Labeling Netanyahu a liar distracted from the issue

Editor of the Reformer:

Jeffrey Herf is a Professor of History at the University of Maryland and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. Herf's article in The Times of Israel of Oct. 22 was in response to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech at the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem on Oct. 20. In that speech, Netanyahu maintained that the former Grand Mufti of Palestine was instrumental in urging Hitler to stage the Holocaust. Countering this notion, Herf wrote "Netanyahu's comments about Haj Amin al-Husseini's impact on Hitler's decision-making about the Final Solution in Europe do not stand up to the consensus of historical research."

It is very troubling that Netanyahu trotted out this trope about al-Husseini's supposed influence over Hitler. The Reformer is wise to challenge this widely discredited recounting of history and the motives behind its use.

Lost in the noise of Netanyahu's own claims is a valid point he was trying to make; given that al-Husseini's homicidal malevolence towards Jews is indisputable, the fact that he is still considered a hero by many some 70 years after World War II is a horrific testament to the momentum of hate.


Whether Netanyahu's recital of the al-Husseini fable betrays lack of understanding or intent to deceive can and should be debated. However, for the Reformer to bypass that opportunity and use the first page of the paper and the headline of your Oct. 24 editorial ("Netanyahu's lie: Don't let it spark a fire") to declare him a liar without offering any proof is unhelpful. It muddied the article's primary message; the narrative about al-Husseini's involvement with the Holocaust is an insult to the 11 million (six million Jews, another five million Roma, disabled, LGBTQ and political prisoners) who were murdered by Hitler and the Nazis.

How can we know for sure if Netanyahu was dishonest rather than ill informed? Many very successful and intelligent people believe some very strange things, despite tremendous evidence to the contrary. Without substantiation, the Reformer editorial should have stayed focused on the faulty history lesson, and not descended into name-calling that looks a lot like bias. In this case, the facts speak quite well for themselves and need not be obscured by angry conjecture.

Why not use a non-arguable headline that does not claim speculation as fact? Why resort to a similar kind of divisive invective that the editorial claims to decry? I find the headline seriously counter-productive to the editorial's implied and most worthy goal of using accurate facts and reason to help achieve peace.

No matter the intentions, how is claiming opinion as fact ultimately helpful? Doesn't it cloud the air, rather than bring clarity? Isn't that the core of why the Prime Minister's speech is so problematic in the first place?

Daniel Kasnitz, President, Board of Trustees, Brattleboro Area Jewish Community, Oct. 30