The Sowetan (Johannesburg)

2 October 2001

Africa: Arabs 'Idolise Hitler'

opinion

Arab media is awash with hideous anti-Jewish incitement that Western media does not find significant enough to publish, writes Jack Bloom, the chief whip of the Democratic Alliance in the legislature of Gauteng, South Africa. He writes in his personal capacity.

The appearance of a pro-Hitler pamphlet at the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) held in Durban was one of many ironies attesting to the continuing strength of raw anti-Semitism.

It was published by the Durban-based Islamic Propagation Centre International, now revealed to have received at least US $3 million (about R27 million) from Osama bin Laden.

There was a huge push to depict Israel as a Nazi state, symbolised by the transmuting of the Star of David into a swastika. This same lobby attempted to diminish the crimes of the Nazis themselves, including trivialising or denying the Holocaust against the Jews.

Ambiguous Arab-Muslim attitudes to Hitler can be traced to his popularity in much of the Arab world both before and during the Second World War.

Political parties that imitated the Nazis were founded, such as the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and Young Egypt, replete with storm troopers, torch processions and Nazi slogans.

The most significant collaborator with Hitler was the Arab leader in Palestine, the Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin el-Husseini.

He sought German help to agitate against the Jews in the 1930s, then assisted the pro-Nazi coup in Iraq in 1941. He escaped to Berlin and met several times with Hitler, declaring a jihad against the Allied forces in numerous radio broadcasts in which he urged the killing of Jews.

His energetic pro-Nazi efforts included a Muslim SS unit in Bosnia, visits to death camps and interventions to send many thousands of Jews to the gas chambers. After the war he was a wanted war criminal who found sanctuary in Egypt, along with many other Nazi officials granted refuge in the Arab world.

Gamal Abdul Nasser was a member of Young Egypt and made no secret of his earlier Nazi sympathies when he became president of Egypt. Former Nazis served in his army and secret police, and his personal bodyguard was SS General Oskar Dirlewanger.

Sami al-Joundi, one of the founders of the ruling Syrian Ba'ath Party, recalled: "We were racists. We admired the Nazis. We were immersed in reading Nazi literature and books."

Even today, Hitler's Mein Kampf ranks high on the best-seller list among Palestinian Arabs.

The preface to the Arabic edition claims that his "theories of nationalism, dictatorship and race ... are advancing especially within our Arabic states". When Palestinian police first greeted Yasser Arafat in the self-rule areas, they offered the infamous Nazi salute.

In April a columnist in the Egyptian government daily Al-Akbar defiantly repeated his "thanks to Hitler, of blessed memory, who on behalf of the Palestinians, revenged in advance against the most vile criminals on the face of the earth. Although we do have a complaint against him for his revenge on them was not enough".

The current Mufti of Jerusalem, Ikrama Sabri, who is appointed by Arafat, continues the vitriol against Jews and denial of the Holocaust.

"Six million Jews dead? No way, they were much fewer," he sneered in March last year.

Further, "I am filled with rage towards the Jews. They are the most cowardly creatures Allah ever created."

Hajj Amin el-Husseini is revered by the PLO leadership, including his relative Arafat (real name: Abdul Rauf El-Codbi el-Husseini). In 1985 Arafat extolled his memory and emphasised that "the PLO is continuing the path set by the Mufti".

A senior commander in Arafat's personal bodyguard is Fawzi Salem al-Mahdi (known as "Abu Hitler"), whose two sons bear the first names Hitler and Eichmann.

The scholar Bernard Lewis noted that "Nazi" became a term of opprobrium in the Arab world only with the post-war Soviet influence. Previously, Jews and Zionists were abused as communists, Bolsheviks and Soviet agents.

The strident focus on Israel at the Durban conference diverted attention from the sins of Arab imperialism, their role in the slave trade and the freedom struggles of Kurds, Berbers, Maronite Lebanese, Copts and south Sudan, all with as much or greater claim to self-determination than the Palestinians. Pushed off the agenda were any Arab apologies and reparations, including to Jews, 650 000 of whom fled Arab racism to find refuge in Israel.

What is truly amazing is not just the monstrous hypocrisy of Arab attempts to smear the Jews of Israel with the taint of Nazism, but the willingness of so many others to go along with this denial of history. It indicates the mutant power of the virus of anti-Semitism which so easily finds cover under various guises.

As in the 1930s, the world is not unduly concerned with anti-Semitism. Arab media is awash with hideous anti-Jewish incitement that Western media does not find significant enough to publish. Nevertheless, as observed in Durban by Dr Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, "what starts with Jews does not end with Jews".

We might just be finding this out with the horrific terror attack in America.

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