Hamas, the terrorist organization that specializes in targeting civilians, has now decided, according to a New York Times headline, to shift “from rockets to culture war” in an effort to garner public support for its cause. Part of its ongoing public relations campaign is to portray the Israelis as the “new Nazis” and the Palestinians as the “new Jews.” In order to bring about this transformation, it must engage in a form of Holocaust denial that erases the historical record of widespread Palestinian complicity with the “old Nazis” in perpetrating the real Holocaust. It has become an important part of the mantra of Hamas supporters that neither the Palestinians people nor its leadership played any role in the Holocaust. Listen to Mohammad Ahmadinejad talking to students at Columbia University:
If [the Holocaust] is a reality, we need to still question whether the Palestinian people should be paying for it or not. After all, it happened in Europe. The Palestinian people had no role to play in it. So why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price of an event they had nothing to do with?...The Palestinian people didn’t commit any crime. They had no role to play in World War II. They were living with the Jewish communities and the Christian communities in peace at the time.
The conclusion that is supposed to follow from this “fact” is that the establishment of Israel in the wake of the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people was unfair to the Palestinians. Central to this claim is that neither the Palestinian people nor their leadership bore any responsibility for the Holocaust, and if any reparations are owed the Jewish people, it is from Germany and not from the Palestinians. The propounders of this historical argument suggest that the West created the Jewish state out of guilt over the Holocaust. It might have been understandable if a portion of Germany (or Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, France, Austria, or other collaborator nations) had been allocated for a Jewish homeland—but why Palestine? Palestine, according to this claim, was as much a “victim” as were the Jews.
I hear this argument on university campuses around the United States, and even more so in Europe.
The truth is that the Palestinian leadership, supported by the Palestinian masses, played a significant role in Hitler’s Holocaust.
The official leader of the Palestinians, Haj Amin al-Husseini, spent the war years in Berlin with Hitler, serving as a consultant on the Jewish question. He was taken on a tour of Auschwitz and expressed support for the mass murder of European Jews. He also sought to “solve the problems of the Jewish element in Palestine and other Arab countries” by employing “the same method” being used “in the Axis countries.” He would not be satisfied with the Jewish residents of Palestine—many of whom were descendants of Sephardic Jews who had lived there for hundreds, even thousands, of years—remaining as a minority in a Muslim state. Like Hitler, he wanted to be rid of “every last Jew.” As Husseini wrote in his memoirs, “Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world. I asked Hitler for an explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem in a manner befitting our national and racial aspirations and according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews. The answer I got was: ‘The Jews are yours.’”
The mufti was apparently planning to return to Palestine in the event of a German victory and to construct a death camp, modeled after Auschwitz, near Nablus. Husseini incited his pro-Nazi followers with the words “Arise, o sons of Arabia. Fight for your sacred rights. Slaughter Jews wherever you find them. Their spilled blood pleases Allah, our history and religion. That will save our honor.”
Not only did Husseini exhort his followers to murder the Jews; he also took an active role in trying to bring about that result. For example, in 1944, a German-Arab commando unit, under Husseini’s command, parachuted into Palestine and with the intention of poisoning Tel Aviv’s wells.
Husseini also helped to inspire a pro-Nazi coup in Iraq and helped to organize thousands of Muslims in the Balkans into military units known as Handselar divisions, which carried out atrocities against Yugoslav Jews, Serbs, and Gypsies. After a meeting with Hitler, he recorded the following in his diary:
The Mufti: “The Arabs were Germany’s natural friends…. They were therefore prepared to cooperate with Germany with all their hearts and stood ready to participate in a war, not only negatively by the commission of acts of sabotage and the instigation of revolutions, but also positively by the formation of an Arab Legion. In this struggle, the Arabs were striving for the independence and the unity of Palestine, Syria and Iraq….”
Hitler: “Germany was resolved, step by step, to ask one European nation after the other to solve its Jewish problem, and at the proper time direct a similar appeal to non-European nations as well. Germany’s objective would then be solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere under the protection of British power. The moment that Germany’s tank divisions and air squadrons had made their appearance south of the Caucasus, the public appeal requested by the Grand Mufti could go out to the Arab world.”
Hitler assured Husseini about how he would be regarded following a Nazi victory and “the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere.” In that hour, the mufti would be the most authoritative spokesman for the Arab world. It would then be his task to set off the Arab operations that he had secretly prepared.
Husseini’s significant contributions to the Holocaust were multifold: first, he pleaded with Hitler to exterminate European Jewry and advised the Nazis on how to do so; second, he visited Auschwitz and urged Eichmann and Himmler to accelerate the pace of the mass murder; third, he personally stopped 4,000 children, accompanied by 500 adults, from leaving Europe and had them sent to Auschwitz and gassed; fourth, he prevented another two thousand Jews from leaving Romania for Palestine and one thousand from leaving Hungary for Palestine, who were subsequently sent to death camps; fifth, he organized the killing of 12,600 Bosnian Jews by Muslims, whom he recruited to the Waffen-SS Nazi-Bosnian division. He was also one of the few non-Germans who was made privy to the Nazi extermination while it was taking place. It was in his official capacity as the leader of the Palestinian people and its official representative that he made his pact with Hitler, spent the war years in Berlin, and worked actively with Eichmann, Himmler, von Ribbentrop, and Hitler himself to “accelerate” the final solution by exterminating the Jews of Europe and laying plans to exterminate the Jews of Palestine.
Not only did the Grand Mufti play a significant role in the murder of European Jewry, he sought to replicate the genocide against the Jews in Israel during the war that produced a so-called Nakba. The war started by the Palestinians against the Jews in 1947, and the war started by the Arab states in 1948 against the new state of Israel, were both genocidal wars. Their goal was not merely the ethnic cleansing of the Jews from the area but their total annihilation. The leaders said so and the actions of their subordinates reflected this genocidal goal. They were aided in their efforts by Nazi soldiers—former SS and Gestapo members—who had been given asylum from war crime prosecution in Egypt and who had been recruited by the grand mufti to complete Hitler’s work.
It is also fair to say that Husseini’s pro-Nazi sympathies and support were widespread among his Palestinian followers, who regarded him as a hero even after the war and the disclosure of his role in Nazi atrocities. The notorious photograph of Husseini and Hitler, together in Berlin, was proudly displayed in many Palestinian homes, even after Husseini’s activities in the Holocaust became widely known and praised among Palestinians.
Husseini is still regarded by many as “the George Washington” of the Palestinian people, and if the Palestinians were to get a state of their own, he would be honored as our founding father is. He was their hero, despite—more likely, because of—his active role in the genocide against the Jewish people, which he openly supported and assisted. According to Husseini’s biographer, “Large parts of the Arab world shared [Husseini’s] sympathy with Nazi Germany during the Second World War…. Haj Amin’s popularity among the Palestinian Arabs and within the Arab states actually increased more than ever during his period with the Nazis.”
In 1948, the National Palestinian Council elected Husseini as its president, even though he was a wanted war criminal living in exile in Egypt. Indeed, Husseini is still revered today among many Palestinians as a national hero. Yasser Arafat, in an interview conducted in 2002 and reprinted in the Palestinian daily Al-Quds on August 2, 2002, called Husseini “our hero,” referring to the Palestinian people. Arafat also boasted of being “one of his troops,” even though he knew Husseini was “considered an ally of Nazis.” Today many Palestinians in East Jerusalem want to turn his home into a shrine. (Ironically, it is this home that was bought by a Jew to build the controversial Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem.)
It is a myth, therefore—another myth perpetrated by Iran’s mythmaker-in-chief as well as by Hamas and by many on the hard left who seek to demonize Israel—that the Palestinians played “no role” in the Holocaust. Considering the active support by the Palestinian leadership and masses for the losing side of a genocidal war, it was more than fair for the United Nations to offer them a state of their own on more than half of the arable land of the British mandate.
The Palestinians rejected that offer and several since because they wanted there not to be a Jewish state more than they wanted their own state. That was Husseini’s position. Hamas still takes that position. Perhaps their new “culture war” will finally cause them to reconsider—and to accept the two state solution.