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OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

De-Nazify the Palestinian leadership

Moderates can only emerge if the dark legacy of the Mufti is expunged.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini salutes the Bosnian Waffen S.S. in November 1943. Credit: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons.
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini salutes the Bosnian Waffen S.S. in November 1943. Credit: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons.
Henry Kopel
Henry Kopel is a former federal prosecutor and the author of War on Hate: How to Stop Genocide, Fight Terrorism and Defend Freedom (Lexington Books, 2021).

The Oslo Accords, now 30 years old, began with great hopes but swiftly descended into a bloody stalemate of Palestinian terror, Israeli overtures for peace and more Palestinian terror.

Recent commentary has emphasized the lack of a viable off-ramp. Benjamin Kerstein aptly summed up this sentiment, concluding, “We do not know our way out of Oslo.”

The options do seem elusive. But if one asks what needs to change in order to find better options, an answer emerges: A new and thoroughly de-Nazified Palestinian leadership.

Strong words perhaps, but history confirms it: Since the 1930s, the pre-state Zionist community and then the State of Israel sought to share their indigenous homeland with their Palestinian Arab neighbors. For just as long, the Palestinian Arab leadership has relentlessly sought to prevent and then destroy any manifestation of Jewish sovereignty in that homeland while indoctrinating its people in genocidal Jew-hatred.

It is not widely known that, even through the 1930s, many Arab leaders, including three out of five Palestinian-Arab political parties, favored negotiations with their Jewish neighbors and were open to considering “two states for two peoples.” 

One man shattered this emerging amity: The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini. A notorious antisemite, Husseini was appointed Mufti by the British authorities in 1921 over two more moderate candidates. He spent the 1920s and 1930s inciting pogroms via vicious antisemitic propaganda, falsely claiming the Jews sought to destroy Muslim religious sites and exterminate the Arabs.

Husseini eventually instigated a 1936-1939 civil war in Palestine, targeting not just the British and the Jews, but also the many Palestinian Arabs who favored cooperation with their Jewish neighbors. Husseini had many of the latter viciously tortured and murdered, leaving their shattered bodies in public as a warning to moderate Palestinians.

Having emptied his community of moderate voices, Husseini filled the void with the ideology of Europe’s rising Nazi empire. Several historians have documented the Mufti’s leading role in bringing about an Arab-Nazi alliance during World War II. Husseini moved to Berlin in Nov. 1941, where he and Hitler publicly reached an accord. They jointly pledged to conquer the Middle East, annex it to the Nazi empire and build death camps to exterminate all the Jews. That this second Holocaust did not happen is owed entirely to the British-American defeat of Hitler’s North African armies in 1943.

Husseini also spent those years poisoning the Middle East’s political discourse as a leading adviser to the Nazi’s massive propaganda campaign across the region.

Husseini’s efforts were effective: An American intelligence dispatch from Aug. 1942 reported “three-fourths of the Muslim world are in favor of the Axis,” crediting “radio talks from the Grand Mufti” directing Arabs to “murder the Jews and seize their property.”

Husseini’s twin legacies of inciting Jew-hate and silencing Palestinian moderates were embraced in 1968 by the PLO’s new leader Yasser Arafat. They continue today under Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas, who praised Husseini as “a great man whose ways should be emulated by all [Palestinian Authority] Arabs.”

As abundantly documented by NGOs like Palestinian Media Watch and Impact-se, Palestinian schools, summer camps, TV shows and newspapers relentlessly disseminate antisemitism much like that of Nazi Germany.

This propaganda works. As countless video recordings demonstrate, after each successful terror-murder of one or more Israelis, Palestinian communities erupt in public celebrations, with dancing in the streets, fireworks, firing of weapons and handing out candy to children.

Crucially, the Nazification of the Palestinian leadership and society since the 1930s has never been reversed. This helps explain the long history of failed peace efforts, which include at least nine attempts to give the Palestinians a state west of the Jordan River or to commence negotiations towards such a result.

This history demonstrates that, like all the other failed peace efforts, Oslo was doomed from the outset because of a fundamental difference between the parties to it. On one side stands Israel, which has shown time and again that it is ready to make peace by giving up lands it holds dear. On the other side stands the Palestinian leadership, driven by a Nazified ideology that seeks to destroy Israel.

The lesson of this painful history should be clear: Peace is impossible unless and until there is a total de-Nazification of all leading Palestinian institutions. The P.A.’s leadership, government agencies, media, schools and mosques must give up their Nazified ideology and replace it with the values of peaceful coexistence.

Can this be made to happen? And if so, how?

It cannot happen without the application of powerful, game-changing pressure. Abbas and his autocratic clique will never voluntarily relinquish their annihilationist ideology, which is too deeply embedded in Palestinian national identity for it to dissipate naturally.

There are two options for applying such pressure. Option one is military conquest and occupation, akin to the Western Allies’ transformative occupation of postwar Nazi Germany. Option two would combine conditional aid suspensions, enhanced counterterror efforts, targeted media disruptions, insistence on educational reforms and proactive support for moderate Palestinian leaders.

Israel is unlikely to make the costly efforts required by option one, especially given the powerful opposition certain to come from the U.S. and other allies. At least for now, option two is the only viable choice.

Option two cannot be effectively implemented by Israel alone. The essential component of aid suspensions requires buy-in from America and Europe. Europe will resist such a policy, as will the Biden administration. This contrasts with the Trump administration, which suspended aid under the Taylor Force Act.

In sum, the options for ending the Oslo stalemate are limited and likely on hold pending a Republican administration in the White House. But it is not too soon to begin fashioning a serious game plan that might finally end the Palestinians’ century-long war to annihilate Israel. Israel deserves an end to this war and so do the Palestinian people, who have long been treated as little more than cannon fodder by their corrupt and autocratic rulers.

As a result, for the sake of both Israelis and Palestinians, a coordinated strategy designed to replace the annihilationist Palestinian leadership should be at the top of any serious peace agenda.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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