In his speeches, most especially the one at Columbia University, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeats two myths about the Holocaust. The first every reasonable person knows is a total lie: namely that the Holocaust did not occur. The second myth, however, is one that escapes critical attention for the most part, because many people are not aware of its falsity. The myth is that the Palestinian people and their leadership had absolutely nothing to do with the Holocaust. The conclusion that is supposed to follow from this "fact" is that the establishment of Israel in the wake of the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people was unfair to the Palestinians. This is the way Ahmadinejad put it in his Columbia talk:
"...[G]iven this historical event [the Holocaust], if it is a reality, we need to question whether the Palestinian people should be paying for it... The Palestinian people didn't commit any crime. They had no role to play in World War II."
These statements about the role of the Palestinians are demonstrably false. The truth is that the Palestinian leadership, supported by the Palestinian masses, played a significant role in Hitler's Holocaust. The Palestinian leader at the time was Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, the Grand Mufit of Jerusalem. As Professor Edward Said has acknowledged:
"Hajj Amin al-Husseini represented the Palestinian Arab national consensus, had the backing of the Palestinian political parties that functioned in Palestine, and was recognized in some form by Arab governments as the voice of the Palestinian people."
Husseini was "Palestine's national leader" and it was in that capacity that he made his notorious alliance with Hitler and played an active role in promoting the Holocaust. Here is the true story that Ahmadinejad tried to mythologize.
Shortly after Hitler came to power, the Grand Mufti decided to emulate him. He informed the German consul in Jerusalem that "the Muslims inside and outside Palestine welcome the new regime of Germany and hope for the extension of the fascist anti-democratic, governmental system to other countries." In an effort to bring it to his own country, Husseini organized the "Nazi Scouts," based on the "Hitler Youth." The swastika became a welcome symbol among many Palestinians.
The mid to late 1930's were marked by Arab efforts to curtail immigration and Jewish efforts to rescue as many Jews as possible from Hitler's Europe. These years were also marked by escalating Muslim violence orchestrated by Husseini and other Muslim leaders. In 1936, Arab terrorism took on a new dimension. In the beginning the targets were once again defenseless Jewish civilians in hospitals, movie theatres, homes and stores. This was followed by strikes and shop closures, and then by the bombing of British offices. The Nazi regime in Germany and the Italian fascists supported the violence, sending "millions" to the Mufti. The SS, under the leadership of Heinrich Himmler, provided both financial and logistical support for anti-Semitic pogroms in Palestine. Adolf Eichmann visited Husseini in Palestine and subsequently maintained regular contact with him. The support was mutual, as one Arab commentator put it:
"Feeling the whip of Jewish pressure and influence, the Arabs sympathize[d] with the Nazis and Fascists in their agony and trials at the hands of Jewish intrigues and international financial pressure."
The Palestinians and their Arab allies were anything but neutral about the fate of European Jewry. The official leader of the Palestinians, Haj Amin al-Husseini, spent the war years in Berlin with Hitler, serving as a consultant on the Jewish question. Husseini famously posed with Hitler for a photograph that was proudly displayed in the homes of many Palestinians. He was taken on a tour of Auschwitz by Himmler and expressed support for the mass murder of European Jews. He also sought to "solve the problems of the Jewish element in Palestine and other Arab countries" by employing "the same method" being used "in the Axis countries." He would not be satisfied with the Jewish residents of Palestine - - many of whom were descendants of Sephardic Jews who had lived there for hundreds, even thousands, of years - - remaining as a minority in a Muslim state. Like Hitler, he wanted to be rid of "every last Jew." As Husseini wrote in his memoirs:
"Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world. 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.'"
The Mufti was apparently planning to return to Palestine in the event of a German victory and to construct a death camp, modeled after Auschwitz, near Nablus. Husseini incited his pro-Nazi followers with the words "Arise, o sons of Arabia. Fight for your sacred rights. Slaughter Jews wherever you find them. Their spilled blood pleases Allah, our history and religion. That will save our honor." In 1944, a German-Arab commando unit, under Husseini's command, parachuted into Palestine and poisoned Tel Aviv's wells.
Husseini also helped to inspire a pro-Nazi coup in Iraq and helped to organize thousands of Muslims in the Balkans into military units known as Handselar divisions which carried out atrocities against Yugoslav Jews, Serbs and Gypsies. After a meeting with Hitler, he recorded the following in his diary:
The Mufti: "The Arabs were Germany's natural friends... They were therefore prepared to cooperate with Germany with all their hearts and stood ready to participate in a war, not only negatively by the commission of acts of sabotage and the instigation of revolutions, but also positively by the formation of an Arab Legion. In this struggle, the Arabs were striving for the independence and the unity of Palestine, Syria and Iraq....
Hitler: "Germany was resolved, step by step, to ask one European nation after the other to solve its Jewish problem, and at the proper time direct a similar appeal to non-European nations as well. Hitler. Germany's objective would then be solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere under the protection of British power. The moment that Germany's tank divisions and air squadrons had made their appearance south of the Caucasus, the public appeal requested by the Grand Mufti could go out to the Arab world."
It is fair to conclude that the official leader of the Muslims in Palestine, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was a full fledged Nazi war criminal and he was so declared at Nuremberg and sought by Yugoslavia as a war criminal after the war. He escaped to Egypt where he was given asylum and helped to organize many former Nazis and Nazi sympathizers against Israel.
It is also fair to say that Husseini's pro-Nazi sympathies and support were widespread among his Palestinian followers, who regarded him as a here even after the war and the disclosure of his role in Nazi atrocities. According to his biographer,
Haj Amin's popularity among the Palestinian Arabs and within the Arab states actually increased more than ever during his period with the Nazis... [because] large parts of the Arab world shared this sympathy with Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
Nor was it merely a hatred of Zionism that animated this support for Nazi ideology. The grand mufti's "hatred of Jews...was fathomless, and he gave full vent to it during his period of activity alongside the Nazis (October 1941-May 1945)." His speeches on Berlin Radio were anti-Semitic to the core: "Kill the Jews wherever you find them--this pleases God, history and religion." In 1948, the National Palestinian Council elected Husseini as its president, even though he was still a wanted war criminal living in exile in Egypt. Indeed, Husseini is still revered today among many Palestinians as a national hero. Yasser Arafat, in an interview conducted in 2002 and reprinted in the Palestinian daily Al-Quds on August 2, 2002, the chairman calls Haj Amin al-Husseini "our hero," referring to the Palestinian people. Arafat also boasted of being "one of his troops," even though he knew he was "considered an ally of Nazis." (If a Germany today were to call Hitler "our hero," he would appropriately be labeled a neo-Nazi!)
Therefore it is a myth -- another myth perpetrated by Iran's myth-maker-in-chief -- that the Palestinians played "no role" in the Holocaust. Considering the active support by the Palestinian leadership and masses for the losing side of a genocidal war, it was more than fair for the United Nations to offer them a state of their own on more than half of the arable land of the British mandate. The Sudeten Germans got a lot less!
(For more, see The Case for Israel, at pages 40-44 and 54-62, with notes at 247-248.)