BOOKS: Mufti – Hitler’s man in the Middle EastFebruary 18, 2009 12:00 am arts
Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam
by David G Dalin and John F Rothmann
Random House, $26
THIS book, which has already achieved iconic status in the United States, is going to make seriously disturbing reading for those who subscribe to the view that the pathological hatred that divides Arab and Jew in the Middle East is attributable to the Israelis alone.
Haj Amin al-Husseini was probably one of the most influential Arab leaders in Palestine and the wider Arab world during the Second World War. In a supreme act of irony, it was the Jewish High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, who appointed him Mufti in 1921. Thereafter, al-Husseini, indoctrinated in the belief that the Jews were intent on destroying Islamic civilisation, set out to kill them wherever he could.
He decreed: “There is no punishment for killing Jews.” He instigated riots in Jerusalem and pogroms in Hebron and Safed where the centuries old Jewish communities were ethnically cleansed in 1929. More moderate Palestinian Arab leaders, such as the Nashashibi dynasty, who were looking for an accommodation with Palestinian Jewry, were intimidated and murdered by the Mufti’s forces. The Mandatory authorities eventually outlawed al-Husseini’s Arab Higher Committee and the Mufti fled to Baghdad in 1937.
There he attempted to stage a pro-Nazi coup in 1941 which was eventually repressed. But not before the Mufti waged a pogrom against Iraq’s large Jewish population that left more than 100 dead and thousands homeless. In November 1941 he was granted sanctuary in a luxurious mansion on Berlin’s fashionable Klopstock Street.
The war years saw the Mufti form a close alliance with Adolf Hitler, both of whom declared an intent to rid Europe of its “Judeo-Communist” empire. Al-Husseini established a close working relationship with Heinrich Himmler and recruited 100,000 Moslems, mainly from Yugoslavia, to serve in Waffen SS units. The SS Handschar division was responsible for the extermination of 90 per cent of Bosnian Jewry. The brutality they deployed made a contrast with the mechanised killing in the extermination camps. The Mufti’s SS divisions favoured killing Jewish families face to face with knives. They destroyed hundreds of Serbian churches and hunted down Communist partisans.
The authors, though, neglect to mention that the Mufti’s SS units were some of the most ferocious and fanatical defenders of Berlin when the Red Army advanced to crush the last vestiges of the Nazi empire. They do, however, include a series of nauseating photographs depicting the Mufti in close embrace with virtually every Nazi leader and inspecting his SS troops.
Adolf Eichmann’s deputy, Dieter Wisliceny, testified at the Nuremberg trials that the Mufti encouraged his principal to accelerate the mass extermination of Jews – and even accompanied Eichmann on a visit to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. He also convinced the Nazi leaders not to go ahead with an exchange of 20,000 German prisoners of war for 4,000 Hungarian and Romanian children who were subsequently exterminated in German death camps at Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibor.
In late 1944, the Mufti arranged for five parachutists armed with 10 containers of toxin to try and poison Tel Aviv’s water supply and murder 250,000 Jews. Fortunately, British forces in Jericho captured the five before they could carry out the carnage.
Calls to have the Mufti tried at Nuremberg were rebuffed by, among others, Clement Attlee, who thought such a move might enrage Arab sentiment. Instead King Farouk of Egypt granted him sanctuary. Following the UN partition of Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states, the Mufti and his old comrade Fawzi al-Kawukji, with whom he had spent the war as Hitler’s guest, formed the Arab Liberation Army whose objective was to fight the partition plan and wage a “total war of extermination” against the Jews.
The latter part of this study charts the influence of al-Husseini on modern day jihadi terror groups such as Hizbollah and Hamas. The authors attribute al-Husseini’s widespread dissemination of anti-Semitic texts such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a primary reason behind the refusal of Islamic fundamentalism to come to terms with the reality of the existence of Israel.
A Hamas text declaring “the war is open until Israel ceases to exist and until the last Jew in the world is eliminated” is lifted virtually verbatim from the ravings of the Mufti, who died peacefully at the age of 79 in Beirut in 1974, no doubt utterly content with the murderous legacy he had bequeathed to his fundamentalist heirs.