Hostage to an Ongoing Holocaust
We must remember why this happened. Terrorism is not the mindless irrational mechanism some imagine it to be. This was not an unthinking rampage. Hamas meticulously planned the attack for over a year. The group’s leader Ismail Haniyeh is an educated man with a degree in Islamic literature. Mohammed Deif, one of the leaders of Hamas’s military wing al-Qassam Brigades, has a bachelor’s degree in science.
These are methodical men who have repeatedly proven able and willing to provoke Israel into an overreaction that leaves disproportionately more Palestinians dead, many of them children, hopefully ending with Israel’s censure by the international community and alienation from its allies. In an asymmetric war against a foe like Israel, baiting an overreaction is clever, but requires a chilling disregard for Palestinian life.
Given this level of strategic thinking, it would be dangerous to dismiss Hamas as unhinged. We should instead pay careful attention when they offer their views, even on tangential topics, such as when the US killed Osama bin Laden and Haniyeh commented:
We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs.
This gives us a low-resolution sense of Haniyeh’s political orientation but a fairly precise idea of how much he values innocent lives. But in the context of Israel-Gaza relations, it’s especially important to listen to what Hamas leaders want you to know about Jews. Former Hamas minister of culture Atallah Abu al-Subh has said:
The Jews are the most despicable and contemptible nation to crawl upon the face of the Earth.
And al-Qassam commander Deif once wrote:
We say to our enemies, you are going on the path to extinction and Palestine will remain ours . . . You have no right to even an inch of it.
If you have not done so, I recommend reading last week’s column, which is a basic primer on the history of Hamas that helps illustrate who they are and what they want.
The column includes passages from the group’s foundational text, The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement, in which Hamas makes clear that their raison d’être is not the establishment of a global caliphate. As Former Middle East correspondent Sarah Helm noted in her 2016 essay “ISIS in Gaza”:
Hamas members are seen as infidels by ISIS since they place the nationalist battle for a Palestinian state before the campaign for a caliphate.
You might therefore think Hamas fights for the welfare and liberation of the Palestinian people, but last week Hamas senior official Ali Baraka appeared on Russia Today TV to explain how they managed to pull off the recent surprise attack:
We made them think that Hamas was busy with governing Gaza and that it wanted to focus on the 2.5 million Palestinians.
In other words, they only pretended to care about their people while secretly tending to their actual purpose, as stated in their charter, which is the murder of every Jewish person in the world, starting with Israelis. They are, in fact, so devoted to genocide they have perverted their own culture into a death cult, as Baraka further explained:
The Israelis are known to love life. We, on the other hand, sacrifice ourselves. We consider our dead to be martyrs. The thing any Palestinian desires the most is to be martyred for the sake of Allah, defending his land.
Baraka is not talking about becoming a shahid (martyr) in any abstract sense. In the language of Hamas, to become a shahid by defending your land means only one thing—killing Jews. As the president of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) Yigal Carmon wrote of Hamas:
The only appropriate comparison is to the Einsatzgruppen, the paramilitary death squads of the SS of the Nazi Germany, who were attached to the 4th Wehrmacht Army groups that invaded Poland and Russia in the outbreak of World War II. Their one and only mission was to murder Jews wherever they found them.
But Hamas is far bolder about their genocidal intentions. While the Nazis covered up their crimes, Hamas talks openly about what they want to do and posts their atrocities online. They filmed themselves parading a women’s half-naked body around in the back of truck. They filmed the music festival massacre. The slaughtered Jews and posted the murders on victims’ social media for their family members to find.
Hamas is also more imperialistic. Hitler sought Eastern expansion, the reclamation of lost territory, the unification of German-speaking people and alliances with Italy and Japan, whereas Hamas quite openly tells us it wants nothing less than total world domination. As co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar said last year, once they’ve dealt with the Jews, they hope to visit the same hell upon everyone else in the world.
This echoes remarks made by the Islamic cleric Salah Nour on Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV in June 2018, when he explained their longed-for Judgment Day will not come until Muslims have first murdered every Jew in the world, after which:
Islam will prevail, Allah willing, and the Muslims will rule the entire Earth.
But the link between the Nazis and Hamas runs far deeper than their shared genocidal aims, their capacity for evil or their imperialist ambitions. Yes, Hamas is wholly determined to finish the work Adolf Hitler began. Yes, their primary goal is the Holocaust. But their cause can in part be traced directly back to the Nazis, and can be seen as a literal continuation of the Nazi project.
Let’s put Hamas aside for a second. Let’s forget that tens of thousands of Muslims served in Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) units. Let’s also forget that former Egyptian president, Palestine advocate and Nobel laureate Anwar Sadat worked with the Nazis.
Amin al-Husseini was the grand mufti of Jerusalem from 1921 to 1948 and one of the most famous opponents of the establishment of the state of Israel. He lived in Germany during World War II where he did propaganda radio broadcasts to help the Nazis recruit Bosnian Muslims for the Waffen-SS. He became friends with SS head Heinrich Himmler. He was friends with Nazi foreign affairs minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. He was friends with Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust itself. He helped plan Nazi attacks on Jews in Palestine using parachutes, which reminds one of Hamas in hang gliders. In O Jerusalem!, historians Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre write that al-Husseini also directly took part in the Holocaust:
Fully aware of the Final Solution, he had done his best to see that none of the intended victims were diverted to Palestine on their way to Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler’s gas chambers.
In November 1941, al-Husseini met his hero Hitler and asked him to help prevent the establishment of a Jewish national home. Hitler replied:
Germany stood for uncompromising war against the Jews. That naturally included active opposition to the Jewish national home in Palestine, which was nothing other than a center, in the form of a state, for the exercise of destructive influence by Jewish interests . . . This was the decisive struggle; on the political plane, it presented itself in the main as a conflict between Germany and England, but ideologically it was a battle between National Socialism and the Jews. It went without saying that Germany would furnish positive and practical aid to the Arabs involved in the same struggle . . . Germany's objective would then be solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere under the protection of British power. In that hour the Mufti would be the most authoritative spokesman for the Arab world. It would then be his task to set off the Arab operations, which he had secretly prepared. When that time had come, Germany could also be indifferent to French reaction to such a declaration.
Hitler had earlier expelled Jews to Palestine and considered Arabs “half-apes,” two things that could have complicated this meeting, but these facts proved to be minor wrinkles easily smoothed out by their shared hatred of Jews. It helped that al-Husseini was blond with blue eyes. More importantly, Hitler had changed his mind about Jews and now wanted to wipe them out entirely.
Al-Husseini, who had already worked for the Nazi military, was Hitler’s chosen puppet for a Palestinian state—once the Jews were eliminated. In The Arabs and the Holocaust, Lebanese socialist academic Gilbert Achcar writes that in November 1943, when al-Husseini fully understood the Final Solution, he wrote in support of it (bold mine):
Germany is also struggling against the common foe who oppressed Arabs and Muhammadans in their different countries. It has very clearly recognized the Jews for what they are and resolved to find a definitive solution [endgültige Lösung] for the Jewish danger that will eliminate the scourge that Jews represent in the world.
Al-Husseini was a Nazi who helped the Germans conduct operations in North Africa. He was friends with some of the highest-ranking Nazi officers. He supported the Holocaust and wanted to see it carried out in Palestine. He literally sent Jews to the death camps. He had Hitler’s support. And he was one of the greatest champions of Palestinian statehood. This is not guilt by association. He pursued Palestinian statehood in opposition to Jewish statehood. One was a genocidal reaction to the other.
In his review review of Richard Rubenstein’s book Jihad and Genocide, University of Northern Iowa professor Steven Jacobs writes that al-Husseini
provided the foundational underpinnings for today’s radical Islamists who ‘‘consider all of Palestine to be an inalienable part of dar al-Islam and are therefore ‘obliged,’ at least in theory, to wage defensive jihad against the Zionists whom they regard as having forcibly ‘invaded’ the land. According to a strict interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence, the obligation to expel the Jews was and remains a non-negotiable religious imperative’’ (97). Rubenstein further rejects any notion that Nazism itself died with the death of Hitler in 1945 and the Nuremberg Trials of 1945–1946:
If anything, the mutual feeling of affinity between radical Islam and contemporary Nazism is stronger than ever, for contemporary Islam is the one movement that has the numbers and the power seriously to offer an alternative to Western civilization that both the extreme right and left despise.
This was not limited to Palestine either. One example of an Arab movement continuing the Nazi legacy today is Baghdad’s fascist Al-Muthanna Club, which has its own Hitler Youth called al-Futuwwa and which took part in Farhud, the 1941 pogrom in Baghdad that left up to 1,000 Jews dead. Another example is the fascist Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which is modeled after the Nazi Party and has as its party anthem “Syria, Syria, über allies” sung to the tune of the German national anthem.
The Palestinian newspaper Falistin has denied that the movement for Palestinian nationalism emerged from Nazism:
The Arab Palestinians don’t need Fascists or Nazis to be motivated against the Zionists. The hatred against the Zionist plan in Palestine grew long before Nazism and Fascism . . . But always, when Arabs protest the pro-Zionist policies of England, we heard: Arab Palestinians learned it from the Nazis. And the English believe this?
The antisemitism of Hamas evolved out of this wave of Nazi influence that began with al-Husseini, the former Nazi propagandist and spy who sent Jews to the death camps and whose own antisemitism was fashioned, of course, through being a Nazi himself and through his friendship with the Nazi leaders with whom he worked in Europe, Africa and Palestine. Today, the openly stated purpose of Gazan leadership is the Holocaust. This is not a coincidence.
This does not represent all Palestinian thought on the subject either. Palestine has ended up here for a variety of reasons, including the Israeli government’s support for Hamas in the early days and the effects that living in such conditions will inevitably have on people—though this is overestimated by Palestinian rights activists—to name just two causes. Intellectuals such as Muhammad Najati Sidqi were famously opposed to fascism and felt Nazism was a violation of everything Islam represented. But by and large, Palestine has followed the path of al-Husseini, not Sidqi.
At the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerances, Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi described her people as
A nation in captivity held hostage to an ongoing Nakba, as the most intricate and pervasive expression of persistent colonialism, apartheid, racism and victimization.
The Nakba is the Palestinian word for the loss of their ancestral homelands with the establishment of the state of Israel. The concept of an ongoing Nakba was popularized in 2008 when the Jordanian intellectual Josep Massad expounded on the idea in an article in al-Ahram Weekly titled “Resisting the Nakba,” in which he wrote:
Ever since the Nakba came to describe the tumultuous actions of 1948, an ongoing struggle has raged to define it as a past and finished event rather than an unfinished present action.
The main example of an ongoing Nakba is Zionist settler violence. By this logic, we should also take Hamas terrorist violence, in particular its antisemitic and genocidal nature, as a continuation. We said “never again” but the truth is, it never stopped.
To paraphrase these thinkers, Israel is a nation held hostage to an ongoing Holocaust. Ever since the Holocaust came to describe the events of World War II, people have defined it as a past and finished event rather than an unfinished present action.
Many Palestinian nationalists are doing noble work. But the Nazis did play a major role in the history of the movement. Hamas, which quotes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its charter, traces its ideology directly back to Hitler. They are trying to finish the work he started and even now, Jews are being massacred as part of that effort.
What we saw last week was not a terrorist attack. It was not a pogrom. It was the continuation of something we had believed was long behind us. The Nazi fire we stamped out in Germany, still smoldering in the desert.
This is the ongoing Holocaust.
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