The role of Arabic-language Nazi-era propaganda

Unrepentant preaching of genocidal hatred to children.

Nazi flag (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Nazi flag
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In its August, 2013 edition, the popular and publicly-funded Palestinian children’s magazine Al Zayzafuna resumed the practice of publishing homages to Adolf Hitler, despite the fact that this practice had prompted UNESCO, in 2011, to cancel its funding for the magazine. The August, 2013 homage was captioned “Among Hitler’s Sayings,” as reported by Palestinian Media Watch, and took the form of a list of quaint aphorisms attributed to the genocidal dictator, with the apparent aim of convincing young readers of Hitler’s timeless and worldly wisdom. The homage remains in place today, at the Al Zayzafuna website.
The February, 2011 Al Zayzafuna item that had triggered UNESCO’s de-funding was the supposedly whimsical tale of a little Palestinian girl to whom Hitler appears in a dream. During the encounter, Hitler explains to the child, “I killed them [the Jews] so that you would know that they are a people who wreaks havoc on Earth.” Hitler then adds, “I ask of you to be patient and enduring with the torment that Palestine is suffering at their [the Jews’] hands.”
The story’s intent to idolize Hitler is confirmed by the company the Hitler character keeps; prior to encountering Hitler, the dreaming child meets 9th-century Muslim mathematician al-Khwarizmi, and after meeting Hitler, the child is awed to meet renowned Egyptian novelist and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz.
It is in response to these compelling (but not isolated) examples of the open embrace of Nazi lore and factless, hate-based rhetoric in officially- linked Palestinian publications and broadcasts that I have prepared the following brief explanation of the deliberate process by which Palestinians were indoctrinated into the Nazi ideology of hate and incitement before and during WWII.
This process unquestionably reinforced the anti-Jewish ethos that had, by then, already taken hold in Palestinian society as a result of centuries of religious indoctrination that consistently framed Jews as the arch-enemies of early Islam, and the effects of this process, on both the substance and tone of today’s incitement against Israel, are plain to see The information that follows forms the basic background for my ongoing deep research into as-yet unstudied segments of the corpus of Arabic-language hate propaganda crafted and disseminated by the Axis powers.
The Nazi propaganda directed at the Arab world, in Arabic, during this period was aimed at both winning support from the leaderships of Arab states and influencing the sentiments of Arab populations. Dissemination of Nazi propaganda in Arab countries had its beginnings in the power struggle for dominance in the Middle East, which included the struggle that developed among England, Italy and Germany in the mid-1930s.
At the time of this struggle, Italy and Germany resolved to conduct anti-British and anti-French propaganda campaigns in the countries then subject to British or French rule.
The main aim of these campaigns was to stir unrest in the local populations, making it difficult for the foreign rulers to maintain the order they needed to facilitate their political and economic penetration of Middle Eastern markets.
In the late 1930s, Nazis began recruiting Palestinians to engage in espionage and terrorism actions for which the Nazis would supply funding and weapons. Along with promises of cooperation, Nazis promised the Arabs that if the war ended in an Axis victory, Arabs would be given all lands and homes owned by Jews, as well as access to “beautiful Jewish girls.”
Print-medium propaganda Print material in the form of leaflets, cartoons and local-press advertisements were used as a means of waging psychological warfare. Sometimes, a propaganda message would be printed on fake dollar bills or British pound notes, and other in other cases, millions of Arabic-language leaflets, some dropped from airplanes, were distributed, bearing promises to Arabs of freedom from the British and the French. In addition, Arab journalists were bribed by the Nazis to publish hundreds of Nazi-supportive articles in their local presses, and huge budgets were made available, by the Nazis, to local propaganda agents, for distribution of their material and for establishment of local implementing organizations.
The messages contained in the propaganda materials were intended to serve a variety of ends, among them 1) winning Arab sympathy for the Nazis and their Fuhrer, 2) instigating unrestrained anti-Jewish attitudes through popularization of the notions that Jews had robbed Arabs of their money and caused all the destruction then affecting the Arab world, 3) providing visible support and reinforcement for Arab nationalist sentiments and aspirations, 4) inciting Arabs against British or French rule, and against the West, in general, 5) promising to facilitate independence for every Arab country, and 6) promising access to Arab high society.
The former mufti of Jerusalem: The head of the snake Inasmuch as the political and governmental machinery of the Axis states played major roles in administering and devising programming for the propaganda efforts targeted at Arab populations during the Nazi era, the undisputed hands-on moving force behind the work was the then former mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini. The mufti had fled to Berlin from the British, in October, 1941, and, once there, he was promptly granted his own Nazi propaganda bureau, dubbed “Das Arabisch Buro Der Grossmufti.” The mufti remained in Berlin until the end of the war in April, 1945, and through his bureau, he personally authorized and controlled the Nazis’ propaganda in Arabic language.
Hitler’s message still openly admired by many Arabs today As recently as in 1999, Hitler’s Mein Kampf was the sixth best-selling book among Palestinians, according to a survey taken by the Palestinian newspaper Al Hayat Al Jadida.
In today’s Middle East, translations of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion still appear periodically in Arab government agency publications, and the Nazi-era imagery that this pseudo-historical tract inspired so long ago is alive and well, for millions of Arab citizens to absorb and believe.
And while it is commonplace for detractors of Israeli nationhood and policy to label Israelis as Nazis, it is also de rigueur for them to embrace Jew-hating Nazi formulae and bywords as a way of inciting their supporters. To wit, in early 2013, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas included Mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini, the above-described architect of Arabic-language hate propaganda for the Nazis, in a list of martyrs and heroes whom he chose to honor during a televised public broadcast.
The author is a Research Fellow at Bar-Ilan University.