Benjamin Netanyahu's Holocaust remark fails to deflect blame for the recent violence on his policy
Gwynne Dyer says the Israeli prime minister's Holocaust comment fools no one about why the region has been gripped by an upsurge in violence
I can't stand him. He's a liar," then French president Nicolas Sarkozy told US President Barack Obama four years ago, in a conversation about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama replied: "You're fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day." It was a private conversation, but the world heard about it because it was accidentally broadcast to journalists.
What drove Sarkozy and Obama to talk like that was the sheer brazen effrontery of Netanyahu's lies - and he was at it again last week. In public, this time.
READ MORE: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu creates uproar with claim Palestinians gave Hitler idea for Holocaust
Speaking to the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu declared that Hitler decided to exterminate the Jews on the advice of a Palestinian, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti (senior Islamic cleric) of Jerusalem. Husseini met Hitler in Berlin in November 1941, he said (although there is no record of the meeting), and that was why the Holocaust happened.
So, you see, it was the Palestinians, driven by a vicious and unreasoning hatred of the Jews, who really thought up the Holocaust, and Adolf Hitler was merely a tool in their hands. Historians instantly denounced this travesty of the historical record. So why did Netanyahu say that? In particular, why now?
Because he needs to show that his policy of creating and expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the one-sixth of former Palestine that still has a Palestinian majority, is not responsible for the recent rash of violent attacks on Israeli Jews by young Palestinians.
Ten Jews have been murdered in the streets by Palestinians in the past month. About 50 Palestinians have been killed, including most of the killers and would-be killers.
There appears to be no central direction behind the attacks. Most observers believe that the phenomenon is mainly driven by the despair of young Palestinians who see their land slipping away and don't believe that Netanyahu will ever let the Palestinians have their own state in the occupied territories.
That would put the blame for the outbreak squarely on Netanyahu's policies, which he can't accept.
So Netanyahu has shifted blame of the attacks to rumours of Israel's intention to expand Jewish access to the Haram al-Sharif, the area around Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque. While the rumours could very well have been the trigger for the violence, the gun has always loaded. The Palestinian revolts in 1929 and 1936 were already about the Jewish colonisation of Palestine. It was always about the land, and it still is today.
Netanyahu knows that very well. It is the real motive behind his own policies. He just can't afford to admit it.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist