Netanyahu: Have You No Shame?
By Rabbi Michael Lerner Oct. 25, 2015
Israel’s Prime Minister attributing the Holocaust to Palestinian influence over Hitler is a “Blood Libel” level lie.
In the Middle Ages, some Christians claimed that Jews were kidnapping Christian children and using their blood to make Passover Matzah (which in Jewish law would make the Jewish kidnapper a murderer, deserving the death penalty, and the Matzah itself unkosher, because Jews are forbidden to eat blood). This “blood libel” lie has been repeated by anti-Semites and sometimes is accompanied in bookstores with a book called “The Elders of Zion,” who purportedly met and planned to rule the world. This sort of hate literature is still disseminated in some Muslim countries.
Now, the Prime Minister of Israel has launched his own “blood libel” lie. In a speech to an international group of Zionist leaders attending the 37th International Zionist Congress, Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Hitler was intending to only banish Jews from Europe, until he met with the anti-Semitic Palestinian al-Husseini, the “Mufti” of Jerusalem who convinced him to murder all the Jews.
As Israeli Policy Forum’s policy director Michael Koplow explains, “Netanyahu brought up al-Husseini’s well-known connection to the Nazis and vocal support of Hitler in warning about the dangers of Palestinian incitement regarding Israel’s alleged efforts to alter the status quo on the Temple Mount. His connection between these two seemingly disparate threads was that al-Husseini had instigated riots in the 1920s by accusing the Jews of wanting to destroy al-Aqsa, and he later met with Hitler in 1941 and – in Netanyahu’s telling – convinced Hitler to exterminate European Jewry rather than expel them. So the implication is that false warnings about Jews trying to take over al-Aqsa, or to even just change the Temple Mount status quo, lead to attempts to exterminate Jews, including the Holocaust.”
The truth is that Hitler had already launched genocidal plans before meeting with the Mufti, though the Mufti may well have wished for a genocide of the Jews. Hitler’s intense hatred of Jews was already articulated in his Mein Kampf, and already had manifested in throwing Jews out of virtually every profession and university, requiring Jews to wear a yellow star, and attacking and force closing of Jewish businesses, culminating in Kristallnacht in November 1938.
Yet the historical distortion here, far from being a sudden “oops,” is part of the larger picture of hatred toward Palestinians that Netanyahu has been promoting throughout his political life. He repeatedly blames the Palestinian Authority for any act of violence by any Palestinian and never informs the Israeli public of the close cooperation that the P.A. has provided the Israeli security forces for the past ten years in exposing any group of Palestinians that the Palestinian security forces have reason to believe are planning terrorist attacks. He never mentions the way Prime Minister Abbas has sought to quell ani-Israel demonstrations for fear that they might lead to violence. He consistently paints the Palestinian people as violent anti-Semites. He never points out that Israel has relied on the Palestinian security forces to repress any Palestinians who seek to challenge the Occupation, and now he tries to foster the perception in Israel that the Palestinian people are the current embodiment of the Nazis who wish to eliminate the Jewish people through yet another Holocaust. Little surprise that the New York Times reported on October 26th that the Palestinian Authority is seeking to reduce its security cooperation with the IDF after a month in which those Palestinian forces in the West Bank have been beating anti-Israel demonstrators and rock-throwers while Israel has arrested over 500 Palestinians.
The “blood libel” here is not that against the despicable war criminal the former Mufti al Husseini who did in fact in the 1920s and 30s use the claim that the Jewish immigrants to Palestine wanted to take over and destroy the Mosques on the Temple Mount to stir up anti-Jewish riots among the Palestinians whose primary source of public information was what they heard in their mosques. Hussein deserved the hatred he engendered among most Jews. But in creating the lie that Husseini also convinced Hitler to do the Holocaust, Netanyahu then tried to suggest that the Palestinians today who are resisting the Occupation, because they also seek to prevent a Jewish takeover of the Temple Mount (now far more realistic when Jews actually have the power to do so than it was in the 1920s and 1930s) are actually just setting the stage for a new Holocaust. This flagrant misuse of the Holocaust is the “blood libel” against Palestinians. It is a disgrace that he tried to manipulate our feelings of sadness at the murder of 1/3 of our people in the Holocaust to be a reason to distrust or hate the current Palestinians who have nothing to do with Husseini.
Of course, it’s important to remind ourselves that many in the IDF do not wish to be occupiers, that many settlers are not murderers or haters, and that many who live in Israel have no real knowledge or understanding of what their Occupation actually means in the daily lives of Palestinians. Yet to the extent that they vote for candidates who support the governments of Israel that have made the Occupation persist for the past 48 years, they all have moral responsibility for the outrageous deeds that are perpetrated or permitted by the IDF and by the most extremist settlers.
It is nothing new to note that hatred of the Other almost always leads to racism, and racism to various acts of violence. We at Tikkun Magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives have strongly condemned the racism that sometimes manifests in Hamas and some other corners of Islamic fundamentalism. When they call for the destruction of “The Jewish state” their discourse encourages an anti-Semitism that is not narrowly confined to anger at the Occupation. But neither is the Jewish racism toward Palestinians merely an expression of legitimate anxiety about whether a future Palestinian State would be willing to live in peace with Israel. The hatred that is being reinforced by the Netanyahu government aims to create the conditions for forcing Palestinians to choose between giving up all hope of having an independent state living in peace with Israel and settling for a few Palestinian municipalities on the West Bank, thereby living as part of a Jewish state and without the full rights of citizens (i.e. apartheid conditions) on the one hand, or being ethnically cleansed from all of Israel, including the West Bank and Gaza.
So it was not a total surprise to witness on a video, a few days after Netanyahu’s speech, a masked and knife-wielding Israeli settler attack Rabbi Arik Ascherman, head of the Israeli Rabbis for Human Rights, as he attempted to stop Israeli West Bank settlers from once again destroying Palestinian olive trees, as they have done systematically for years on Palestinian-owned West Bank lands. Ascherman has been one of the heroes of human rights in Israel, a champion of the best in Judaism, often challenging his fellow rabbis to live up to the ethical standards set by the Torah. A frequent author for Tikkun magazine, Rabbi Ascherman has had the courage of his convictions and deserves the praise of the entire American and Israeli Jewish community.
Don’t hold your breath. To date, his heroism has been ignored both in the Jewish and American mainstream media. Read and watch a video about it at http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.682019 and about the growing hatred in Israel toward supporters of peace at http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.682266
For those of us Jews who are still wedded to Torah’s vision of our obligations toward non-Jews, the clearly repeated injunctions can be summarized as this: “When you come into your land, do not oppress the stranger (the Other, in Hebrew, ha’ger), remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” The Torah makes clear that if Jews do not live up the ethical demands of Torah, the earth will literally vomit them out, and so Jewish theology has ascribed the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temple to our ethical failures in the past.
So when a group of Jewish fundamentalists called Atteret HaKohanim (who explicitly believe that it is time to tear down the Al Asqa Mosque, rebuild the ancient Temple, and begin animal sacrifices once again) were allowed by the Israeli government to go to the Temple Mount on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot a few weeks ago, it is no surprise that many Muslims reacted by thinking that the Israeli government, which controls access to the Mount, intended to send a signal to the Muslims that their stay on one of their holiest sites is in danger. Some responded by throwing rocks at these extremists (a response I find unacceptable), and then the Israeli government, rather than restraining the Jewish fundamentalists, shut the Temple Mount to Islamic men under the age of fifty. This is a pattern that happens over and over again, and led to the start of the 2nd Intifada and to the current spontaneous acts of outrage at the Occupation, this time by Palestinians living in Jerusalem.
While we deplore the murder of random Israeli citizens by their Palestinian neighbors and the murder of (many more) random Palestinians by their Israeli neighbors, and the arrest of hundreds of Palestinians with no right to trial by a jury of their peers, we see all this as the inevitable working out of the logic of Occupation and subordination. All the more reason to be outraged at Netanyahu’s further stirring of hatred toward Palestinians with his blood libel. It is not the viciously murderous Mufti of Jerusalem, long dead, who is the target of Netanyahu’s hatred, but the entire Palestinian people whom he sees as an extension of the Nazis.
Yes, there will come a day when Israelis look back on this period with shame and outrage. Just as most Americans, now strong allies with the Vietnamese people, know that the death of 58,000 Americans and three hundred thousand Vietnamese during the Vietnam war was a tragic error, and that these people were not really our enemies, so Israelis will mourn the deaths of Israelis and Palestinians killed in this seemingly endless struggle. But we are not there yet, and it is our obligation to counter all the hate-mongering by insisting on the humanity of the Palestinian people when talking to the haters in the Jewish world, just as we insist on the humanity of the Israeli people when talking to the haters of Jews.
We also acknowledge the fundamental asymmetry in this situation. Unlike the Vietnamese, the Palestinians have no military means of resisting the more powerful force. Their individual acts of resistance are acts of the powerless. In this situation, we in the West must do all we can to end Israel’s occupation of Palestine and encourage a reconciliation of the heart between these two peoples seemingly locked in endless conflict. In my book Embracing Israel/Palestine I outline the path that such action can take.
Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun magazine which won the “Best Magazine of the Year” Award from the mainstream media’s Religion Newswriters Association in 2014 and again in 2015. He is chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives and author of 11 books including two national best sellers: Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation and The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right. His book Embracing Israel/Palestine is available on Kindle form Amazon.com and in paperback from www.tikkun.org/eip.