Palestinian Arabs hold Nazi flag at Netzarim
Palestinian Arabs hold Nazi flag at NetzarimReuters

Just over a week since an American university severed ties with the Hamas-linked Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, after pictures emerged showing a Nazi-style on-campus rally by Islamic Jihad in November, further evidence of fascist-style events at the flagship Palestinian Arab institution has emerged.

Video footage, posted by MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute), shows clips from two separate rallies at Al-Quds University, in which Islamic Jihad members, cheered on by other students, take part in a live performance at which they brandish imitation assault rifles and black Islamist flags, and give Nazi salutes.

The live "show" features terrorists killing Israeli soldiers and executing a "collaborator", who is denounced as a "traitor" and a "spy", and suggests that the initial pictures, which were first released by British journalist Tom Gross, were not from a one-off incident but evidence of a much wider phenomenon.

Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Tom Gross said that the footage proved that attempts by Al-Quds to excuse the November 5th rally as an isolated event were disingenuous:

"The emergence of a video showing another Fascistic-style, militaristic Islamic Jihad rally, on what appears to be the main campus of Al-Quds University this past May - together with Palestinian students at Al-Quds who have informed me that the student factions of both Hamas and the PFLP held similar rallies at Al-Quds University this semester a few weeks ago - calls into question the claims by the Al-Quds university authorities that the November 5 rally was a one-off event, which they claim they didn't know about until they saw the photos of it."

Islamic Jihad rally at Al-Quds University, November 5, 2013
Islamic Jihad rally at Al-Quds University, November 5, 2013Tom Gross Media

Many Israelis point to the lionization of Nazi and other anti-Semitic figures as a reason to doubt the sincerity of the Palestinian Authority's commitment to any future peace agreement.

The use of Nazi symbols is worryingly common, although tends to go unnoticed by many mainstream media outlets.

Just this past October, for example, Jewish motorists were horrified to see a Nazi flag flying over a major thoroughfair near the Arab town of Beit Umar. The flag had apparently been placed there by residents of the town, located near Hevron.

That incident was in fact the second occasion in which Beit Umar residents had flown a Nazi flag over the same highway, in an apparent "gesture" to their Jewish neighbors.

Later that same month, a youth magazine linked to the Palestinian Authority published a list of "famous quotes" from none other than Adolf Hitler, aimed at glorifying the Nazi leader.

Link between "Palestinian nationalism", Nazism?

Apart from the frequency with which such instances occur, some have pointed to the role of prominent Palestinian Arab and Muslim leaders promoting anti-Semitism and encouraging the use of Nazi symbols specifically to goad Jews.

For example, during a 2009 interview with a London-based Arabic language TV station, the head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, remenisced fondly about how his class once drew a swastika on the classroom blackboard to provoke their Jewish teacher.

More famous is the case of the infamously anti-Semitic Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini.

In October, reacting to ongoing incidents of incitement and anti-Semitism by the Palestinian Authority, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu used a keynote speech at Bar Ilan University to point to a deep link between the Palestinian national movement and Germany's Nazi regime.

Netanyahu noted that Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the founder of "Palestinian nationalism", was an admirer and supporter of Adolf Hitler, had met the Nazi Fuhrer on numerous occasions and was actively involved in encouraging Hitler and his henchmen in their project of annihilating the Jewish people.

Far from playing a "minor role" in the Holocaust, as some have claimed, the Mufti played an "important" part in ordering the extermination of Jews and "was directly involved in The Final Solution", Netanyahu said.

Back in January, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas - whose organization is currently involved in US-brokered "peace talks" with Israel - hailed the Muft as a "hero", whose ways should be emulated. The transcript of that speech - made at a Fatah party rally - was also translated by MEMRI though it garnered very little mention from the majority of international media outlets.

Zero-sum politics

But according to Middle East expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar, the issue extends further still. Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Kedar asserts that adopting of the trappings of the ultimate enemy of the Jewish people - Nazism - is simply a manifestation of a zero-sum way in which politics and conflict is pursued in the Middle East at large.

"Unfortunately there are people in the United States of America and elsewhere, Jews and non-Jews alike - usually liberal, open-minded people - who think that the Middle East acts according to American rules, and that views and approaches which can work in America can work in the Middle East.

"These people fail to understand that the Middle East works according to totally different rules, because the mindset of people in this region is different.

"In America people think that every struggle, every dispute, has some kind of solution. In the Middle East, what prevails is the belief that a struggle finishes when one of the sides ceases to exist. This is the end of a conflict," he explained.

For him, framing the saga over the use of fascist or other anti-Semitic symbolism as a "Palestinian" issue misses the point.

"Palestinians are no different from any Arab group which lives in this region," he continued. "Whatever they do, whether peacefully or not, is meant to undermine the existence of the State of Israel...through undermining the legitimacy of the State of Israel, through vilifying it and demonizing [it]. Of course this also extends to non-violent methods, like media clips, demonstrations, etc.

"Everything revolves arond one purpose, which is to get rid of Israel altogether from the map of the Middle East."

"Religious struggle"

The fact that it is often senior religious figures - as well as political ones - who so often lead such efforts is indicative of the fundamentally religious aspect of the Arab-Israel conflict, says Kedar.

"Even universities like Al-Quds university are established especially in Jerusalem, in order to show that Arabs and Muslims are the masters of this place and not the Jews, because in their view, if Judaism will control Jerusalem it will mean that Judaism came back to life after Islam came to replace it.

"This is why the basis of the struggle over Jerusalem and over the whole land of Israel is a religious struggle - not between Israel and the Arabs but between Judaism and Islam. This is the essence of th struggle, and everything stems from this archimedic point of the struggle."

His view offers a unique glimpse into the conflicting ways in which the conflict is seen from inside and outside the region.

Dr. Kedar insists that the much of the difference in the way things are perceived in the western world stems primarily from ignorance. For him, the Brandeis-Al-Quds saga represents a unique shattering of an illusory discourse. 

"Unfortunately there are people who don't believe that this is true, and tend to accept all kind of Arab and Islamic standpoints and institutions as if they are meant to live side-by-side with Israel.

"I believe that recognizing Al-Quds university by Brandeis University came from this point: that Jews - or those that run Brandeis University - would like to see a situation where everybody in the Middle East sits by one fire and sings kumbaya together."

Pursuit of genuine coexistence isn't the problem, however. Rather, it is a lack of willingness to learn "about the realities of the Middle East" - a result, he says, of institutionalized academic bias.

"Those teachers and those books which tell the truth about the Middle East usually don't see any attention in universities in the US. School curricula in America usually are politicized, therefore the texts which students are exposed to are based on the political views and approaches of the teachers - who in too many cases have very little understanding of the nature of the Middle East."

However, "there is a limit," and incidents such as that which occured at Al-Quds are too blatant to ignore.

"When the Islamic Jihad group, which lives under the wings of Al-Quds University - comes out with a very problematic clip, even bleeding-hearts in Brandeis University cannot take it any more.

"This is the minute when they start to understand the nature of the struggle - not betwen Israel and the Arabs, but between Islam and Judaism."

Yet regardless of the cognizance of others, Kedar insists that "we Jews cannot have the luxury of not believing our own enemies."

"Some 80 years ago we didn't believe; unfortunately, some people failed to learn the lessons from those days and to start believing our enemies."