Photo: German Federal Archive/Wikimedia Commons

2020-2021 University of Pittsburgh CAMERA Fellow Aidan Segal

On a Spring day in 2018 during the March of Return riots, Palestinians at the Gaza border flew a swastika-emblazoned kite carrying a Molotov cocktail into Israel. From the black smoke of burning tires arose another swastika, only this time interposed between two Palestinian flags. (Was it mere coincidence that this occurred on Adolf Hitler’s birthday?) In this context of Palestinian “return,” the kite is a prolific symbol; for example, advertising for National Students for Justice in Palestine’s (SJP) 2018 conference at UCLA featured an image of a bear flying a kite. That SJP adopted this imagery for the conference’s logo – as if it were somehow a child-like symbol of peaceful protest – demonstrates the organization’s willingness to gloss over the arson that Palestinian terrorists have employed with kites.

In any case, the genocidal imagery that accompanied the rioters in Gaza has a sordid history that many anti-Zionist activists conveniently forget — one that some Palestinians embrace entirely.

The Nazis murdered 6,000,000 Jews and sought to destroy every trace of Jewish life having ever existed, yet it’s a common practice for anti-Zionist critics to liken Israel to the Nazis’ genocidal evil. Libels of this sort are quite common on college campuses. 

Last June, for instance, Florida State University (FSU) students discovered that the school’s Student Senate President Ahmad Daraldik had created a virulently antisemitic website to explain his (incorrect) argument that “the Holocaust never ended, it just moved to Palestine.” Unsurprisingly, the FSU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine’s (SJP) subsequent petition defending Daraldik completely ignores this appalling hatred. 

Two years prior, renowned professor of law at Harvard University Alan Dershowitz visited the University of California — Berkeley’s campus to present what he described as his “liberal case for Israel.” Rather than engage in productive dialogue, the student newspaper published a cartoon that depicted Dershowitz stomping on a Palestinian child and propping up an Israeli soldier that had shot a young Palestinian. As Dershowitz pointed out, these sorts of blood libels and ritual murder accusations harken back to the Nazi propaganda tabloid Der Sturmer. To make matters worse, a poster with a swastika scrawled on Dershowitz’s face was displayed outside the law school.

In October 2018, a guest lecturer’s presentation at the University of Michigan’s Stamps School of Art and Design featured a slide with side-by-side photos of Adolf Hitler and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The words “guilty of genocide” were superimposed over both faces.

Ironically, anti-Zionists are correct that the spectre of Nazism indeed haunts the Middle East — only the purveyors of the ideology are assuredly not its Jewish inhabitants.

Antisemitism has always been a part of the Arab world, but after the rise of Nazi Germany, the hatred took on a new meaning to those enraged by the influx of Jewish refugees in then-Mandatory Palestine.

Chief among them was Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, a key founder of the Palestinian national movement and preeminent Islamic jurist who enthusiastically championed Nazism following Hitler’s rise. Relations between the mufti and the Third Reich’s highest-ranking officials went beyond moral support — rather, it was a sadistic partnership.

Reflecting on his time in Berlin as a consultant for Hitler, al-Husseini wrote in his memoirs, “I asked Hitler for an explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem in a manner befitting our national and racial aspirations and according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews. The answer I got was: ‘The Jews are yours.’”

A photograph of Hitler and Husseini discussing the Final Solution is, generally speaking, the extent of people’s seemingly limited understanding of their collaboration. Almost without exception, peddlers of the Israel-Nazi comparisons fail to recognize, for example, the mufti’s complicity in (if not responsibility for) the deaths of an estimated 84,000 Jews, including 4,000 children. As the associate director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) Alex Safian has documented, “The Mufti influenced the Germans to directly prevent the escape of Jews who otherwise might have survived the war, and he provoked his followers to violence in the Palestine Mandate.”

“…anti-Zionists are correct that the spectre of Nazism indeed haunts the Middle East — only the purveyors of the ideology are assuredly not its Jewish inhabitants.”

Sadly, the mufti’s complicity in the Holocaust left an indelible mark on his people, and his influence can still be found in many elements of contemporary Palestinian society more than 70 years since the liberation of the concentration camps and establishment of the modern state of Israel.

The “Nazi Scouts” organized by Husseini and inspired by the Hitler Youth are no longer, but indoctrinating children with antisemitic ideology remains in Palestinian classrooms. In a 2019 resolution, the United Nations — rarely an Israeli benefactor — condemned these practices and called on the Palestinian Authority to remove “any derogatory comments and images from school curricula and textbooks that perpetuate prejudices and hatred.”

Twelve years prior, Palestinian Media Watch director Itamar Marcus published findings that Palestinian textbooks, unsurprisingly, reject Israel’s right to exist and traffic in Holocaust denial. In 2001, German MEP Armin Laschet argued that the hateful content in Palestinian textbooks reminded him of the books published when his country was under Hitler’s reign.

That Hitler’s Mein Kampf was once a bestseller in the Palestinian-controlled territories is especially ironic, given that Holocaust denial is not uncommon in Palestinian media. In fact, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas argued in his 1984 PhD thesis that the Holocaust was grossly exaggerated – that the (entirely correct) assertion that six million Jews were murdered is a “fantastic lie.” In Abbas’ view, the Jews who were killed by the Nazis only perished because the Zionist movement supposedly incited the Nazis.

It wouldn’t be fair to charge the entire Palestinian people with the crime of the Holocaust. But it is important to reckon with the aforementioned historical and contemporary facts and to expose the absurdity, not to mention irony, of Israel-Nazi comparisons tossed around on college campuses. 

To falsely equate Jews with their oppressors — all while ignoring actual examples of collaboration with Nazi Germany — is an abberation of justice.

A slightly different version of this op-ed was originally published in The Algemeiner.

Contributed by 2020-2021 University of Pittsburgh CAMERA Fellow Aidan Segal.

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