I want to start this off with a word-association exercise that I have no doubt will yield unanimous results among readers:
Chocolate > Sweet
Bed > Sleep
Israel-Palestine > Conflict
Holocaust > Hitler (and horrible, and inhumane)
There are some incidents in history that never cause a debate. It is undoubtedly agreed who was at fault for the Holocaust and hence it is an event in history that has never been in a grey area. No one, to my knowledge, has tried to contest for a positive justification for the death of around 6 million Jews, and no one has ever tried to shift blame from Hitler and his twisted anti-Semitic thinking. Until now.
On Tuesday, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, spoke at the opening of the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem and claimed that it was actually a Palestinian leader at the time, the grand mufti Amin al-Husseini, who gave Hitler the idea of the Holocaust in 1941. Netanyahu was audacious enough to make these remarks despite Hitler’s countless written references against Jews, and even though written records of the meeting between Husseini and Hitler say otherwise.
Obviously, there is ample proof that what Netanyahu said is false, and this proof is just a Google search away (even common sense will make you realize that these remarks are absurd). I do not want to focus on how absolutely wrong Netanyahu’s thought process and declaration is. I want to focus on the cunning manner in which he is trying to use history.
It is no surprise that recently, the Israeli-Palestine conflict has magnified, as CNN reports that “eight Israelis have been killed” and “at least 45 Palestinians have been killed.” Undoubtedly, the people in that area must be grief-stricken, fearful and even angry. Netanyahu must feel all of this too, but there is no amount of scorn in the world that can justify him making an uninformed decision to simply paint Palestine in such a negative light. History cannot be unwritten or re-written, especially to suit one’s personal agenda.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has encouraged Netanyahu to “ease the rhetoric” in his speech since in such a period of trouble, it is not helping diffuse tension. Netanyahu has chosen to do otherwise, and I can understand his anger and grief, as can many people. I understand a leader tugging at people’s heartstrings, it happens all the time. I do not, and will not, understand a leader lying.
Being a leader comes with responsibilities. I have never run a country, but I am sure that if I did every statement I made would have to be informed. When Angela Merkel, the German chancellor herself, says, “We abide by our responsibility, in Germany, for the Holocaust,” it further discredits a Netanyahu who cannot even get support from other Israeli leaders. Netanyahu was trying to paint a bad image of Palestine, and instead he painted a bad image of himself because he did the one thing no one should ever do: rewrite a history that has never been and will never be a grey area.
Husseini’s war crimes cannot be denied. Hitler’s actions cannot be taken away from him. Now, Netanyahu’s words will never be erased. History is a powerful tool, it provides evidence and teaches, but history is also permanent. The past cannot be altered or made to fit one’s convenience. Netanyahu may not realize this now, but I hope that he soon will.