Don’t stand the facts on their head
‘You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts’.
I was reminded of this old adage while listening a presentation at Limmud by Na’amod (Hebrew for ‘Let’s stand’). This UK-based organisation, which is supported by leftwing young Jews and claims to represent both Zionists and anti-Zionists, is currently running a campaign called ‘Racism isn’t kosher’.
All individuals have their prejudices and biases. The speakers went through common tropes that Jews believe about Palestinians. They were not an invented nation. The ‘Nakba’ was not a lie. The Arabs love their children as much as the Jews do.
But when the speakers suggested that Palestinian collaboration with the Nazis was a trope, they were in danger of losing all credibility.
A reminder of the facts:
It is well-documented that many, if not most, Arabs supported the Germans. Beginning in 1933, the self-declared leader of the Arab world, the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al Husseini, made overtures to Hitler. He received Nazi funding—as did Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood—for his 1936 -1939 Palestinian revolt, during which his thugs killed Jews, British soldiers and any Arabs who rejected his pro-Nazi agenda. He was the driving force behind a pro-Nazi coup and the massacre of hundreds of Jews in Iraq in 1941. He then fled to Berlin and spent the rest of the war, together with 60 other Arabs, as Hitler’s personal guest, broadcasting antisemitic radio propaganda to the Arab world. He was never tried at Nuremberg for war crimes.
In the service of the Third Reich, the Mufti recruited thousands of Muslims to the Waffen SS. He intervened with the Nazis to prevent the escape to Palestine of thousands of European Jews, who were sent instead to the death camps. He had plans to bring the Holocaust to Palestine. The Arabs pressured the British into curtailing Jewish immigration that could have saved millions of lives. The Mufti dragged the Arab League into war with Israel and into driving out their Jewish citizens. His legacy still endures today in Palestinian and Islamist rejectionism of the Jewish state.
If ‘Palestinian collaboration with the Nazis’ is a trope, then I’ve got some snake oil to sell you.
But in an echo of the former London mayor Ken Livingstone’s 2017 claim that Hitler supported Zionism, the young Na’amodists crossed the moral Rubicon when they claimed that Palestinian collaboration with Nazism was no worse than the agreement that the Zionists negotiated with the Nazis in the 1930s. The Ha’avara agreement facilitated the relocation of Jews to Palestine in 1933. It allowed a portion of Jewish emigrants’ possessions, which they were forced to hand over before they left Germany, to be re-claimed through transfers to Palestine as German export goods. But Hitler did not care whether the Jews went to Madagascar or Palestine, as long as he got rid of them from Germany. When Israel later reached an agreement to airlift Jews from Yemen or Iraq, or when it paid hard cash to Morocco to secure the emigration of its Jews in 1961, did this mean that the Yemeni, Iraqi or Moroccan governments supported Zionism?
Apologists both Arab and western have tried to downplay the pivotal role played by the Mufti. Even the new chairman of Yad Vashem, Dani Dayan, caused a scandal in Israel recently when he refused to re-instate a photo of the wartime Mufti meeting Hitler.
But wishful thinking and bending the facts — however inconvenient — to suit an agenda, is in nobody’s interest. Concealing racism in the Palestinians while holding a microscope to Jewish ‘Islamophobia’ or Israel’s purported crimes does nothing to advance mutual understanding and reconciliation.
Lyn Julius is a journalist and co-founder of Harif, an association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa in the UK. She is the author of ‘Uprooted: How 3,000 years of Jewish Civilisation in the Arab world vanished overnight.’ (Vallentine Mitchell)