New photos from the Nazi period have recently come to light. They show the usual Nazi types touring a camp. The German officers wear a mix of uniforms. Everyone is quite stern except for one figure in the middle, who wears a white turban. He’s smiling like a kid on vacation. In each photo the same wicked smile. He is the Palestinian Arab mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. The photos were previously unknown but have been put up for auction by Kedem Auction House.
The story of the British-appointed mufti of Jerusalem’s collaboration with Hitler is known. Muhammad Amin al-Husseini was appointed mufti of Jerusalem in 1921 and also became leader of the Supreme Muslim Council. He played a key role in fanning Arab nationalist and Islamist extremism and encouraging riots and pogroms against Jews in Jerusalem, Hebron and elsewhere in 1929. He bridged the gap between politics and religion, uniting both nationalist extremists of the early Palestinian movement and religious bigots who hated Jews, and he was personally responsible for encouraging that hatred.
After supporting a rebellion against the British in Palestine, Hajj Amin fled to Iraq where he was a passionate supporter of Rashid Ali, a local nationalist leader. It is not a coincidence that antisemitic riots and a pogrom called the Farhud broke out in June 1941. The mufti supported attacks on Iraq’s Jews. He then fled via Persia and Turkey to get to Nazi Germany. That is how he ended up meeting Hitler and touring Nazi concentration camps.
His smile in the photos is indicative of feeling he had finally met his peers, a Nazi movement that, in 1942 when he was touring, was winning the war The mufti would have liked today’s concept of “intersectionality” where various social movements are connected. In his view Arab nationalism, Islamist extremism and Nazism were intersectional. They opposed the existence of Jews and they opposed the British and had common interests in the Middle East. For the Nazis the mufti was also intersectional. Here was a Middle Eastern leader who would give their movement legitimacy. When he was in Iraq he had been a consumer and supporter of Nazi propaganda. The mufti also helped recruit Bosnian and Albanian collaborators to aid the Nazi cause. Photos of him inspecting troops in 1943 are online for all to see.
But the mufti wasn’t the only one doing intersectionality with Nazism. The Croatian Ustase, which blended Croatian ethnic nationalism, antisemitism and Catholicism, worked with the Nazis and committed vile genocide against Jews, Serbs and others. There were collaborators all over Europe, from Vichy to the Caucuses.
Some of them were genuine Nazi types, others views the Nazis as allies against the Soviets.
Today these collaborationist regimes are reviled. People protest streets named after Marshall Philippe Petain, the leading Vichy collaborator. Many people, especially on the Left, opposed Sebastian Gorka’s role in the US Trump administration, claiming he had “ties to Nazi-allied group” or “Nazi group links.” His “links” were through his family to an alleged collaborationist Hungarian group.
For some reason, alone among all the collaborators with the Nazis, the mufti and his cause have not been tarred by his actions. In the aftermath of the Second World War, he was greeted as a hero in the Arab world. In Cairo and Damascus he led efforts to encourage an attack on Israel when it declared independence in 1948.
He was only sidelined because other leaders, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, tired of him. He continued to lead an “all Palestine” government first in Gaza, then Cairo, and then moved to exile in Lebanon where he died in 1974. He wasn’t some marginal character, but a center of Palestinian Arab affairs and one whose views were praised by Palestinian leaders.
However when we look today at events such as a recent lesbian march in Chicago, the only flag and symbol unacceptable there were the Jewish Star of David and the Israeli flag. A statement by the FTP Artists Collective involved in supporting the recent banning of gay pride flags with a Star of David notes: “We recognize and affirm that the Star of David is a Jewish symbol not inherently connected to Israel or Zionism.” However “the cooptation of the Star of David by the State of Israel is deeply saddening and makes it hard to distinguish between imperialist ideology and non-state, religious belief.”
So they are deeply saddened that the Star of David is on Israel’s flag, but do not mind that Turkey uses an Islamic crescent.
When Turkey commits human rights violations, as it has over its 100-year history as a modern state, they don’t ban the Turkish flag or Islamic crescents. Buddhist symbols might be used by right-wing Buddhist organizations in Burma, but no one takes away their symbols. Islamic State (ISIS) also uses Islamic symbols, but left-wing organizations don’t say it is “hard to distinguish” between the ideology of ISIS and that of other organizations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir. So one can bring an Islamic flag, even Hezbollah flag, to a march, but not an Israeli flag, or even any flag with a Star of David on it.
When these left-wing groups talk about “intersectionality” the reality of the “intersection” is that it always intersects at Israel and “Zionism.” Always “anti-Zionism.”
Anti-Islamism? No. They never oppose Islamist extremism. Not even ISIS.
They talk about racism, but groups that commit genocide against Kurds, like Saddam Hussein did, are not rejected. Iraqi flags are welcome. Bashar Assad and his murderous regime are fine, along with Syria’s allies in Iran and Hezbollah. And the mufti is also acceptable.
There is an intersection between the mufti and his Nazi camp visits and today’s hatred of Israel and Jewish symbols. The intersection is that we turn a blind eye to the mufti’s disgusting racist politics, excusing it and even hiding his collaboration, while refusing to demand Palestinian nationalism reject him. At the same time, for too long the cause of “anti-Zionism” has been allowed to infiltrate every organization involved in liberal and progressive activism, such that Jewish symbols are not even allowed, as activists claim they cannot tell the difference between those symbols and Israel.
Every other religion and state in the world is accepted, no other symbol is thus conflated. They can tell the difference between 1,000 other symbols and flags, except for one. This is today’s tragic intersection.
Just as in 1942 the mufti found willing collaborators throughout Europe, hatred of Jews and Israel finds willing collaborators today.
Follow the author on Twitter @Sfrantzman