Keeping two ideas in our head at the same time: 1) Bibi was wrong. 2) The mufti supported genocide

“The Arabs were Germany’s natural friends because they had the same enemies as had Germany, namely the English, the Jews, and the Communists.”Haj Amin al-Husseini (1941)

In contextualizing UK media coverage of Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent claims at a World Zionist Organization conference that the Palestinian Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, influenced Adolf Hitler to exterminate the Jews, we need to keep two ideas in our head at the sam time:

  1. The Israeli prime minister – by all historical accounts – was wrong to suggest that the grand mufti gave the Hitler the idea of carrying out the final solution.
  2. The grand mufti enthusiastically supported the final solution, disseminated annihilationist antisemitism throughout the Arab world, helped create a Bosnian-Muslim division of the Waffen-SS and prevented tens of thousands of European Jews from escaping to Mandate Palestine.

In a manner typical of media coverage of the row, The Independent published an op-ed by Peter Jukes (Just how bad are Netanyahu’s claims about the Holocaust? If he repeated them in Germany, he could be arrested, Oct. 22) which focused entirely on the first point, while almost completely ignoring the second.  

Though Jukes is correct to argue that “there is no evidence that the Grand Mufti had any impact in Hitler’s long held hatred of Jews”, in his 900 word op-ed he fails to even briefly explain the mufti’s Holocaust record and his influence on Palestinian Jew hatred.

Jeffrey Herf (a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of History at the University of Maryland) recently examined the row, and explained the impact of Husseini on Palestinian nationalism, including more recent Palestinian propaganda, incitement and antisemitism.  

Herf, while also categorically rejecting Netanyahu’s specific argument about Husseini and Hitler, demonstrated that Husseini’s alliance with Nazism and embrace of Nazi-level antisemitism are part of the historical record.

Husseini absolutely wanted to exterminate the Jews, above all, the Jews of pre-state Palestine, and then the Jews of Israel. The evidence of Husseini’s pleas to kill the Jews, of his boundless hatred of Judaism as a religion and the Jews as a people is well documented in Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World. He embedded his Jew-hatred in his understanding of Islam as early as a 1937 speech in Syria that the Germans published in German the following year. In the midst of the terrorist attacks he led and incited from 1936 to 1939 in Palestine, it was Husseini who claimed that the Zionists wanted to seize or destroy the Al Aksa Mosque. This lie became a central element of Palestinian propaganda over the decades until recent weeks.

Husseini, the Palestinian leader of the war of 1948 and hero to Yasser Arafat and his generation of leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization, interpreted Zionism as only the most recent of this supposed age-old Jewish hostility, not only to the Palestinians or Arabs as modern national groups, but also to the religion of Islam.

[Husseini] also referred to a supposed “Jewish desire” to seize the Islamic holy sites, a desire that extended to the Al Akas Mosque. Indeed, the Jews, he said, planned “to build a temple on its ruins.” Haj Amin al-Husseini’s very regrettable but consequential accomplishment was to fuse secular Arab anti-Zionism with the Islamist and thus theologically inspired hatred of the Jews and Judaism. The lies that Mahmoud Abbas and others have told in recent weeks about Israel’s supposed desire to somehow infringe on the rights of Muslims to pay at the Al Aksa Mosque have their origins in lies that are now at least 75 years old.

[Husseini] has remained a revered figure in Palestinian political memory. The absurdities for which Husseini became famous in the 1940s have continued to play a far too prominent role in the Palestinian political culture ever since. He did incite others to murder Jews. He did spread ridiculous conspiracy theories comparable to those of the Nazis. He did all that he could to help the Nazis in a failing effort to spread the Holocaust to the Middle East and to win the war in Europe. He left behind a legacy of hatred, paranoia, religious fanaticism and celebration of terror so long as it was aimed at Jews and Israelis. The Palestinian authority and Hamas even more so has kept that legacy is alive and well and fills the heads of Palestinian teenagers with rubbish that has led to the terror wave of recent weeks

In their zeal to pounce on the Israeli prime minister, British journalists and contributors (such as Jukes) fail to examine the more important questions regarding Husseini’s legacy.

  1. What is the connection between Husseini’s legacy of incitement, antisemitic propaganda (and support for genocide) and the current endemic antisemitism within Palestinian society?
  2. What role does Palestinian antisemitism, incitement and conspiracy theories (such the “threat” to al-aqsa) have on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict including the recent wave of attacks?

Of course, these question will not be explored by most foreign journalists covering the region because Palestinian racism – or, for that matter, any evidence demonstrating that Palestinian nationalism is not now and has never been a liberal movement – is simply not part of their desired narrative.

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