Op-Ed: The Continuing Nazi Influence on Arab Attitudes
Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards...
“Significant elements of Nazi Germany’s influence on the Middle East have remained until today. This also affects current conflicts in the region.
“In 1937, Great Britain proposed to divide Palestine into a sizable Arab-Muslim state, and a much smaller Jewish one according to the Peel Plan. This move alarmed the Nazi leadership in Berlin. Thereafter, it began to invest major funds to incite Arabs against the Jews. In Egypt for instance, Nazi Germany invested more money in the Muslim Brotherhood than in any other anti-British organization. At the same time, they supplied money and weapons to the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini in Palestine.”
Dr. Matthias Kuentzel is a German political scientist and author of numerous books. One of them deals with Jihad and Anti-Semitism. He lives in Hamburg.
“In the mid-1930’s, moderate Palestinian Arab forces which were seeking coexistence with the Zionists had not yet been marginalized. That changed with the vast Nazi support for the Islamists. The Mufti destroyed or forced out moderate Palestinians in the Arab uprising of 1936-1939. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt used the riots in Palestine for anti-Semitic campaigns which enabled them to become a huge organization. Their membership jumped from 800 in 1936 to 200,000 in 1938.
“In April 1939, Germany began to broadcast anti-Semitic propaganda in Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Hindi. Its modern shortwave station Radio Zeesen, was received in the Arab world better than any other. From 1939 to 1945, it broadcast professional anti-Semitic programs on a daily basis. They were mixed with quotes from the Koran and Arabic music.
"The Allies were presented as being dependent on the Jews, who were portrayed as Islam’s biggest enemy. The program would announce: ‘The Jew is our enemy and killing him brings pleasure to Allah.’ In this way, German propaganda radicalized existing Jew-hatred among Muslims.
“Various testimonies from that period indicate that these broadcasts were widely heard. An Arab informer for the Jewish Agency related that he passed a café in Jaffa on 7 October 1939. Many Arabs stood around listening to Radio Zeesen. So did people on nearby balconies.
“Iranian author Amir Cheheltan wrote that it was common for passersby to stand on the sidewalks at the entrance of tea houses in Teheran listening to Radio Zeesen broadcasts on the progress of the German army. He wrote, ‘These broadcasts inspired the fantasy of the masses on the street. Each German victory represented a defeat of the colonial powers, the Soviet Union and Great Britain, which they applauded.’
“Radio Zeesen contributed to growing segments of the Arab world seeing the Middle East conflict through the anti-Semitic perspective of the Germans. When Nazi Germany was defeated in 1945, its main Middle East agents were at the pinnacle of their power.
"The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt had about 500,000 members. In 1946, they hailed Al-Husseini, who had actively supported the Holocaust. They called him ‘a hero’ who, with the help of Hitler fought against Zionism. They declared, ‘Germany and Hitler are no longer there, but Amin al-Husseini will continue this battle.’
“Attitudes of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers and the Mufti of Jerusalem had a major influence on the Arab rejection of the U.N. partition plan for Palestine. The same was true concerning the outbreak of the war in 1948, which saw the destruction of Israel as its main goal. Its origins can be found in the anti-Semitism which Germany had systematically promoted between 1938 and 1945, and which had been advanced further by the Mufti and the Muslim Brotherhood between 1946 and 1948.
“There are many indicators which prove the continuity of influence of Nazi thinking in the Arab world to this very day. Many Arab anti-Semitic cartoons are similar to those of the Nazi era. There are numerous large edition publications of Hitler’s Mein Kampf with the accompanying veneration of Hitler. One frequently finds denial of the Holocaust or promotion of a new one there.
“This Nazi influence upon the Middle East is nevertheless almost systematically overlooked by Middle East and Islam scholars, including German ones. Radio Zeesen, for example, is a subject which government-financed German institutes such as the Zentrum für Antisemitismusforschung (Center for Anti-Semitism Research) or the Zentrum Moderner Orient (Center for Modern Orient) ignore.”
Kuentzel concludes, “The basic assumption is apparently that only Israeli policies must have caused anti-Semitism in the region. Whatever contradicts this axiom of being ‘politically correct’ – i.e., Israel is guilty – is not taken into consideration. This is not only a result of being uninformed. It is an expression of active and conscious targeted ignorance – the corruption of scholarship and truth.”