Appearing on Larry King Live at the
end of September when he was in New York to speak at the United Nations,
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned to one of his favorite tropes.
"Let's assume (the Holocaust)
happened, the extent of which everyone is speaking of," Ahmadinejad
preached, attempting to pin Israel's legitimacy as a nation to an event he
doesn't believe actually occurred. "If the crimes were committed in
Europe, why should the Palestinian people be victimized as a result?"
Let us assume for a moment that Israel's legitimacy is tied to the Holocaust,
to the extent Ahmadinejad is suggesting. In this twisted world, Ahmadinejad's
question is a fair one. And it is one that has an answer.
In last week's edition of The Weekly
Standard, I reviewed David Dalin and John Rothmann's latest book Icon of Evil. Their tome provides a forceful
answer to Ahmadinejad's query.
The book recounts the life of Haj Amin al-Husseini. The mufti was the
recognized leader of Palestinian Arabs from the 1920s until well after World
War II. After leaving Mandate Palestine in 1937, he ultimately found his way to
Berlin in 1941.
In Berlin, al-Husseini was treated royally. Given luxurious accommodations and
a large stipend, he was looked to as a leader of importance by Adolf Hitler and
even viewed as an honorary Aryan due to his blond hair and blue eyes.
A social butterfly, al-Husseini met with all the right people. He had an
audience with the Fuhrer and, according to the book's authors, he became a
close confident of Heinrich Himmler and Adolph Eichmann, despite al-Husseini's
denials after the war.
But al-Husseini was more than just a passive observer of Nazi crimes. He was an
active collaborator. Besides broadcasting pro-Nazi radio messages to Muslims
throughout the world, al-Husseini recruited Bosnian Muslims to join the Nazi
"With (al-Husseini's) encouragement and incitement," Dalin and
Rothmann write, "the Bosnian Muslim Waffen-SS company that he recruited,
the notorious 'Handschar troopers,' slaughtered 90 percent – 12,600 – of
Bosnia's 14,000 Jews."
Of course, al-Husseini's ultimate goal was to bring the final solution to the
Middle East. He attempted to do so even before the war in Europe had ended,
though his efforts fortunately failed. Through a series of fortuitous events,
both political and otherwise, al-Husseini escaped prosecution for war crimes
and eventually made his way back to the Middle East where he continued to
foment anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli hatred up until his death in 1974.
Playing Ahmadinejad's game is somewhat a fool's errand. Israel's legitimacy goes
far deeper than the crimes of the Holocaust. It is in many ways offensive that
Israel is even forced to defend its right to exist. It is a task that few
states are asked to undertake.
Nonetheless, Ahmadinejad's question does indeed have an answer. His insinuation
that the Arabs of Palestine had no role in the Holocaust is disproved by the
story of al-Husseini. You can argue that he was just one man, but the fact
remains that he was the recognized leader of Palestinian Arabs and he is widely
celebrated in the West Bank and Gaza today.
Sadly, years after al-Husseini's death, the Middle East remains rife with
anti-Semitism. Hitler's autobiography Mein
Kampf recently topped the best seller list in Turkey, and the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,
a notorious anti-Semitic Tsarist forgery, was turned into a popular mini-series
in several Arab countries.
According to a recently released international poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org,
nearly 20 percent of Palestinians believe that Israel was responsible for the
Sept. 11 attacks. The results are worse in Egypt and Jordan, where 43 percent
of Jordanians and 31 percent of Egyptians blame Israel for Al Qaeda's gruesome
Studies of educational texts throughout the Arab world have consistently found
anti-Semitic libels being taught as fact to school children. Obviously, such
anti-Semitic indoctrination does not provide a positive foundation for a future
peace deal between Israel and its neighbors. Even the "moderate"
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, whom Israeli leaders hope they can one day
negotiate a peace deal with, earned a PhD with a dissertation denying the
extent of the Holocaust.
Finally, of course, there is our old friend Ahmadinejad, who in 2006 hosted a
conference in Tehran on Holocaust denial.
It is always easy to ignore the taunts and ahistorical statements of bullies
like Ahmadinejad. But history matters. We can't allow the ignorant to write