Last week, some two dozen Palestinian nationalist activists including the Electronic Intifadah’s Ali Abunimah, the chair of American Muslims for Palestine Hatem Bazian, and Omar Barghouti a founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (currently studying for his masters degree at Tel Aviv University) co-signed and published a document titled, Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon.
On the surface this document would seem a step in the right direction. The statement, however, fails mainly because it ignores the deeply embedded antisemitism within Palestinian (and other Arab and Muslim) political and religious discourse.
The statement’s target is a self-described “proud self-hating Jew” named Gilad Atzmon whose writings and speeches are often laced with classic antisemitic tropes woven into his pro-Palestinian declarations. An Israeli born Jew now living in London, Atzmon has renounced his background entirely and has written such things as:
- “In the Jewish state Fagin and Shylock are far from being remote fictional characters. They are actually making a good living at the expense of others.”
- “[E]ven if we accept the Holocaust as the new Anglo-American liberal-democratic religion, we must allow people to be atheists.”
Recently he has been touring the US promoting his new book called The Wandering Who? that has been widely condemned for its crass antisemitism.
With friends like these, the “Granting No Quarter” authors probably reasoned, who needs enemies? Distancing themselves from Atzmon their statement reads:
“We call for the disavowal of Atzmon by fellow Palestinian organizers, as well as Palestine solidarity activists, and allies of the Palestinian people, and note the dangers of supporting Atzmon’s political work and writings and providing any platforms for their dissemination. We do so as Palestinian organizers and activists, working across continents, campaigns, and ideological positions… as Palestinians, we see such language as immoral and completely outside the core foundations of humanism, equality and justice, on which the struggle for Palestine and its national movement rests.”
The singular focus on Atzmon is puzzling, however. Is his the only example of antisemitism within the pro-Palestinian camp that requires disavowal? Or, is he but the most embarrassing for the Palestinian nationalist cause in the West, and being a “proud self-hating Jew” the easiest to dismiss as a crackpot?
The statement’s wording is curious: “we see such language as immoral and completely outside the core foundations of humanism, equality and justice, on which the struggle for Palestine and its national movement rests.”
The signatories to this “Granting No Quarter” statement ought to turn a mirror on their own cause and honestly evaluate the values upon which Palestinian nationalism rests. If they were to do so they would have to confront the deeply embedded anti-Jewish racism that informs much internal Palestinian political and religious discourse going back to the beginnings of the Palestinian national movement. For example, can you name the man who made the following statement?
“National Socialist Germany knows the Jews well and has decided to find a final solution for the Jewish danger which will end the evil in the world. The Arabs especially and Muslims in general are obliged to make this their goal, from which they will not stray and which they must reach with all their powers: it is the expulsion of all Jews from Arab and Muslim lands.”
If you guessed Hitler, Goebels or Himmler you are wrong. Rather, the statement was made by Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin el Husseini, widely considered to be the father of Palestinian Arab nationalism. He made this speech on November 2, 1943 in Berlin at a Nazi-sanctioned rally protesting the Balfour Declaration.
Yasser Arafat, who led the Palestinian national movement for over three decades, called el Husseini “our hero” in a 2002 interview in the London Arabic daily Al Sharq al Awsat (subsequently reprinted in the Palestinian daily Al Quds on August 2, 2002). Arafat said, “Were they able to replace our hero Hajj Amin el-Husseini? … There were a number of attempts to get rid of Hajj Amin, whom they considered an ally of the Nazis. But even so, he lived in Cairo, and participated in the 1948 war, and I was one of his troops.”
In their book Nazi Palestine: The Plans for the Extermination of the Jews in Palestine, two German historians, Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cuppers, describe in great detail how in “1941-42 with Nazi Germany appearing to be invincible in North Africa, many Arab nationalists looked to a leader, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin el-Husseini, for guidance. The Mufti had several meetings with Adolf Hitler. Nazi Germany also pledged to wipe out the Jews who had been living in Palestine since time immemorial as well as the new arrivals from the beginning of the modern Zionist movement.”
Mallmann and Cuppers document how a “special unit (Einsatzkommando) was assembled and trained in Greece in the spring of 1942 by SD officer Walter Rauff, the originator of the gassing van experiments in Poland and the Soviet Union. They were to operate behind the lines (in Palestine) with the help of those in the region who were eager to join the task force.” After the Nazi defeat to the Allies at El Alamein, Egypt “the Einsatzkommando shifted its operations to Tunisia, where it implemented cruel anti-Jewish policies for many months. Over 2,500 Tunisian Jews were to die in the camps set up by the Nazis and their collaborators.”
Documentation of the close collaboration between Palestinian nationalist leaders, particularly the Mufti, and Nazi Germany is not lacking. Recent books on the subject: Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World by Jeffrey Herf, Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11 by Matthias Kuntzel, Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman, and Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam, by David G. Dalin and John F. Rothmann.
What these historians document is that the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 was not a defeat for antisemitism. Professor Bassam Tibi, writing of Herf’s book, describes how Nazi antisemitic propaganda was transmitted to the Arab world and subsequently adopted by pan-Arab nationalists and Islamists alike:
“Herf is a prominent scholar in and is a member of a tiny community of experts who are both familiar with Nazi Germany and the Arab world; so no one like Herf is in a position to complete such a well-founded study on the spread of Nazi propaganda in the Middle East… The dreadful impact of this propaganda has been the pan-Arab nationalist adoption of Nazi ideology. On the top of this impact is the pan-Arab adoption of Nazi anti-Semitism… In the past decades secular pan-Arabism has been replaced by Islamism, but the German Nazi traces of anti-Semitism disclosed in the groundbreaking analysis continues to be in place, despite the Islamization of this ideology.”
These “German Nazi traces of anti-Semitism” are found in the Hamas charter:
- “Zionist scheming has no end, and after Palestine, they will covet expansion from the Nile to the Euphrates River. When they have finished digesting the area on which they have laid their hand, they will look forward to more expansion. Their scheme has been laid out in the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion‘.” (Article 32)
- “The enemies (the Jews) have been scheming for a long time … and have accumulated huge and influential material wealth. With their money, they took control of the world media… With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the globe… They stood behind World War I … and formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains… There is no war going on anywhere without them having their finger in it.” (Article 22)
Hamas spokespeople repeat these themes often. Here is a link to a YouTube video of a speech given by Hamas leader Mahmoud al Zahar in which he denies the Holocaust, and blames Jews for every persecution we experienced in history, from Pharoah to Hitler!
The examples of Islamist and Arab nationalist antisemitism are far too numerous to list here. But, here is a very small sampling:
- This week’s murder of three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in France by an Algerian-born Muslim and Al Qaeda member.
- The emergence of a neo-Nazi Bosnian Muslim organization that pays homage to Palestinian leader Hajj Amin el Husseini who, when in service to the Nazis, helped organize a Bosnian Muslim Waffen SS division to fight on the side of Germany.
- An Iranian ‘Conference on Hollywoodism and Cinema’ in February that honored prominent French Holocaust deniers.
- Ongoing publication of antisemitic articles on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s website including this gem: “The amazing thing is that all the nations dealt with the [Jewish] character in the same manner: by excising this tumor that has harmed all of humanity.”
The authors of the Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon mince no words in condemning Atzmon. If these words are to have any moral meaning whatsoever, it should not be difficult for Abunima, Bazian, Barghouti and all the other signatories to publish an unequivocal condemnation of antisemitism put into service of the Palestinian cause from its very beginnings until today.
It should not be difficult, but I’m not holding my breath.