Perpetuating distrust and conflict: Israel’s use of character assassination
Rich Forer writes:
The government of Israel has always taken pains to disparage Arabs and attribute to them the genocidal designs of the Nazis, history’s most infamous mad men. This character assassination has kept world Jewry fearful of another holocaust and acquiescent when it comes to Israeli actions executed in the name of security, no matter how inhumane these actions are, and no matter how ultimately self-destructive and insecure they make Jews.
Even before Israel’s establishment, Jewish leaders had begun targeting one Palestinian in particular, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. For Jewish leaders, Al-Husseini symbolised the apparent Arab thirst for the extermination of the Jewish people which, in turn, stimulated Jewish fear and hatred of Arabs.
Under Ottoman law, which the British had largely incorporated into their administration of mandatory Palestine, a Muslim electoral college was responsible for nominating three candidates to the position of Grand Mufti. Although Al-Husseini was not among the nominees, in 1921 British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel, a Jew, rejected tradition and unilaterally named the 24-year-old to the post.
Two months ago, Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, speaking at the 37th Zionist Congress, made the following unproven and dubious allegation:
Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews, and Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, “If you expel them, they’ll all come here.”
“So what should I do with them?” [Hitler] asked.
[Al-Husseini] said: “Burn them.”
About 60 years ago, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who had ignored peace overtures from Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, called Nasser “the Hitler of the Middle East”, a phrase that reverberated throughout Jewish communities all over the world. As a child, the images that description conjured in my mind contributed to my distrust of Arabs and my fear for Israel and my people’s survival.
A variety of Israeli institutions, formally or informally, assist the Israeli government’s hasbara [propaganda] campaign. Schools and synagogues instil prejudice within the minds of impressionable children and reinforce fear of “the other”. Emotional trips to Polish concentration camps, where Jews were warehoused, tortured and murdered, are the backdrop for advanced and sustained indoctrination. Then there is Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the holocaust. Yad Vashem contains biographical material about many of the criminals who carried out the extermination of two-thirds of European Jewry.
Here, the material about Al Husseini, a name the vast majority of American Jews have never heard of, is twice as long as the material on either Joseph Goebbels or Hermann Goering, longer than the articles on Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich combined and longer than the article on Adolf Eichmann. Of all the biographical material in Yad Vashem, only Adolf Hitler’s is greater – by a small margin – than Husseini’s.1
1. “Holocaust Abuse: The Case of Hajj Muhammad Amin al-Husayni,” by Michael A. Sells. JRE 43.4:723– 759. © 2015 Journal of Religious Ethics, Inc.
Husseini did in fact hate Jews, likely because of how they treated his people, not because of his upbringing, but his efforts to promote a pro-Nazi movement among the Arabs of Palestine were a failure. Nonetheless, the state of Israel’s depiction of him as not only responsible for the holocaust but as the evil embodiment of all Arabs has borne fruit to the point that it has become a rallying cry for the latest generation of Israeli leaders.