Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hitler, the Grand Mufti, and current Middle Eastern anti-semitism (German TV)

This historical documentary from a German TV news station (passed along to me by Shalom Lappin) helps fill in some important historical background to current Middle Eastern political conflicts, especially concerning some of the historical links between "classic" 19th- and 20th-century European political anti-semitism, culminating in Nazism, and the virulent anti-semitism that pervades much of the Muslim world today and is expressed straightforwardly in the programs of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

(For example, the classic anti-semitic tract The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was forged by the Czarist secret police in the late 19th century, is now a best-seller across the Middle East and it has been adapted for movies and TV series in several Arab countries. The charter of Hamas refers directly to the Protocols.)

Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian Muslim cleric named Grand Mufti of Jerusalem under the British Mandate, was also a long-time pan-Arab nationalist activist and the most important Palestinian political leader from the 1920s onwards. The Grand Mufti collaborated closely and enthusiastically with the Nazi regime beginning in the late 1930s and spent most of World War II in Berlin.. (Among other things, he helped to form Waffen-SS units in the Balkans, made up of Bosnian Muslims, which participated in slaughtering both Serbs and Jews.) After Hitler's defeat, the Grand Mufti escaped to Cairo, which--like Beirut and Buenos Aires--became a major haven for Nazi war criminals, and continued to be politically active and influential, there and elsewhere in the Arab world, until his death in the 1970s. Beyond its intrinsic significance, the history of the Grand Mufti's links to the Nazi regime and Nazi ideology helps to illuminate the larger. process by which a world-view of obsessively paranoid racist anti-semitism, of a type originally developed in Europe, became a key element of a range of political ideologies in the Arab world, both Arab-nationalist and Islamist.

Here is the video clip from German TV. This report is short but informative, and it apparently incorporates some newly available footage from the Grand Mufti's time in Berlin. (The broadcast is in German, but after the first minute or so there are English-language subtitles at the bottom of the screen.)

--Jeff Weintraub