and its im­me­di­ate neigh­bours as a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Holo­caust, or that he is pre­pared to ma­nip­u­late his­tory for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.

Mr Ne­tanyahu was due to meet Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel in Ber­lin this week to dis­cuss the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Is­rael and the wider Mid­dle East.

‘It lim­its Hitler’s part in our ter­ri­ble dis­as­ter’

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