NEW DELHI: In a bizarre reading of history, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed the blame for the Holocaust on the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini.

In a speech to the 37th World Zionist Congress this week, Netanyahu said that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler only wanted to expel the Jews, but was later convinced to terminate them as urged by the Grand Mufti, who died in 1974.

Netanyahu said that Hitler and the Grand Mufti met in November 1941 and “Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jew. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here (to Palestine).'” According to Netanyahu, Hitler then asked “What should I do with them? and the Grand Mufti replied, “Burn them.”

As Palestinian-American writer Yousef Munayyer pointed out on Twitter, Netanyahu’s controversial statement whitewashed Hitler to pin the blame of the holocaust on the Palestinian leader.

Others too criticised Netanyahu’s statement.

This is not the first time Netanyahu has made made such a claim. For instance, during a Knesset speech in 2012, Netanyahu called Husseini "one of the leading architects" of the final solution. Historians widely reject any and every assertion of Husseini’s part in the extermination of Jews during World War II.

Here’s what Netanyahu said (as released in an official transcript):

“My grandfather came to this land in 1920 and he landed in Jaffa, and very shortly after he landed he went to the immigration office in Jaffa. And a few months later it was burned down by marauders. These attackers, Arab attackers, murdered several Jews, including our celebrated writer Brenner.

And this attack and other attacks on the Jewish community in 1920, 1921, 1929, were instigated by a call of the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was later sought for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution. He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, "If you expel them, they'll all come here." "So what should I do with them?" he asked. He said, "Burn them."”

As notes: “This statement is almost too absurd to debunk, but for the record, Haj Amin al-Husseini met Hitler in November 1941. Although the origins of the Final Solution itself have been hotly debated among historians, we do know that by March of that year Hitler was openly talking about a need to make sure the “Jewish-Bolshevik elite” would be killed, as well as “all Jews and card-carrying Communists” in the lands that Germany was taking from the Soviet Union; this order was carried out by Heinrich Himmler, who delivered these instructions to the Einsatzgruppen on March 13th, 1941. The phrase “complete solution of the Jewish question” was first uttered by Nazi leader Hermann Goering who gave the task to SS General Reinhardt Heydrich on July 31st, 1941. The killing centers in Poland were organized under so-called Operation Reinhard, and work on these units began in October 1941, a month before the Mufti visited Jerusalem.”

The same article concludes: “It is a sad irony that Netanyahu is distorting the history of the Holocaust in order to shift blame to the Palestinians, but it makes sense in the context of his politics. Netanyahu's goal has been to deny Palestinians rights and to claim they are simply driven by irrational hatred – this form of incitement that shifts blame from the Nazis themselves to the Palestinians is exactly in line with his politics. But the absurdity of the claim may backfire on him.”

PM Netanyahu at the 37th Zionist World Congress