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How the Nazis helped to inspire Hamas

Islamist terrorists are pursuing an anti-Semitic agenda that long predates the state of Israel.

Alaa al-Ameri

Topics Politics World

Hamas’s terror attacks on Israel are part of its standard strategy, albeit on a far larger scale than ever before. By murdering and maiming as many Israeli civilians as possible, Hamas aims to draw Israeli retaliation and then rely on international politicians, NGOs and the commentariat to condemn the Israeli response.

Hamas’s strategy is underpinned by a key assumption – namely, that ‘the Palestinian cause’ is far more important than Palestinian people themselves. Islamists murder Israeli civilians in order to generate an Israeli backlash that leads to Palestinian casualties. This, in turn, will generate widespread condemnation of Israel. This is the behaviour of a sacrificial cult, and members of the Western media are fuelling it.

Indeed, the Western media are already peddling one of Hamas’s standard lines – namely, that its actions are born out of desperation. But that is misleading. Hamas’s total rejection of Israel’s existence is not a recent stance adopted in the face of Israel’s brutal treatment of Gaza. On the contrary, Islamist hostility towards Jews in the Middle East predates the founding of the Jewish state in 1948, let alone the occupation of Gaza in 1967.

Some Arab leaders in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were willing to compromise and work with the early Zionist movement. But some of the founders of the modern Palestinian-nationalist movement were different. Inspired by virulent anti-Semitism, they were intent on preventing and reversing all Jewish migration to the region.

Take Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem during the 1920s and 1930s. With the rise of Nazi Germany, al-Husseini became a devoted supporter and ally of Adolf Hitler. His aim was not simply to send Jews back to Europe, but to bring the Nazi Holocaust to the Middle East.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was famously ridiculed in 2015 for wrongly claiming that al-Husseini had inspired the Nazis to exterminate Europe’s Jews. This unfortunate misrepresentation of history has allowed many commentators to downplay the extent of al-Husseini’s collaboration with Nazi Germany. Al-Husseini certainly did not inspire the Holocaust. But he was an enthusiastic supporter of it. Anecdotal reports of al-Husseini’s visit to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in the summer of 1943, as part of an Arab delegation, was later confirmed by photographic evidence.

Then there were al-Husseini’s meetings with Hitler, his intervention to prevent the transfer of Jewish children to Switzerland, thereby condemning them to Auschwitz, and his role in recruiting Bosnian Muslims to serve in the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS.

While al-Husseini is only a marginal figure in the history of the Nazi Holocaust, he was among the most important Nazi propagandists in the Arab world. During the 1930s and 1940s, he played a major role in developing the modern Islamist movement, and in embedding anti-Semitism as a cornerstone of postcolonial Arab identity.

After the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945, al-Husseini was detained in France before escaping to Egypt in 1946. Well after the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps had been publicly exposed, and while the Nuremberg war-crimes trials (which al-Husseini was arguably trying to evade) were still ongoing, Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, welcomed al-Husseini to Egypt. Al-Banna described al-Husseini as a ‘hero who challenged an empire and fought Zionism’. ‘Germany and Hitler are gone, but Amin al-Husseini will continue the struggle’, he added.

Islamism and anti-Israeli rejectionism are therefore inseparably linked. Hamas is effectively enacting the central aims of an anti-Jewish agenda that predates the establishment of Israel by decades. And incredibly, it is this agenda that self-styled ‘anti-imperialists’ in the West have attached themselves to. They subscribe to the myth of Israel being a country of ‘white people’ that is simply suppressing ‘brown people’.

Their myopia and hypocrisy are mind-blowing. People who froth at the mouth about Israel being a religious state seem not to care that Muslim Pakistan was established a year earlier, in 1947. Pakistan’s creation led to death and displacement many orders of magnitude greater than anything experienced in the Arab-Israeli conflict over the past 75 years.

The world is meant to stand still at the sight of Palestinians held at checkpoints, but the latest mosque bombing in Pakistan by hardline Islamists hardly makes the news anymore. Palestinians displaced in 1948 still warrant speeches at the UN, while the fact that Pakistan and its local Islamist militias murdered as many as three million people in the Bangladesh genocide of 1971 is little more than a niche historical subject in the West.

Hamas plays on the Western media’s obsession with Israel. It instigated its latest attacks in the knowledge that the resulting narrative war would be fought by others on its behalf. It is well past time that the true nature of Hamas’s ideology was properly understood and rejected in the West and the Arab world alike. Not only for the sake of Israeli civilians, but also for the sake of the Palestinians, who continue to be sacrificed to Hamas’s brutal and barbarous aims.

Alaa al-Ameri is the pen name of a British-Libyan writer.

Graham Linehan and Brendan O’Neill – live and in conversation

Graham Linehan and Brendan O’Neill – live and in conversation

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Topics Politics World

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