(1) this post is not about “all Palestinians.” This is a historical analysis of how deeply Nazi ideology — thanks to Nazi propagandists — infiltrated the Arab world, and Palestine in particular, thus fueling the already existing tensions between the Jews and the Arabs in British Mandatory Palestine.
(2) antisemitism in the Arab world cannot solely be attributed to Nazi propaganda. Antisemitism in the Arab world dates all the way back to the seventh century.
BUT WHAT ABOUT…
When addressing the relationship between Nazi Germany and the Palestinian Arab leadership, anti-Zionists usually strike back with the following two points:
THE HAAVARA AGREEMENT
In 1933, Eliezer Hoofein, the director of the Anglo-Palestine Bank, and the Reich Economics Ministry negotiated the Haavara Agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, Jews fleeing persecution in Germany could use their assets to purchase German goods for export, thus salvaging their assets and facilitating emigration to Palestine under the immigrant investor visa.
Under the Haavara Agreement, some 60,000 German Jews were able to emigrate to Palestine, thus saving themselves from the horrors of the Holocaust.
Zionists negotiating with the Nazis in an attempt to save tens of thousands of Jews is not at all equivalent to the Palestinian Arab leadership cooperating with the Nazis to kill Jews.
Lehi, pejoratively known as the “Stern Gang,” was an extremist right wing Jewish terrorist group in Mandatory Palestine. Believing that the British occupation of the Land of Israel was a much bigger threat to world Jewry than Nazism, they tried to establish contact with the Nazis twice, hoping to establish an alliance. The Nazis rejected them both times, because the Nazis would not ally with Jews, regardless of their views.
Lehi constituted no more than 300 members, whose views were fringe and non-representative of the Jewish community. This cannot at all be equated to the Nazi-Palestinian Arab leadership alliance.
In 1933, just two months after Hitler came to power, the leader of the Arab Higher Committee (the Arab leadership in Mandatory Palestine), the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Al-Husseini, called the German consulate in Jerusalem, offering his congratulations.
In November of 1933, the Nazis themselves revealed that they had established a direct contact with the Arab leadership in Palestine, with the hopes of “adapting the Nazi program” to the Holy Land. To reiterate: the Nazis hoped to extend their antisemitic policies to the Holy Land, with the enthusiastic consent of the Palestinian Arab leadership.
In 1935, the Husseinis established the Palestinian Arab Party, modeled after the Nazi Party in Germany. Inspired by the Hitler Youth, the party created a Nazi-like scout group named “Al-Futuwwa.” In 1936, a popular Arab newspaper urged Arabs to go to Germany to fight for the Nazis. That same year, the al-Futuwwa youth corps began Nazi-inspired military training.
THE 1936-1939 ARAB REVOLT
In May of 1936, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, inspired by the Nazi anti-Jewish boycott in Germany, called for a general strike against the Jews and Jewish immigration, calling Zionists terrorists and comparing them to Nazis, an odd comparison, since he was to become a Nazi himself. The boycott quickly escalated into violence, lasting from 1936 to 1939.
This incitement led to the murder of some 500 Jews, predominantly civilians.
The British quickly suspected Nazi involvement, noticing that the Arab rioters carried smuggled Nazi weaponry. The Jerusalem police found that the Arabs had received 50,000 pounds from Germany and 20,000 pounds from Italy. The British also suspected the Germans of planning the 1938 pogrom in Tiberias.
THE MUFTI DESTROYS HIS RIVALS
Arab opposition to Zionism can be traced back as early as 1905, but this opposition existed exclusively among middle to upper class intellectuals. The vast majority of Palestinian Arabs — about 80 percent — were fellahin, or peasants, and were completely unfamiliar with Zionism.
In the wake of the 1920 Nebi Musa antisemitic massacre, sheikhs from 82 villages in Palestine, claiming to represent 70 percent of the population, issued a formal statement claiming that they did not consider Zionism or Jewish immigration a problem. Hundreds of Palestinian Arab sheikhs and mukhtars sent similar cablegrams to London in 1922.
Even amongst anti-Zionist Palestinian Arab leaders, intellectuals, and nationalists, there were some who were willing, unlike the Mufti, to negotiate with the Zionists, as was the case with the Nashashibi clan. The Mufti and his followers assassinated the Nashashibis during the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt. By the late 1930s, no Palestinian Arab leader dared to oppose the Mufti. By then, the Mufti had succeeded in inciting the masses against Zionism and the Jews in general.
In 1939, the British offered the Arabs a majority Arab, non-partitioned Palestinian state. Every single member of the Arab Higher Committee was in favor of adopting such a plan, save for one: the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who rejected the plan on the basis that it didn’t exterminate Jewish presence in Palestine and that it did not guarantee that he would be placed at the helm of a future Palestinian Arab state.
Dr. Izzat Tannous, an anti-Zionist and fellow member of the Arab Higher Committee, wrote of the other members’ dismay at the Mufti’s decision: “The discussion was in a family like manner at first, sitting in a circle and all taking part. The morale was high and the expectation for a brighter future was higher…But this sweet dream did not last long. The discussion became more strained as some of us began to realize that Haj Amin was not in favor of accepting the [the plan]…At this stage of the discussion, an atmosphere of resentment and dismay prevailed over the meetings and there was reason for it. The fourteen members knew very well that the acquiescence of Haj Amin Al-Husseini was a very essential requisite and that without his blessing because of his magic influence on the Palestinian masses, [a Palestinian Arab state] would not be implemented…”
EMBOLDENING THE MUFTI
In November of 1941, al-Husseini met with German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and with Hitler himself. Hitler promised al-Husseini that once the German troops reached the Arab world, “Germany’s objective would then be solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere…”
In 1957, a top secret document came to light, which revealed that Germany and Italy recognized the right of the Arabs to “solve the Jewish question” in Palestine and other Arab nations.
During the meeting, Hitler told the Mufti: “Germany is resolved, step by step, to ask one European nation after the other to solve its Jewish problem, and at the proper time to direct a similar appeal to non-European nations as well” and “Germany supports] an uncompromising struggle against the Jews…[this] would include, of course, opposition to a Jewish homeland in Palestine, which is nothing more than a hub for the destructive influence of Jewish interests.”
DURING THE HOLOCAUST: DEADLY PROPAGANDA
Throughout the Arab world, the Nazis enacted a massive propaganda campaign. Nazi war planes dropped leaflets inciting the Arabs to start a “holy war” against the Jews and the British. This propaganda culminated in massacres, most notably, the Farhud in Iraq in 1941, which took the lives of up to 1000 Jews.
In 1943, al-Husseini declared: “It is the duty of Muhammadans [Muslims] in general and Arabs in particular to...drive all Jews from Arab and Muhammadan countries...[Germany has] very clearly recognized the Jews for what they are and resolved to find a definitive solution for the Jewish danger that will eliminate the scourge that Jews represent in the world.”
During WWII, al-Husseini worked for the Axis powers as a propagandist to target Arab and Muslim public opinion, and he recruited 6,000 Arab soldiers from various countries (including Palestine) to train with the Nazis. In a 1944 radio broadcast, he stated: “Arabs, rise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion.”
On November 30, 1947, the morning after the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into one Jewish and one Arab state, the Arab Higher Committee, still under the Mufti’s leadership, published a leaflet in Arabic vowing to complete the job that the Nazis had started. The circular stated: “The Arabs have taken into their own hands the Final Solution of the Jewish problem. The problem will be solved only in blood and fire. The Jews will soon be driven out.”
The Final Solution, of course, was the Nazi euphemism for their plan to exterminate the Jews. Given that the threat was made two years after the end of the Holocaust, the Jews in Palestine took it seriously, which influenced their strategies in the 1948 war.
In December of 1947, former Nazis were already training Arab groups. A January 1948 report found that 30 former Nazi POWs were participating in Arab battles, 15 of them training Arab soldiers in Hebron. On May 22, an Egyptian aircraft was shot down; 3 of its 5 pilots were actually likely Nazi Germans.
The Palestinian Arab paramilitary organizations fighting in the 1947-1949 war were deeply involved with the Nazis as well. Hasan Salama, the founder of the Army of the Holy War, was formerly a major in the Nazi military. Additionally, he enlisted another German officer as his adviser. Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini, a commander in the Army of the Holy War, also received Nazi military training.
The Arab League-sponsored Arab Liberation Army also had a former Nazi propagandist, Fawzi al-Qawuqji, as its commander. Fawzi el Kutub, known for various bombings that destroyed synagogues and killed dozens of Jews, had also trained with the SS.
REJECTIONISM: THE ROOT & LEGACY
At the heart of the present Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies the Arab rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan. In rejecting partition, Palestinian Arabs started a civil war; on May 15, 1948, the morning after Israel declared its independence in accordance with the Partition Plan, five Arab armies immediately invaded the nascent state. The war resulted in catastrophic failure for Palestinian Arabs and the displacement or expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians.
But was partition really the issue? Or was it a rejection of Jews and/or Jewish autonomy anywhere in the land? I argue that it’s the latter.
In 1937, the British asked the Mufti if, should there be a “one state solution,” Palestinian Arabs would be willing to absorb the 400,000 Jews already living in Palestine. He said: “No. Some of them would have to be removed by a process kindly or painful, as the case may be.”
In 1939, the British offered the Arabs a majority Arab, non-partitioned Palestinian state. In other words: the British offered the Arabs precisely what they wanted. Every single member of the Arab Higher Committee was in favor of adopting such a plan, save for one: the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. His reasoning was twofold: (1) he would not be satisfied with anything less than a Jewish-free state, and (2) the British could not guarantee that the Mufti would be the leader of such a state.
Between 1945-1947, the British proposed a number of “one state solutions” to the Mufti. He rejected all of them. He despised Jews more than he wanted an independent Palestinian state.
The Mufti was a virulent antisemite, who incited his followers against the Jews — both recent Zionist immigrants and those who’d lived in Palestine continuously for millennia — long before Hitler rose to power. But he was undoubtedly emboldened by the Nazis: their rhetoric, ideology, propaganda, and diplomatic and material support (e.g. weaponry and financial assistance) created an environment in which coexistence in any form was impossible. Echoing the Nazis themselves, the Mufti and his followers believed that the Jews were a problem to be dealt with, not a people that they could live with.
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