Nazis, Islamists and the Making of the Modern Middle East
Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Barry Rubin and Wolfgang C. Schwanitz. (Yale University Press, 340 pp. $35)
The link between the Holocaust and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the subject of this informative, controversial book by Wolfgang G. Schwanitz and the late Barry Rubin, Middle East historians. The authors trace the affinity between Adolf Hitler and Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, when it came to the “Jewish Question,” whose solution culminated in the Holocaust.
Both an Arab nationalist and an Islamic fundamentalist, al-Husseini sided with Nazi Germany during World War II and agitated against the Jews, arguing that all Muslims must fight alongside the Germans. When they achieved victory, he believed, Islam would be saved from Western imperialism and united in its primary objective of destroying the Jewish people. Using selective readings from the Koran, he argued that there was an eternal hostility between Jews and Muslims since Jews plotted against Muhammad.
The authors contend that genocide against the Jews predated the Nazi’s decision to implement the Final Solution, not a plan he borrowed from Hitler or abandoned once the Third Reich fell. In 1937, the authors write, “al-Huseini had urged all Muslims to rid their lands of Jews…urging the use of force against all Jews in the Middle East.” Subsequently, he proposed a deal to Hitler wherein the Arabs would support Germany’s aims if they would prohibit Jews from leaving Nazi-occupied Europe and help him rid the Jews from Palestine.
The end of World War II, however, did not prevent the Nazis from exporting anti-Semitic works, such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to the Middle East and using that region as a sanctuary for Nazi war criminals. The authors denote a genocidal line from al-Husseini to Yasser Arafat, citing a meeting in December 1968 in which al-Husseini anointed Arafat as his successor after lecturing him on how he should go about destroying Israel.
Turning to the Middle East today, the authors admit there are Arab moderates willing to compromise with Israel. But as the Arab Spring has turned into the Arab Winter, they are no match for al-Husseini’s genocidal legacy. The authors cite radical Islamists who “boast of never having compromised with imperialism or Zionism,” but of having fought in a noble cause. Should radicals prevail over the more “moderate” forces that seek an accommodation with Israel, the authors conclude, a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be long in coming.