Doyen of Egyptian history rejects Netanyahu's claims about Palestinian mufti-Holocaust link

Karem Yehia, Tunis , Thursday 12 Nov 2015

Renowned historian Adel Ghoneim says no documents substantiate the egregious claims of Israel's prime minister that the former mufti of Jerusalem incited the Holocaust

A Palestinian protester uses a sling as he prepares to return a tear gas canister fired by Israeli occupation troops during clashes near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah November 24, 2015 (Reuters)

The doyen of Egyptian historians, Dr. Adel Ghoneim, who is an academic authority on the Palestinian cause, has rejected Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's claims about the grand mufti of Jerusalem in the 1940s, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, inspiring the idea of the Holocaust.  

Ghoneim said in a statement to Al-Ahram that it isn't true that the Haj Amin Al-Husseini advised the Nazis to commit the Holocaust against the Jews and that Netanyahu can't prove his claims or present documents endorsing his lies.

"The Israeli prime minister's words are totally fabricated with the intention of inciting the world's opinion against the Arabs," he said. 

He asserted that "there are no published German or Arab documents about talks held between Hitler and Al-Husseini; there is nothing but statements. In the end, it doesn't prove what Netanyahu claims."

"What I have read by the new historians in Israel didn't tackle this invented matter," he said.

It is well known that Amin Al-Husseini (who was born in 1897 and died in 1974) took refuge in Germany at the beginning of World War II in 1939 after Rashid Ali Al-Kaylani's revolution against the British occupation in Iraq failed. He stayed there until 1945 and left just before the fall of Berlin to the Allied forces. He then went to live in France.

Ghoneim said that Al-Husseini was keen to make sure that Hitler's standpoint was on the side of the Arabs in Palestine if he came out of World War II victorious. He added that anyone who closely follows the Palestinian national movement in a scientific manner will realise that the man believed in the policy of peace with the British, and that he attempted to fulfill Arab demands through peaceful means -- which became his motto.

At the same time, he was adamantly against making concessions regarding basic Palestinian rights.

Ghoneim, former president of Egypt's Historical Society, said that during Al-Husseini's lifetime and his leadership of the Palestinian national movement in the 1930s and 1940s, there was no evidence of any inclination towards violence or using extreme means against Jews in Palestine.

"The British Royal Commission of Inquiry to Palestine, which was dispatched to investigate the reasons behind the 1936 Revolution, wrote in its report that it doesn't doubt the good intentions of Mufti Amin Al-Husseini and his colleagues or the human spirit which beat in their bosom, in spite of their political hatred towards the Jewish national homeland," he said. 

"There is nothing in the Palestinian national movement history that implies embracing extremist ideas such as burning the Jews or exterminating them. These matters were only the product of the European historical experience."

Palestinian writer and historian Abdel-Qader Yassin warns that Netanyahu's statements pave the way for committing new Israeli massacres against the Palestinians in the light of current developments in the occupied territories.

"Netanyahu sees that this timing is perfect for exonerating Nazism, the counterpart of Zionism in many issues, putting the burden of annihilating the Jews in Germany on the shoulders of the Palestinian people and its national leadership (in the 1940s)," he said. 

Dr. Issam Al-Gharieb, whose dissertation at the history department of Ain Shams University in 2010 was titled "The Haj Amin Al-Husseini and his national, Arab and Islamic role, 1897-1974," told Al-Ahram that there is a document file titled the Haj Amin Al-Husseini in the British National Archives and it included monitoring his communications with Germany between the years 1939-1942.

There is no mention at all that the man incited the Holocaust, Al-Gharieb said. "Al-Husseini during his whole political life didn't incite for exterminating the Jews," he added.

"But there are some German documents published less than 15 years ago that point to his endeavour to make Hitler acknowledge Palestine as an independent Arab state and withdraw recognition from the Balfour Declaration. Indeed, he obtained a secret pledge from Hitler to acknowledge the independence of Palestine as an Arab state and it wasn't to be declared except when Axis forces crossed the Caucasia region. This didn't materialise."

Al-Gharieb clarified: "Amin Al-Husseini, like many Arab figures who went to Germany and Italy, was trying to benefit from the contradictions between the international powers, relying on a well known rule, which is: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Moreover, Al-Husseini was driven to flee to Germany because of the hunt the British launched against him, while also being targeted for assassination by the Jewish Agency."

Al-Gharieb believes that the reason for continuing Zionist hatred of Al-Husseini lies in his success through his contacts in Germany in hindering, to some extent, waves of Jewish immigration to Palestine.

Al-Gharieb also points out that the memoirs of Al-Husseini's secretary, Uthman Kamal Hadda, don't make mention of what Netanyahu claimed.

"There are no minutes of Al-Husseini's meetings with Hitler or any correspondence between them...If the Israelis have any documents, why don't they reveal them?"

The second part of The Jews, Judaism and Zionism Encyclopaedia, compiled by the late thinker and professor Abdel-Wahab El-Messiri, included entries on the relationship between Zionism and Nazism.

Relying on documented information and also on European Jewish sources, the encyclopaedia confirms the structural similarity and mutual affect between Zionist and Nazi thought, as well as their unified objective; driving the Jews to immigrate to Palestine.

It also pointed out that the Zionist organisation in Germany issued on 21 June 1933, following Hitler and his Nazi Party's ascendency to power in Berlin, "The Zionist Federation Declaration" concerning the status of Jews in the new Germany.

This declaration took the form of a memorandum sent to Hitler and his party confirming the common notions between Zionism and Nazism and their agreement in blending religion with nationalism and the acceptance of the principal of ethnicity.

The document stressed that the objective of Zionism is confronting intermarriages between Jews and non-Jews and preserving what it called "the purity of the Jewish community," as well as making the Jews immigrate to Palestine. The memorandum denounced international efforts that were launched to boycott Nazi Germany economically. The memorandum, which wasn't revealed until 1962, said: "Hitler has set up his project concerning the Jews on Zionist and sound foundations."

The encyclopaedia records that Zionists and their organisations enjoyed, unlike others, freedom of political activity when the Nazis came to power, including training on setting up settlements, collecting donations, holding meetings, issuing publications and newspapers. German publishing houses issued at the time Zionist titles, among them works by leading Zionist personalities such as Chaim Weizmann, Ben Gurion and Arthur Ruppin.

The encyclopaedia quotes Ben Gurion — who became Israel's first prime minster — as saying: "If I knew that it was possible to save all the Jewish children in Germany through moving them to England or else to save only half of them and move them to Palestine, I would have chosen the second solution, for we have to put into our consideration not only the lives of those [children] but the history of the people of Israel."

In this context, the Theodor Herzl fourth annual book, published by Grossman, comprised photocopies of Nazi Germany documents asserting that the police oversaw Zionist activity, including issuing permits for collecting donations for Jewish immigration to Palestine.

Moreover, the encyclopaedia refers to the "Haavra Agreement" on transfer, signed in 1933, which historians believe saved the Nazi regime from collapsing through the tightening of the international economic boycott.

The encyclopaedia mentions that the agreement between the Nazi regime and Zionist institutions comprised of facilitating the immigration of more than 52,000 German Jews to Palestine up to the year 1941, as well as purchasing agricultural equipment from Germany for building settlements and opening bank accounts there.

The Jews, Judaism and Zionism Encyclopaedia, published in Cairo in 1999, adds that the German government published the text of the agreement on 31 August 1933, and it was endorsed by the World Zionist Congress and the Jewish Agency later. These two Jewish entities also gave their support to the agreement in several congresses in the following years.

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