The Mufti and Hitler—Two of a Kind, J Street Notwithstanding

J Street’s communications director, Alan Elsner, writing in USA Today, omitted historical facts essential to understanding the role of Palestinian Arab leadership in murdering Jews, both those in Europe and those in what is today Israel—before, during and after the Holocaust (“Netanyahu’s outrageous lie on the Final Solution,” Oct. 20, 2015). 

What’s outrageous, to borrow from the headline over Elsner’s Op-Ed, is his misleading narrow focus on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s overstatement that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, gave Adolf Hitler the idea of the “Final Solution.” He obfuscates, implying that Netanyahu is wrong about the mufti’s central place in the Holocaust. Yet, as University of Maryland historian Jeffrey Herf, an expert on antisemitism in the Arab world, has noted, “Netanyahu’s comments about Husseini’s lasting impact on Palestinian political culture are very much on the mark” (“Netanyahu, Husseini, and the Historians,” The Times of Israel, Oct. 22, 2015).
Elsner says that the mufti met Hitler “for the first time on Nov. 28, 1941,” that is, after Germany and its European collaborators had begun mass killings of Jews but before organizing the “Final Solution” of death camps and gas chambers. But the J Street spokesman fails to mention that Husseini had been in contact with high ranking Nazi officials, such as Holocaust organizer SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann, as early as 1937. In a signed July 26, 1946 deposition at the Nuremberg trials, SS official Dieter Wisliceny said the mufti “was one of Eichmann’s best friends and had constantly incited him to accelerate the extermination measures [of the Jews].” (See also “Bibi, the Mufti, and the Media,” CAMERA, October 23.)

Elsner also leaves out that the mufti and the Palestinian Arabs he led were instrumental in intensifying the scope and duration of the Holocaust of European Jewry.

Husseini openly was inciting anti-Jewish violence in British Mandatory Palestine over a decade before Hitler took power. Shortly before and after his May 1921 appointment by British officials to the position of mufti, or Chief Muslim religious judge, of Jerusalem, Husseini organized anti-Jewish attacks. In August 1929, he played an instrumental role in spreading false rumors that Jews held secret designs on the al-Aqsa mosque—leading to riots and massacres in Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods and nearby Jewish communities that killed 133 Jewish men, women and children and wounded 339.
Mufti help trapped Jews in Nazi-controlled Europe

Elsner also omits mention of the mufti’s role in shutting the gates of Nazi-dominated Europe on countless Jews, dooming them to destruction. Husseini led the Palestinian Arab revolt from 1936 to 1939. This unprovoked violence against Jews and the British resulted in the latter severely curtailing Jewish immigration to Palestine—just as Europe’s Jews desperately sought refuge from Hitler’s genocidal aims.

In 1945, Yugoslavia tried to indict the mufti as a war criminal for recruiting 20,000 Bosnian Muslim volunteers into the Waffen SS, which participated in murdering Jews in Croatia and Hungary and Serbs as well. The mufti continued to war against any Jewish existence in their ancient homeland by organizing and leading an army against the fledging Jewish state in 1948 and having his henchmen assassinate Jordan’s King Abdullah I, who favored negotiations with Israel, in 1951.

When the mufti appeared before the British Shaw Commission that investigated the 1929 anti-Jewish riots, he brought with him a copy of the antisemitic Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, which purports to show a Jewish conspiracy that runs the world and foments wars—and by logical extension must be defeated by any means, including annihilation. These deeply antisemitic ideas were “embedded” in a Palestinian Arab society in which, historian Herf notes, the mufti remains a “revered figure.” They echo in today’s Hamas charter and are reflected even in Palestinian Authority communications media.

Elsner was not moved to write a commentary calling “outrageous” current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ echoing of Husseini, as on September 16, when he said, “The al-Aqsa is ours…and they [Jews] have no right to defile it…We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem.”

Elsner is right that the mufti wasn’t the “mastermind” of the Holocaust. But by sharing Hitler’s vision and working to fulfill its genocidal ambitions—even after Hitler’s April 1945 suicide, he was more than like-minded, he was an important contributor. Elsner’s USA Today Op-ed, to the extent it avoided coming to grips with historical reality while recounting his own laudable efforts to help memorialize Holocaust-related sites in Europe, amounted to one more J Street attack on Netanyahu and his government and de facto pro-Palestinian distraction.

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