October 4 is the fifth anniversary of a suicide bombing that killed 21 persons in Haifa, Israel. No one knows what 28-year-old Hanani Jaradat was thinking in the moments before she detonated her explosive belt. Thanks to a new book, though, we know what an early Palestinian terrorist leader was thinking: David G. Dalin and John F. Rothmann, in Icon of Evil: Hitler's Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam (Random House, 2008), meticulously document the career and views of Haj Amin al-Husseini (1895-1974).
Q: Why did the British make al-Husseini the Mufti of Jerusalem-the head of the Palestinian Arabs-from the 1920s onward?
It was an attempt by the British High Commissioner in Palestine to appease the radical Islamic movement. The British believed that as the mufti, al-Husseini would owe the British and would therefore be compliant with British rule under the Mandate in Palestine. The reality is that appeasement does not work. What the British, in fact, achieved, was the creation of an implacable foe who would ultimately ally himself with Hitler.
Q: Why did al-Husseini hate Jews?
From his youth, Haj Amin al-Husseini had been taught Muhammad's teachings in the Quran that Jews were evil, the greatest enemy of mankind. The descendants of those Jews who opposed the founder of Islam, al-Husseini was taught, were and would remain the enemies of Islam.
Al-Husseini grew up in a family that accepted as authoritative scholarship the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious anti-Semitic forgery dating from Czarist Russia that purported to document the existence of a secret Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. Also, al-Husseini viewed Jews as aligned with the British, whose rule in Palestine the mufti opposed and hoped to overthrow.
Q: Many people think that intifadas-Muslim uprisings against Jews in what is now Israel-are a recent phenomenon, but you write about ones that occurred in 1920 and 1929. Why do they keep happening?
The mufti was responsible for the phenomenon of the intifada. He led the murderous Arab uprisings against the Jews of Palestine in 1920, 1929, and 1936; their goal was to throw the Jews and the British out of Palestine. The tactics of terror, pioneered by the mufti, including the killing of many innocent people (political opponents and others), and set the precedent for the infamous Muslim uprisings-against the Jews in what is now the state of Israel-of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
In our own day, as during the 1920s and 1930s, these intifadas keep happening because they serve the purpose of the leaders of radical Islam in their ongoing campaigns of violence and terror against the Jews.
Q: What was the relationship of the mufti and Hitler?
Hitler and the mufti became allies to destroy their perceived common enemies, the British and the Jews; the principle that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" became the determining factor in this unholy alliance. At Hitler's invitation, the mufti spent the World War II years in Berlin and became part of Hitler's inner circle, working closely with the top Nazi leaders, including von Ribbentrop, Himmler, and Eichmann. He was one of the architects of Hitler's Final Solution, the mass murder of 6 million European Jews. He visited Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps and encouraged the Nazi leaders to be more efficient in their extermination of the Jews.
Q: "The fuhrer of the Arab world". . .
That's what he was called. Al--Husseini recruited more than 100,000 Muslims in Europe to fight in Moslem divisions of the Waffen-SS. He was responsible for the creation of the Moslem Waffen-SS unit that massacred 90 percent-12,600-of Bosnia's 14,000 Jews. From his office in Berlin, the mufti organized and planned Nazi propaganda broadcasts throughout the Arab world, many of which were classically anti-Semitic. In one of the most infamous radio broadcasts, the mufti urged his fellow Arabs to murder their Jewish neighbors: "Kill the Jews wherever you find them," he proclaimed. "This pleases God, history, and religion."
Q: What happened to the proposal in 1943 to exchange 20,000 German prisoners of war for 4,000 Jewish children, who would be allowed to enter Palestine?
The mufti vigorously opposed the proposal and made sure that the proposal was killed before it could be carried out. Himmler, Eichmann, and other Nazi leaders were at first interested in the proposal, made by the British government, and entered into negotiations with the British for the exchange of German POWs for the more than 4,000 Jewish refugee children (from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia) who might have fled to Palestine, but they subsequently withdrew from the negotiations when al-Husseini protested. As a result, the Jewish children were sent to death camps in Poland. In his postwar affidavit at the Nuremberg War Crime trials, Dieter Wisliceny, Eichmann's deputy, testified that the mufti's opposition had been responsible for the failure of these exchange negotiations.
Q: What do you think would have happened in the Middle East had Hitler not chosen to invade the Soviet Union?
He would have most certainly been able to give German Field Marshal Rommel the support that he needed to conquer the Middle East. The result would have been horrific.
Q: You report that the mufti inspired and mentored Yasser Arafat.
The mufti and Arafat were cousins. Throughout his life, Arafat referred to the mufti as his mentor. We argue, and establish, that Arafat was the mufti's devoted protégé, and that he guided Arafat along his path of terror. In our book, we document the history of their infamous relationship in meticulous detail. Shortly after arriving in Cairo in 1946, the mufti brought a former Nazi commando to Egypt to teach the young Arafat, then only 17 years old, and his associates, how to fight. Arafat first shed Jewish blood during terrorist raids against Israel in 1947.
Q: Arafat was a good student?
During the 1950s, with al-Husseini's encouragement, Yasser Arafat began recruiting followers for Fatah, his Palestinian terrorist guerrilla group. In 1965, Arafat's Fatah terrorists began attacking Israelis. In 1969, Arafat merged Fatah with the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and in the same year he succeeded his mentor, al-Husseini, as leader of the Palestine Liberation Movement.
Arafat continued the mufti's legacy by recruiting Nazis and neo-Nazis for Fatah and the PLO. In his almost four-decade career as leader of the PLO, Arafat was involved in innumerable terrorist attacks against Israeli and other Jewish civilians, ranging from the hijacking of airplanes to the recruitment and training of terrorist bombers.
Q: He received a Nobel Peace Prize.
Arafat, like his mentor al-Husseini, targeted Jews just because they were Jews: Jews at prayer in synagogues throughout Israel and Europe and even helpless children in nurseries and on school buses. His direction and sponsorship of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as Jewish students and tourists in Israel became an almost daily occurrence during the intifada that raged between 2000 and 2002. Until his death in 1974 Haj Amin al-Husseini remained an unrepentant terrorist leader. Until his death in 2004, Yasser Arafat, who often paid homage to the mufti as both his hero and mentor, also remained a terrorist leader, equally unrepentant, and deserving the reputation that he shared with the mufti as one of the fathers of Islamic terrorism in our time.
Q: Why should we care about al-Husseini today?
The seeds of evil that the mufti planted have grown into the radical Islamic terrorist movements that threaten America and the West today. The PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the Moslem Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda all derived their inspiration and principles from Haj Amin al-Husseini. The terrorism, fanaticism, and ruthlessness of the Palestine National Movement reflect the mufti's enduring legacy and influence. To understand the infamous life and legacy of this icon of evil, Haj Amin al-Husseini, will allow us to better understand and confront the icons of evil that we face today, and the challenge of terror from radical Islam that is the great issue of our time.