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

Yale University Press  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.

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