May 14, 2019. JNS
(May 14, 2019 / JNS) The Jewish world is justifiably in an uproar over comments made over the weekend by U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). In an act of monumental chutzpah, Tlaib has made the claim that the Palestinians helped create “a safe haven” for Jews fleeing the Holocaust—a thought, she said, that gave her a “kind of calming feeling.”
Scholars and journalists have rebutted her revisionism by drawing attention to the pivotal role the the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, played in Arab politics, to the Arab-Nazi alliance he spearheaded, and to the anti-Semitic propaganda he broadcast during the four years he enjoyed Hitler’s hospitality in Berlin. They have pointed out that the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Arabs were Nazi sympathisers; the Arabs pressured the British to curtail Jewish immigration into Palestine that could have saved millions of lives. The Arab leadership led an anti-Semitic campaign within Palestine as early as the 1920s.
But few critics of Tlaib’s words have observed that the Mufti and other Syrian and Palestinian nationalists began to sow the seeds of virulent anti-Semitism outside Palestine as early as the 1920s. The result was the mass displacement of 850,000 Jews from the Arab world, most of whom resettled in Israel after 1948. Does this forced exodus, directly attributable to Arab anti-Semitism, also give Tlaib a “calming feeling”?
Wherever the mufti went in the Arab world, persecution and mayhem against the local Jews followed. In 1921, Yemenite Jews in the Yishuv claimed it was due to Palestinian Arab pressure that the decree forcing Jewish orphans in Yemen to convert to Islam was reinstated. This, they said, had come about after a Palestinian Arab delegation had visited Yemen to demand that the Imam stop all immigration to Palestine. The Orphans’ Decree, argues scholar S.D. Goiten, was the single most important reason Jews were desperate to flee Yemen.
In the 1940s, visits of Palestinian Arabs to Aden (then a British crown colony) became more common, and so did the expression of anti-Jewish sentiments.
From December 1931, when he convened a World Islamic Congress in Jerusalem, the Mufti ceased to speak of Zionists, and instead spoke of Jews. All Arabs were exhorted to treat the Jews of their countries “as the Jews treat the Arabs of Palestine.”
The congress was followed by anti-Jewish violence in Morocco—in Casablanca in 1932, Casablanca and Rabat in 1933, Rabat and Meknes in 1937 and Meknes in 1939. In Tunisia, an entente between Tunisian nationalists and the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee sparked violence in Sfax in 1932. The Algerian ulema (religious scholars) declared a boycott against Jews in 1936, obeying the mufti’s instructions.
British reports noted the intense propaganda in Yemen. Jewish refugees tried to make for British-controlled Aden. In 1939, a crowd was incited against the British and the Jews when they were shown fabricated photographs of Arab children hanging from telegraph poles. Other newspapers mendaciously reported that thousands of Arabs had been killed and bombs thrown at the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. In addition to his relentless his efforts to encourage pro-Nazi officers in Iraq to seize power, the grand mufti of Jerusalem incited the Farhud pogrom in Iraq by inciting the local Arabs against the Jews during his two-year exile in Baghdad.