Barry Rubin & Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, Yale University Press, 2014.

Recently California Professor Laina Farhat-Holzman published a review on line of a fairly new book that concerns the Palestinian Grand Mufti Amin al-Husaini, who influenced Hitler in his decision to murder Jews during the Second World War. Excerpts below:

Not long ago, Israel’s president Netanyahu commented in a speech that Hitler was influenced by his ally, the Palestinian Grand Mufti, Amin al-Husaini, to murder rather than expel Europe’s Jews. There was an immediate uproar that this statement was historically incorrect, and that by saying this, he was diminishing Hitler’s role in the Holocaust. It seems that it was not incorrect, and this book, written by two very solid scholars, have not only validated this assessment, but have provided documents, letters, and photographs hitherto not widely available.

The authors spell out their rationale:  “The story of Nazi Germany’s involvement in the Middle  East has hitherto largely been viewed as a dramatic tale of might-have-been that was nevertheless marginal to Middle East history and the course of World War II.  In fact, however, this episode was central to the modern history of the Middle East and continues to reverberate many decades later given its profound effects on Arab nationalism, Islamism, and the course taken by the Palestinian Arab movement.” [ix}

Massive quantities of both wartime and postwar documents (in translation from German and Arabic) have just been released by the US government. What they reveal is that Germany had a long-time Middle East policy dating to the 19th century, designed to vex the British and French, who had acquired empire before the Germans had even united into one country. They had a long-time project of  fomenting Muslim jihad against Germany’s rivals.

The [rising] new Nazi party played on…one charismatic figure who emerged in the Palestinian territory (still under British control). It was a man of Circassian ancestry (blond and blue-eyed), claiming descent from the Prophet Mohammad, and through family pull, appointed as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Al-Husaini was not a cleric, nor was he pious; he was, however, ferociously ambitious and aspired to become the next Caliph, a dictator over all Muslims. (The last “Caliph” had been the Ottoman Sultan, both roles abolished when the Ottomans were defeated during World War I.)

Hitler and the Grand Mufti became allies, an alliance ignored in history until now. They met several times and the Nazis protected him throughout the war,…

Husaini was definitely a war criminal and was on Britain’s list for trial and (hopefully) execution. The Swiss would not give him refuge as Germany fell, but the French did, out of spite against the British, and they released him to create decades of Islamist mayhem in the Middle East. The French did it again when they gave refuge to the Ayatollah Khomeini. Without these two men, world history would have been very different.

Some of the most shocking revelations in the book include the personal relationship between Hitler and Husaini (whom Hitler had pronounced an honorary Aryan). In a meeting in 1941, when Hitler was still extorting Jewish money that paid for some exit permits for Jews, Husaini objected. He said that Hitler should exterminate them or else they would come to Palestine…

Husaini never succeeded in becoming a Caliph, ruling the entire Muslim (not just Arab) world. But he did succeed in ruining any possibility of the Arabs (particularly the Palestinians) developing a democratic, modern society. The PLO and other terrorist organizations were aided by many Nazi war criminals…

The connection between the Nazis and the Muslim World is alive and well, but is doomed to the same end that the Nazis earned. This is a definitive book on this very current subject.

Comment: It should also be taken into consideration that the Nazis during the Second World War created their own Arab liberation army (Free Arabian Legion formed from Arab volunteers from the Middle East and North Africa).


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