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Media Analyses





BBC Corrects: Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini Targeted All Jews, Not Only Immigrants


The BBC on Aug. 4 revised an online news story that incorrectly described Palestinian leader Haj Amin al-Husseini as having targeted "Jewish immigrants" in British-ruled Palestine. In fact, bloody anti-Jewish attacks fomented by Husseini targeted all Jews, irrespective of whether they were immigrants or members of the ancient Jewish community in Palestine. A separate problem with the BBC piece was not corrected.
 
The Corrected Language

The BBC's article as initially published on July 22, 2009 stated that

Haj Amin al-Husseini was a Palestinian nationalist leader who led violent campaigns against Jewish immigrants and the British authorities in what was then British-ruled Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s.

The amended version of the piece more accurately describes Husseini as "a Palestinian nationalist leader who led violent campaigns against Jews and the British authorities ...."
 
The change occurred after CAMERA provided the BBC with details, which are recounted below, about the anti-Jewish attacks that occurred under Husseini's leadership.
 
The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry's Survey of Palestine, prepared in 1945-46, describes "old established Jewish communities" being targeted during Arab riots in 1929. In August of that year, the Survey of Palestine notes, "murderous attacks were made on Jews in various parts of the country." It pointed out that "the most violent attacks were those against the old established Jewish communities at Hebron and Safad." (In Hebron alone, 67 Jewish men, woman and children were brutally murdered.)
 
Also discussing this attack against Hebron Jews, Mark A. Tessler, a distinguished professor of political science at Northwestern University, wrote that "Most Jews of Hebron were pious and belonged to the old Yishuv, the community being an ancient one centered on a Talmudic college" (Tessler, A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict).

Another city in which Jews were targeted in 1929 was Jerusalem, the Survey of Palestine notes. Far from being a community of Jewish "immigrants," Jerusalem had a Jewish plurality already during the early part of the 19th century. Sir Martin Gilbert states that in 1838 there were 6,000 Jews in Jerusalem, compared to 5,000 Muslims and 3,000 Christians (Jerusalem: Rebirth of a City). Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1853 "assessed the Jewish population of Jerusalem in 1844 at 7,120, making them the biggest single religious group in the city" (Terence Prittie, Whose Jerusalem). And according to Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, "In the second half of the nineteenth century and at the end of that century, Jews comprised the majority of the population of the Old City ..." (Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century).

Husseini was also sentenced by the British for his role in violent attacks that took place in Jerusalem in April 1920. At least five Jews were killed and 211 injured. As noted above, Jerusalem was the site of a long-established Jewish community with a large number of non-immigrant Jews.

Other Problem Uncorrected
 
Although a major focus of the BBC's article is the relationship between Husseini and Nazism, the piece significantly downplays that relationship.

The article casts Husseini's alliance with the Nazis as being tied to the Palestinian leader's nationalism and opposition to Israel, and not broader ideological sympathies. Referring to that alliance, BBC News says only that Husseini

continued his campaign to oppose British plans to set up a Jewish State in Palestine, allying himself with the Nazis during World War II. He died in Lebanon in 1974.

The meeting with Hitler took place in November 1941 in Berlin, during which Husseini asked Hitler unsuccessfully to back Arab independence and publicly oppose the future creation of Israel.

These two sentences refer only to his opposition to "a Jewish State in Palestine" and the "creation of Israel." But in fact, Husseini's own statements and actions make clear that his alliance with the Nazis was in part driven by the virulent anti-Semitism that he shared with the Third Reich. The BBC inexplicably ignores his denigration of Jews as a whole and "world Jewry."

Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies explains that
Husseini contributed to the Nazi war effort by setting up Bosnian Muslim battalions that were attached to the Waffen-SS. These soldiers fought Partisans in Bosnia and massacred civilians there. Husseini also tried to convince the Axis authorities to bomb Tel Aviv, and to extend the "Final Solution" to the Jews in North Africa and Palestine. When he was informed of various Nazi plans to exchange Jewish lives for goods or large sums of money, he strenuously lobbied against them.

And The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum explains that

Al-Husayni spoke often of a ‘worldwide Jewish conspiracy' that controlled the British and U.S. governments and sponsored Soviet Communism. He argued that ‘world Jewry' aimed to infiltrate and subjugate Palestine, a sacred religious and cultural center of the Arab and Muslim world, as a staging ground for the seizure of all Arab lands. In his vision of the world, the Jews intended to enslave and exploit Arabs, to seize their land, to expropriate their wealth, undermine their Muslim faith and corrupt the moral fabric of their society. He labeled the Jews as the enemy of Islam, and used crude racist terminology to depict Jews and Jewish behavior, particularly as he forged a closer relationship with the SS in 1943 and 1944. He described Jews as having immutable characteristics and behaviors. On occasion, he would compare Jewishness to infectious disease and Jews to microbes or bacilli. In at least one speech attributed to him, he advocated killing Jews wherever Arabs found them. He consistently advocated ‘removing' the Jewish homeland from Palestine and, on occasion, driving every Jew out of Palestine and other Arab lands. ...

On December 18, 1942, Arab émigrés opened an ‘Islamic Central Institute' (Islamische Zentral-Institut) in Berlin, with al-Husayni as a senior sponsor and keynote speaker. In his speech, al-Husayni lashed out at the Jews, stating that the Koran judged the Jews ‘to be the most irreconcilable enemies of the Muslims.' He predicted that the Jews would ‘always be a subversive element on the earth [and] are inclined to craft intrigues, provoke wars, and play the nations off against one another.' Al-Husayni insisted that the Jews influenced and controlled the leadership of Great Britain, the United States, and the ‘godless communists.' With their help and support, ‘world Jewry' had, he asserted, unleashed World War II."

In a Nov. 5, 1943 speech broadcast on Radio-Berlin, Husseini referred to the Jews of "the lowest race among the nations," a sentiment echoed in his diary: "The Jews bring the world poverty, trouble and disaster," he wrote. "They destroy morality in all countries ... they are like moths who eat away all the good in the countries ... they are monsters and the basis of all evil in the world ..." (Jennie Lebel, The Mufti of Jerusalem Haj-Amin el-Husseini and National Socialism, pgs 155-158).


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