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Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East Format Kindle
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These assets, relationships and strategies were picked up again on the eve of WW II and many of the same players used in the last round were redeployed in service of the Nazis.
Meanwhile in Palestine the authors take a brief look at the career of Hajj Amin al-Husaini who came to prominence in the 1920s and 30s. Most of this has been covered in better detail elsewhere but what is new here is evidence that at the end of WW I in 1917 operating out of Damascus he had acted as a double agent for the English and later for the French. Nor were his ambitions limited to Palestine - between 1918 and 1920 he worked for the General Syrian Congress as a lobbyist for an enlarged Syrian state including today's Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories with the Faisal as King. Beyond his connections as a member of one of Jerusalem's leading Arab families and in spite of his conviction the previous year for instigating the Nabi Musa riots and lack of religious qualifications, his family was able to convince the British to name him "Grand Mufti" of Jerusalem (which he later changed to "Palestine") and place him as head of the newly created Supreme Muslim Council who's sinecures provided him with both income and power base for years to come. Surprisingly the book skips over the 1929 riots, but instead focuses on his networking skills, his travels from India to Iran, and Egypt to Berlin along with his creation of the World Islamic Congress in 1931, with himself at the helm, with an impressive list of contacts including then current and future Islamic leadership.
Contrary to what has been written in other reviews, the authors do not portray Hajj Amin al-Husaini as the architect of the Final Solution or responsible for conditions that led to the creation of Israel. However, they argue, by making his alliance and (in Nazi eyes) the alliance of the Arab world conditional on stopping Jewish immigration to Palestine, a ploy his Arab Higher Committee also offered to the British, he was likely the catalyst in the change of German policy from expulsion to extermination. Backed generously by the Nazis he and Rashid al-Kalaini ran espionage and recruitment networks. Hitler made it clear that after a Nazi victory al-Kalaini, the lesser partner, would be given control of Iraq and that al-Husaini not only Palestine but much of the Arab world (with a degree of imprecision excluding territories promised to Italy and Vichy France), with a license to do to the Jews there what Hitler was doing in Europe - this they had as a common interest. They were also quite prolific in creating general propaganda and training material for military imams articulating a common ground between Islam and National Socialism, (pp182-183), even to the point of mixing Islamic eschatology and Nazi ideology by portraying the current war as the final jihad between Muslims and non-believers. (pp156).
Though he was well connected for the purposes of espionage and propaganda the Germans overestimated the Mufti's ability to deliver Muslim leaders to the Nazi side - with the exception of Jordan's King Abdallah most were interested but were waiting for decisive Nazi victories before they would be willing to switch sides. As a consequence the Arab nations proved to be poor partners for the Allies - for example the 1941 Iraqi revolt led by Rashid al-Kailani, and in Egypt the pro-Nazi sentiment ran so high as Rommel approached in 1942 the British found it necessary to demobilize and disarm most of the Egyptian troops.
After the war al-Husaini's influence continued, facilitating contacts and employment for former Nazis in Arab military, intelligence or propaganda portfolios, publishing his own Jerusalem newspaper al-Jihad and a joint publication in Damascus with the Muslim Brotherhood. So safe was the Arab world for some 4000 Nazi collaborators seeking refuge, not one was given up for prosecution. He continued to run the World Islamic Congress which gave him political access to Arab and Muslim leadership and standing within the Unaligned Nations movement while running secret terrorist cells that operated out of Jordan and Lebanon.
The authors conclude with a look at the Mufti's relationship with Arafat. Though al-Hussaini fully endorsed his successor and is remembered fondly to this day, the relationship divided on Arafat's decision to seek Soviet support rather than to continue with the backing of the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood, however this is understandable given the eclipse of religion by populist revolutionary Arab nationalism until the 1990s. On the surface, they observed "it may seem peculiar that al-Husaini was revered rather than discredited" given his Nazi links, his failure to prevent the formation of Israel and his campaigns of terror and assassination direct against his Arab rivals but it made sense in a world of conspiracy oriented authoritarian regimes where strident militancy rather than compromise and accommodation would be the test for legitimacy. Hajj Amin survived, often at the expense of more moderate opponents. The lessons were not lost on his successors.
And the elephant wears a swastika !
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