Echoes of Nazism in the Middle East

Anne Karpf is right to attack the equating of Palestinians with Nazis by rightwing authors, using the sojourn of the Mufti of Jerusalem in wartime Berlin (Islamofascist slanders, November 4). However, it is simplistic to gloss over the alignment of the mainstream Palestinian Arab national movement with Germany which argued from the standpoint of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” in order to eject the British from Mandatory Palestine.The Mufti was not alone in his views. In February 1941, Sari Sakakini, a Christian Arab, conducted a poll on behalf of the US consulate in Jerusalem and discovered that 88% of Palestinian Arabs favoured Germany over Britain. Fawzi al-Qawuqji, the commander of the Arab Liberation Army which invaded Palestine in early 1948 – and opponent of the Mufti of Jerusalem – spent the war years in Berlin. Compared to the Jews, few Palestinian Arabs enlisted with the British forces.

If the Nazis had succeeded in conquering Palestine, SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Walter Rauff, together with his Einsatzkommando , was on standby and would have been ordered to Palestine. The Nazis expected local participation in their actions, as had been the case in eastern Europe.

The fear of annihilation was undoubtedly a factor in the mindset of many Israelis during the war of 1948. There was also little sympathy for the cause of the Palestinian Arabs within the British left at that time, with Aneurin Bevan and Tony Benn both embracing Zionism. Arafat’s Fatah therefore always distanced itself from the Mufti and made a distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. This is not the case with the Islamists of Hamas and Hizbullah, whose disdain for Jews extends beyond the borders of Israel-Palestine.

Professor Colin Shindler
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Guardian 5 November 2008

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