Barack Obama in Chicago
Barack Obama in ChicagoReuters

The White House condemned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for "inflammatory rhetoric" Thursday after he said that a celebrated early Palestinian Arab leader played a central role in instigating the Holocaust.

Netanyahu on Tuesday suggested Hitler was not planning to exterminate the Jews until he met Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini in 1941.

Responding sharply to the controversial claim, since doubled down on by Netanyahu, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said, "I don't think there's any doubt here at the White House who is responsible for the Holocaust that killed six million Jews."

"We here continue to stress publicly and privately...the importance of preventing inflammatory rhetoric, accusations or actions on both sides (that) can feed the violence."

"We believe that inflammatory rhetoric needs to stop," said Schultz, without commenting on the open incitement to murder by the Palestinian Authority.

While Netanyahu was widely criticized for his statement, Middle East Forum scholar Dr. Wolfgang Schwanitz on Wednesday gave him historical backing.

"It is a historical fact that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem al-Hajj Amin al-Husseini was an accomplice whose collaboration with Adolf Hitler played an important role in the Holocaust," Schwanitz stated. "He was the foremost extra-European adviser in the process to destroy the Jews of Europe."

In defending his own remarks, Netanyahu quoted the testimony of Adolf Eichmann's deputy at the Nuremberg trials after World War II, who said: "The Mufti was instrumental in the decision to exterminate the Jews of Europe. The importance of his role must not be ignored. The Mufti repeatedly proposed to the authorities, primarily Hitler, Ribbentropp and Himmler, to exterminate the Jews of Europe. He considered it a suitable solution for the Palestinian question."

AFP contributed to this report.