Nazis, Islamists, and the Mak­ing of the Mod­ern Mid­dle East

Bar­ry Rubin and Wolf­gang G. Schwanitz
  • Review
By – October 13, 2014

The his­tor­i­cal link between Nazi anti-Semi­tism, lead­ing to the Holo­caust, and the Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ist anti-Jew­ish-anti-Israel threat to the Jew­ish state is the sub­ject of this impor­tant book. The late Bar­ry Rubin and Wolf­gang G. Schwanitz, both Mid­dle East schol­ars, have uncov­ered doc­u­men­ta­tion that reveals that the use of jihad as a polit­i­cal weapon was first used dur­ing World War I, when advi­sors to Kaiser Wil­helm II urged him to con­front Britain and France by encour­ag­ing Mus­lim Arabs in the Mid­dle East and world­wide to join the war on the side of Ger­many against Allied impe­ri­al­ism. Lat­er, the idea of jihad was res­ur­rect­ed against the Jews dur­ing the Third Reich.

Dur­ing the 1930s and 40s this link between the Third Reich and Islam­ic nation­al­ists and reli­gious lead­ers, was per­son­i­fied by Amin al-Husai­ni, the Arab Pales­tin­ian leader who shared with Adolf Hitler their hatred of Jews. The authors con­tend that al-Husai­ni advo­cat­ed geno­cide against the Jews as vehe­ment­ly as did Hitler, and his involve­ment in the Holo­caust was quite exten­sive. In 1937, the authors write, al-Husai­ni had urged all Mus­lims to rid their lands of Jews[…], urg­ing the use of force against all Jews in the Mid­dle East” and sub­se­quent­ly pro­posed a deal to Hitler in which the Arabs would sup­port Ger­man aims if the Ger­mans would stop Jews from leav­ing their coun­try and help him destroy the Jew­ish home in Palestine.

Although the Holo­caust was the prod­uct of Hitler’s fanat­i­cal anti-Semit­ic ide­ol­o­gy, the Nazis found in Al-Husai­ni a will­ing part­ner to join their cru­sade against the Jews. The authors note that if al-Husai­ni had not exist­ed, the Nazis would have recruit­ed some oth­er leader to accel­er­ate the pol­i­cy of geno­cide that the Axis part­ners intend­ed to spread to the Mid­dle East. Nev­er­the­less, they insist that it would be wrong to view al- Husai­ni as some­one the Nazis used to import their anti-Semi­tism to the Mid­dle East; rather, the two groups’ ideas devel­oped in par­al­lel from their own his­to­ries and polit­i­cal cul­tures[…] Al-Husai­ni and oth­er rad­i­cal Arabs were not mere­ly seek­ing to please Hitler but ful­ly believed his doctrines.”

The Sec­ond World War not only wit­nessed the defeat of Nazi Ger­many but also dis­cred­it­ed the doc­trine of Aryan suprema­cy. Yet, based on their selec­tive read­ing of the Quran, Husai­ni and his ilk con­tin­ued to pro­mote jihad against Israel in par­tic­u­lar and Jews in gen­er­al through­out the Mid­dle East and the Mus­lim world.

Relat­ed content:

Jack Fis­chel is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of his­to­ry at Millersville Uni­ver­si­ty, Millersville, PA and author of The Holo­caust (Green­wood Press) and His­tor­i­cal Dic­tio­nary of the Holo­caust (Row­man and Littlefield).

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