“Had Hitler won, Nazism would be an honor that people would be competing to belong to, and not a disgrace punishable by law. Churchill and Roosevelt were alcoholics, and in their youth were questioned more than once about brawls they started in bars, while Hitler hated alcohol and was not addicted to it. He used to go to sleep early and wake up early, and was very organized. These facts have been turned upside down as well, and Satan has been dressed with angels’ wings.”
– Al-Hayat al-Jadida. Official daily newspaper of the Palestinian National Authority, March 18th 2013.
A lot of scorn has been poured upon Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for his ridiculous accusation that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem had been the single voice that pushed Adolf Hitler to decide to commit an unthinkable genocide. But as the voices of condemnation for Netanyahu’s inflammatory comments grow – especially in a multi-ethnic society such as Israel, with racial tension already at breaking point – very little is heard about the ideological heritage left to the Islamist World just across Israel’s border, from 20th Century European fascism. It’s as if the former is worthy of global condemnation, whilst the latter – that resulted in the Holocaust, and threatens the annihilation of Israel daily – is not very important. I argue that on the contrary, the roots of Hamas can and should be traced back to the fusion of Islam with Nazism, by the Grand Mufti, and Hassan al-Banna.
In 1999, the Palestinian Authority gave its blessing to a translation into Arabic of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. In it, the translator – Luis Al-Haj – writes glowingly of Hitler:
“Hitler the soldier left behind not only a legend stained by tragedy itself; the tragedy of a state whose dreams were shattered, a regime whose pillars were torn down, and a political party that was crushed. Hitler was a man of ideology who bequeathed an ideological heritage whose decay is inconceivable. This ideological heritage includes politics, society, science, culture, and war as science and culture.”
“The National Socialism that Hitler preached for and whose characteristics were presented in his book My Struggle, and whose principles he explained in his speeches before he took power, as well as during the 13 years he spent at the head of the German nation – this National Socialism did not die with the death of its herald. Rather, its seeds multiplied under each star.”
– It wasn’t the first translation of Mein Kampf. In 1937, a translation into Arabic and approved by the Nazi Party purposely removed any reference to Arabs as an inferior ethnicity. Hamid Maliji, an Egyptian lawyer, wrote:
“Arab friends:…The Arabic copies of Mein Kampf distributed in the Arab world do not conform to the original German edition since the instructions given to Germans regarding us have been removed. In addition, these excerpts do not reveal his [Hitler’s] true opinion of us. Hitler asserts that Arabs are an inferior race, that the Arabic heritage has been pillaged from other civilizations, and that Arabs have neither culture nor art, as well as other insults and humiliations that he proclaims concerning us.
– Both translations served a very political purpose, as we shall come to see.
Today, Hamas reflects back to 1940s European fascism in several key ways. Firstly, it still utilises Nazi propaganda, by including references to the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion‘ hoax and repeats Jewish world domination conspiracies pumped across Arab airwaves by Nazis during the second World War. Secondly it indoctrinates young people into a fusion of Islam & Fascism and the cult of martyrdom, and thirdly, it begins its charter with a quote from Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a man who worked with the Grand Mufti and Nazi Germany to establish the Brotherhood’s military wing, and headed up a Brotherhood responsible for bombing Jewish businesses in Cairo. The quote states the aims of Hamas clearly; Israel must be obliterated, by Islam. This wasn’t a fight for equal civil liberty for all, a single secular state, it wasn’t a war against oppression, it was – and remains – an imperialist demand, despite ‘liberals’ like Tim Wise implying it was actually quite a secular demand.
Similarly, al-Banna was determined to overthrow imperial British rule in Egypt, and replace it with a theocratic settlement drawn out by his Islamist ideals. His ultimate goal, as he sets out consistently in his writings, is:
“… the fatherland of the Muslim expands to encompass the whole World.”
– I feel it necessary at this point to make a subtle distinction between Muslims who simply have a belief in a God and the words of a Prophet to guide their personal lives, and Hassan al Banna; the former must not be confused or conflated with the latter, al Banna was an Islamic fascist, in the Nazi mould. Indeed, a former US Justice Department Prosecutor – John Loftus – wrote that al-Banna was so dedicated to this new totalitarian ideological position, that his:
“… admiration of the new Nazi Party that in the 1930s Al Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood became a secret arm of Nazi Intelligence.”
– This influence is still visible in Egypt, as Mahmoud Muhammad Khadhr, a cleric from Cairo’s Al-Azhar University wrote a 2001 essay entitled ‘In Defence of Hitler‘.
This Islamic Fascism of the 1930s shared much in common with the Vatican’s centuries of anti-Semitism. It insisted that a conspiracy of Jews was responsible for all the World’s ills, and this was the reason Jews must be opposed. It posited that Jews must be controlled by supremacists, for the sake of humanity. It included blood-libel false stories in Palestine that helped enrage Arab population against Jewish communities. From this grotesque Catholic revision of history, persecutions of Jews across Europe, Russia, and the Middle East forced innocent Jewish families to flee to safety where ever they could find it, away from lands that were beginning to embrace the narrative that murdered 6,000,000 Jews in Europe. The Nazi’s in Germany were not about to let Jews flee to safety in Palestine, fearing a strong Israeli state may be on the horizon. Instead, they funded and weaponised the Grand Mufti – a man who approached the Nazis first, in his quest to destroy Jews – whilst using his ideas to promote their own.
The Grand Mufti – a good friend and ally of Hassan al-Banna – was the head of the Supreme Muslim Council in Palestine, and as such forged alliances and made enemies, as political leaders do. He wasn’t new to anti-Semitism in the 1930s. Fifteen years previously, he had headed up a club entitled ‘al-Nadi al-Arabi‘ meaning ‘The Arab Club‘. It was a racial supremacist club, that envisaged a Palestine controlled for the privilege of Arabs only. He’d also helped to arrange attacks and boycotts of Jews throughout the Middle East. Like his friend al-Banna, al-Husseini was a fascist. This is most evident in the fact that when he was forging alliances in the 1940s, al-Husseini asked Mussolini to create:
“An Arab State of a Fascist nature to include Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Trans-Jordan.”
– A Caliphate, given the Mufti’s Islamist ideals. To help with this goal, the Mufti sent for Hitler’s help, in defeating a common enemy in the most hideous way possible. The Mufti wrote:
“… accord to Palestine and to other Arab countries the right to solve the problem of the Jewish elements in Palestine and other Arab countries, in accordance with the interest of the Arabs and, by the same method, that the question is now being settled in the Axis countries.”
– This is a call to spread the Holocaust to the Middle East, and to give Arab racial supremacists the ‘right‘ to decide whether Jewish human beings live or die. Later, in 1943, the Mufti was asked by Gottlob Berger – Lieutenant General of the SS – to help recruit Muslims to join the cause, ignore Islamic Clerics arguing against joining the Nazis, and help to kill Bosnian Jews. He did so gleefully, helping to recruit 20,000 volunteers for that round of ethnic cleansing. It wasn’t that Jewish families were trying to save their lives by fleeing to Palestine that the Mufti opposed, it was that Jews were alive in the first place.
As well as helping to murder Bosnian Jews, the Grand Mufti had enough confidence to write to the Bulgarian Foreign Minister on the granting of emigration permits to Jewish children. As a result, emigration permits were taken away from thousands of Jewish children leaving for Palestine. The Mufti wrote:
“Appropriate and more expedient to prevent the Jews from emigrating from your country and send them somewhere they will be under strict control, for example to Poland.”
– He speaks of Jewish children, as if they’re animals.
Meanwhile, the Nazis recognised the importance of spreading their propaganda to the Arab World, by investing in radio stations such as ‘Voice of Free Arabism‘ and ‘Berlin in Arabic‘. The radio transmissions spread both Nazi propaganda and the Mufti’s ideas (basically the same thing) across the Middle East and North Africa. The US Embassy in Cairo employed Arabic translators specifically to transcribe the Nazi broadcasts at that time, and found that one theme appeared to be the raising of ‘Arab‘ to a superior racial status (negated by Hitler’s anti-Arab racism in Mein Kampf), whilst ‘Jew‘ was emphasised as inferior. The Nazis took their strategic alliance with the Islamist world so seriously, that millions of leaflets were dropped across the Middle East to spark racial tension between Arabs and Jews, and Himmler helped to fund research into Islam at the University of Tubingen, with the sole purpose being to find Quranic passages that could present Hitler as prophecised by the holy text, and thus sent via radio to the Middle Eastern world to help destroy the Jews. Alas, the research failed. But the Mufti’s radio messages across the Muslim World, on Nazi radio continued:
“The Jews are behind the destructive and atheist communism. They have brought people against each other and the catastrophes and tragedies now are caused by the Jews. The first enemies of the Moslems are today the Jews.”
– This trend continued long after European Fascism fell, as Nasser in Egypt invited and hosted former Nazi Party members to live and continue to propagandise against the Jewish communities.
The Mufti claimed he’d learned of the murder of 3,000,000 Jews in the summer of 1943, from Himmler. In November 1943, he was praising the action:
“It is the duty of Muhammadans in general and Arabs in particular to … drive all Jews from Arab and Muhammadan countries… . Germany is also struggling against the common foe who oppressed Arabs and Muhammadans in their different countries. It has very clearly recognized the Jews for what they are and resolved to find a definitive solution [endgültige Lösung] for the Jewish danger that will eliminate the scourge that Jews represent in the world.”
– For the Mufti, as for Hitler, as for the far-right today, for Islamists today, for Hamas today, and for sections of the far-left today…. Jews are a global problem, and history has lied. The Mufti’s – like Hitler’s – ideological goal was racial supremacy, coupled with anti-Semitism, posing as liberation. Indeed, the Luis al-Haj interpretation of Mein Kampf remained in the top of the Palestinian best seller list for long after its publication. And it went further, Sami al-Joundi, a founding member of the Syrian Ba’ath Party, said:
“We were racists. We admired the Nazis. We were immersed in reading Nazi literature and books… We were the first who thought of a translation of Mein Kampf. Anyone who lived in Damascus at that time was witness to the Arab inclination toward Nazism.”
– Matthias Küntzel points out that today’s Islamist groups – including Hamas – would not have been possible without the fusing of Islam with European Fascism, through al-Banna and the Grand Mufti.
Whilst we must be quick to challenge Israeli right winged propaganda, absurd revisionist history, and anti-Arab racism, we must not be so quick to undermine – from the luxury of a safe state – the serious challenge Jewish people face in a land surrounded by political voices that echo back to a time in which genocide of Jewish men, women, and children was not just a serious consideration, but a reality. We must not be so quick to imply that groups like Hamas are anything but a religious fascist organisation, whose guiding principle since the 1930s has been an inherent hatred toward Jews, coupled with theocratic control of human beings. It is true that the Grand Mufti did not give Hitler the idea that lead to the horrifying events in death camps across Europe, but he, and Hassan al-Banna – for their own ends – absolutely did encourage the extermination of Jewish people, and set the anti-Semitic tone across the Middle East, for decades to come.