Icon of Evil
For the better part of a century, violence against Jews has arguably been the top export of the Palestinian people. True, they have olives and citrus, but ask any man on the street what the Palestinians are best known for, and you are likely to hear "suicide bombings" or "rockets." While most Palestinians would claim that the violence is simply a means to "liberate" their homeland, another plausible explanation may lie in the fact that early Palestinian nationalism was influenced heavily by Nazism. While other nations have disavowed fascism (Germany and Italy, for example) and have since developed into thriving democracies, the Palestinians have never reconciled with their past.
The most influential leader of the Palestinians during the British mandate, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was a Nazi collaborator. Husseini's relationship with the Nazis is incontrovertible. He worked closely with Hitler's top men in an attempt to achieve the "final solution." Yet, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Husseini is considered a founding father of Palestinian nationalism.
Should there be any question about Husseini's involvement with Hitler and his executioners, readers are advised to read Icon of Evil, by David G. Dalin and John F. Rothmann. Their short history of the mufti is an exceptional one. With the help of photos and original documents, the book paints a stark picture of Husseini's ties to the Nazis and his dangerous role in the Third Reich.
Husseini, appointed the grand mufti of Jerusalem in 1921, is perhaps best known as the provocateur who exhorted Palestinian Arabs to carry out anti-Jewish violence in British-controlled Palestine in 1920, as well as the architect of the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt, which resulted in hundreds of Jewish and British casualties. For this, he was hailed as a hero and a staunch enemy of Zionism.
After the British ousted him from Mandatory Palestine, however, Husseini became an enemy of humanity. The Grossmufti von Jerusalem, as the Nazis called him, should today be recognized as a war criminal.
Husseini left incontrovertible evidence of his Nazi collaboration in writing. In one journal entry, he admits that the basis for his cooperation with Germany was the fact that he was given "a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world," and Hitler's "explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem... according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews."
Husseini also left behind letters that prove his collaboration with the Nazis. In a January 1941 letter that he wrote to Hitler, he pledged to the "great F?hrer" that Arabs everywhere were "prepared to act as is proper against the common enemy and to take their stand with enthusiasm on the side of the Axis and to do their part in the well-deserved defeat of the Anglo-Jewish coalition."
Later that year, the mufti was welcomed as an honored guest by the leaders of the Third Reich. After meeting personally with Hitler, he established close working relationships with high-profile Nazi war criminals including Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann. In fact, according to testimony at the Nuremberg trials, Husseini was "one of Eichmann's best friends," and that "accompanied by Eichmann, he had visited incognito the gas chamber of Auschwitz."
In 1943, Himmler placed Husseini in charge of recruiting as many as 100,000 Muslim fighters to join units serving in the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East. As the authors note, "Two of the best known and most infamous Waffen-SS Nazi-Muslim divisions were established in Nazi-occupied Bosnia and Croatia."
As the mufti became part of the Nazi war machine, he did his part to help Goebbels with propaganda. On March 1, 1944, he urged in a radio broadcast to the Arab world to "kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion." His efforts to murder Jews did not end with propaganda, however. As Dalin and Rothmann note, "At one point, he lobbied Hitler personally to block a plan to allow Jews to leave Hungary... claiming that they would settle in Palestine and reinforce a new center of world Jewish power."
On another occasion, he implored Himmler and other Nazi leaders to bomb Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Finally, according to British documents, Husseini in 1944 dispatched a group of paratroopers to poison Tel Aviv's water system, but they were apprehended before reaching their objective. Had the attack been successful, it might have killed more than 200,000 people.
Throughout Icon of Evil are numerous parallels between the murderous Nazi ideology of the 1940s and the murderous jihadist ideology that dominates headlines today. Both seek to kill Jews and somehow view the West as puppets in a Jewish plot of world domination. It seems only fitting, then, that Mein Kampf is translated as My Jihad in Arabic.
Perhaps the only part of this book that might have been reconsidered was Chapter 4, which asks, "What if Germany had conquered Palestine and Britain?" This chapter amounts to 12 pages of conjecture in what was otherwise an historical narrative. This section does not detract from the book, but was an unnecessary tangent. Indeed, the history speaks for itself.
Husseini died in 1974, but the history recounted in Icon of Evil is more important than ever. The rhetoric and violence of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades and other terrorist groups bear a sickening resemblance to the rhetoric and violence of Hitler's mufti.
The writer, a former US Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center and author of the forthcoming book Hamas vs Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine (Palgrave, Nov. 2008).