Adolf Hitler And The Palestine Question


By Jennie Lebel

In his speech on February 20, 1938, three weeks before the ' Anschluss' of Austria, Adolf Hitler mentioned, as if in passing, the Palestine question, as an answer to a British request to grant pardon to persons accused of anti-German activity. He said: "It would be better for the British deputies to take a greater interest in the sentences in Jerusalem than in those in Berlin!" -alluding to the sentences passed by the British military tribunals against Arab terrorists.

Dr. Grobba reported from Baghdad on March 3, 1938 about a high level Arab delegation who came to see him to express the appreciation and gratitude of the Arab world for Hitler's words and for the shift in German policy. Five excerpts from Arab newspapers, translated into German, were attached to the report from Baghdad. In September 1938, on the eve of the Sudeten crisis, at the conference of the Nazi party in Nuremberg (Reichsparteitag), Hitler repeated his allusion to the Palestine question. He said that the Sudeten Germans were not left to their fate, as might be the case for the Arabs in Palestine.

Hitler's words again provoked a storm of enthusiasm in the Arab world. As Dr. Grobba reported at the beginning of October, the Arabs thought that they should take an example from the German policy that knew how to get rid of the yoke which the Germans had borne since the end of World War I, and undertake similar steps. Some Arab politicians applied with a request that Hitler should get actively involved in the problems of Palestine. On November 29, 1938 Haj-Amin applied to the German Consul in Beirut with the request for an urgent delivery of arms and ammunition for the 'insurgents' in Palestine.

Two months later, in December 1938, also Jussuf Said Abu-Dura, one of the leaders of the disturbances, handed a letter with the same request to the German Consul General in Jerusalem, asking that he should deliver it directly to Adolf Hitler, "the great leader of Germany, who bestowed upon his people the pride and glory that will last an eternity".
The Mufti continued to attend to his extensive secret contacts with the Reich. Some of the most important of Haj-Amin's men whom he sent to the Reich between 1937 and 1941 were Mussa el-Alami, Mussa Abdullah el-Husseini, Said Abd el-Fatah el-Imam, Auni-bey Abd-el-Hadi and several times Naji Shawkat. Ottman Kamal Haddad travelled to the Reich not only under his own name, but also as Tawfik Ali el-Shakir, Max Mueller etc.


Since the Arabs opposed the plan for the partition of Palestine, the well-known Anglo-Jewish writer and historian Albert M. Hyamson and British Colonel Stewart Francis Newcombe, the founder and treasurer of the Arab Information Office in London and formerly a representative of the defunct A.H.C. in London, both of them known for their good relations with the Arabs, proposed on October 9, 1937 a nine point outline for the solution of the Palestine problem, entitled 'A proposed Basis for Discussion between Arab and Jewish Leaders' . This outline known as the Hyamson-Newcombe Proposal, was intended as the basis for negotiations between representatives of the Arabs and Jews.
The proposal was forwarded to the Jewish Agency in London and to Dr. Jehudah Leib Magnes in Jerusalem. Jewish representatives agreed to meet an Arab delegation and to start preliminary talks.

The person from the Arab side who responded to this initiative was Mussa Abdullah el-Husseini. On December 14, 1937 he met in London with Lavy Bakstansky, the Secretary of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain. Before he met Bakstansky, Mussa Abdullah talked to Colonel Newcombe. They agreed that the details referred to them by Hyamson were interesting, and so Mussa Abdullah sent a letter to the Mufti with a request for further instructions. In fact, Mussa Abdullah el-Husseini was Haj-Amin's right-hand man from the thirties to the end of World War II. From his talks with Bakstansky it is clear that he had full powers to speak in the name of Haj-Amin and of various organisations that had nothing in common with 'people of the Arab left'.

According to Bakstansky's report, Mussa Abdullah told him before they parted that he would not oppose a Jewish state on condition that it did not contain Haifa and the Galilee, but concerning the Negev desert or part of it, he was not the one to decide. It is not clear whether and with whom Mussa Abdullah talked on this matter. He only informed Bakstansky that he was travelling to Paris, where he would remain for about three weeks, and that they would meet again upon his return.
Only Colonel Newcombe discovered some small details about the persons in question. In the beginning of February 1938, he wrote to Moshe Shertok that he had negotiated with two 'very influential' Arabs, without giving their names. One was a member of the A.H.C., while the other one had direct contacts with the A.H.C. After the negotiations, Newcombe wrote to Haj-Amin about the proposals made by these two, and to Shertok. He added that he supposed that the Mufti would not accept their proposals verbatim, but that the general trend was acceptable and in harmony with the views of the Mufti's advisors.

It must be stressed at this point that at the time Haj-Amin was outside Palestine after his escape from Jerusalem and his residence was kept a closely guarded secret.
Shertok wrote that he was familiar with the contents of the talks, but that Mussa el-Husseini's friends were not prepared to permit the influx of Jews to Palestine. Shertok also did not write in more detail about the Mussa concerned nor who his friends were.

In those days David Ben-Gurion also stayed in London, and he too met with Mussa Abdullah el-Husseini. The meeting was fixed for February 23, 1938 and Ben-Gurion wrote about it as follows:

"Mussa Husseini studied at the 'Azhar' and according to his words he is the only 'Sheikh' from the Husseini family. He is now learning Hebrew. According to him, he is a socialist of the left direction, between socialism and communism. He desires a socialist government to rule the Arab state, but does not see any prospect for this to happen. He will return to the country in the summer."

When Ben-Gurion asked him his opinion about the plan of November 1937, Mussa Abdullah answered that moderate Arabs did not agree to any proposal that would enable the Jews to represent more than one third of the population, and that in the Mufti's opinion the Jews should not constitute more than 7 percent.
It is interesting that neither Ben-Gurion nor anybody from the Jewish Agency asked in whose name this 'socialist of the left direction' was speaking, although by the surname itself he could see that he was closely related to Haj-Amin, and was mentioned in German documents as the Mufti's nephew (Der Neffe).
Contrary to Ben-Gurion, The Zionist Review (December 1937, p. 164) wrote about "Mr. Mussa Husseini, a young cousin of the Mufti, is here in England ostensibly studying law: A careful study leads one to the inevitable conclusion that, although he appears to be moderate, his view represents, in fact, no advance whatever on those submitted by his notorious cousin before the Royal Commission a year ago."

In fact, Mussa Abdullah was a very intelligent, brilliant, cunning and skilful politician and agitator, who spoke several languages. He had studied at the universities of Cairo and London and received his doctorate at the Berlin University. In this city he married a German by the name of Thea-Maria.


There were three distinct stages in the development of the Palestine situation during the years 1938-1939. The first stage was a period of suspense, during which the fate of the partition proposal of the Peel Royal Commission was decided together with the publication of the Woodhead Commission Report on November 9, and the official abandonment of partition by the British Government. The second stage continued through the Round Table Conference in London, and the third was the publication of the White Paper on May 17, 1939.

In April 1938 the British Government sent a new commission of inquiry to Palestine, headed by Sir John Woodhead, and maintained the position that partition offered the best means of solving the deadlock in Palestine. The Woodhead Commission remained on the site several months, talked to the population and with Jewish and government repre-sentatives, but was boycotted by Arab institutions. In October 1938 the Woodhead Commission published its conclusions; that there were big problems concerning the partition of the country. It called for a reduction in Jewish immigration to 12,000 a year, 'in line with the country's absorptive capacity'.

The Commission did not accomplish anything. When Malcolm MacDonald became Colonial Secretary for the second time, in view of the deterioration of law and order due to the rebellion of Palestinian Arabs (19361939) and the looming threat of a world war, he tried to stabilize the situation by placating the Arab states. Opposing the proposed partition of Palestine, he envisaged, initiated, and organized the London Roundtable Conference of early 1939, in which representatives of Arab states participated along with the Palestinian Arabs and a Jewish delegation. The British Government published a proposal on November 9, 1938 to convene a Tripartite Anglo-Arab-Jewish meeting for the solution of disputed issues. On December 7, 1938 Malcolm MacDonald, Colonial Secretary, announced that the subject being the Middle East, in addition to representatives of both communities from Palestine, the representatives of Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Transjordan and Yemen were also invited and had agreed to send delegates to the Conference.

The British Government issued a communiqe stating that, in case there should be no conclusions and no proposals for a solution should be accepted, it felt free to take measures according to its own discretion, in accordance with the international obligations of mandatory powers.

Jewish representation was to be selected by the Jewish Agency, but at that time the question of Palestine Arab representation had not yet been decided. In its statement of policy, the Government reserved the right to refuse those leaders whom they regarded as responsible for the campaign of assassinations and violence. The Colonial Secretary declared that Haj-Amin was not acceptable to the British Government as one of the Arab representatives, but the British accepted that the A.H.C. represented Palestine Arabs and as an act of goodwill freed five A.H.C. members who had been exiled to the Seychelle islands. The Palestine Arab delegation was to be headed by the Mufti's close relative Jamal el-Husseini, who had been interned in Rhodesia until then.

As regards Arab representation, the ban on direct participation by Haj-Amin was maintained, but no obstacles would be placed in the way of their, or any other Arabs, visiting the Mufti in his Lebanese retreat for consultation. Chaim Weizmann wrote that while 'negotiations' on the Conference were proceeding, he received -obviously by a clerical error - a draft from the Colonial Office meant only for members of the Arab delegation. There, in clear terms, was the outline of what was afterwards to be the White Paper, submitted for Arab approval: an Arab State of Palestine in five years; a limited Jewish immigration during these five years, and none thereafter without Arab consent.

The draft was taken by Mussa Alami, who forthwith left London for Lebanon. On his arrival at Tripoli he met a representative of the Mufti and was invited to his house at Zouk near Beirut. There he found not only the Mufti, but all the detainees from the Seychelles, who had already been released. Mussa Alami read the letter, each sentence being translated into Arabic for the Mufti, who did not understand English.
The Conference was opened with much solemnity in St. James Palace on February 7, 1939. The dignity of the occasion was somewhat marred by the fact that Prime Minister Sir Neville Chamberlain's address of welcome had to be given twice, once to the Jews and once to the Arabs, since the Mufti's influence was immediately felt. All Arab delegations refused even to use the same entrances to the palace, to avoid embarrassing contact or to sit at the same table with the Jewish delegation, so the negotiations were conducted in two separate groups.

At the London conference in 1939 the Jewish delegation opposed the British 'strategic arguments', which were intended to satisfy and appease the Arabs, pointing out that in the war that could be felt approaching, the Jews would unconditionally side with the anti-Axis coalition. This declaration weakened the Jewish position, since it was clear that the Jews were 'in their pocket', would join them and be an efficient fighting force, as distinct from the Arabs, who would join the forces of the Axis in case of war.
Giving in to all Arab demands was in accordance with the policy of appeasement and 'smoothing over of conflicts' of Chamberlain, who knew that his relations with the Reich, which he 'courted' at the time, would be better if he yielded to the Arabs and not to the Jews.

It must be noted that in October 1938 the Sudetenland had been handed over to Hitler as a result of the Munich Conference. In March 1939 Hitler annexed the rest of Czechoslovakia, a great bastion of liberty and democracy, and Chamberlain still believed that by these concessions he was purchasing 'peace in our time'. Neither the Jews nor the Czechs will forget the words of Chamberlain on the occasion of Hitler's occupation of the Czech capital: "Why should England risk war for the sake of 'a far-away country of which we know very little and whose language we don't understand?'"

The anti-Jewish excesses in Germany reached a peak in the so-called Crystal Night (Kristallnacht) between November 9 and 10, 1938. Many Jews were killed and almost all synagogues throughout the Reich were burnt. Jews were arrested by the thousands and sent to Dachau concentration camp.

Dr. Weizmann wrote that the British were strangely ignorant of what was happening to the Jews in Germany. During the St. James Conference, the British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax said to him, that he had just received a letter from a friend in Germany, who described some terrible entirely unbelievable things perpetrated by the Nazis in a concentration camp the name of which is not familiar to him. Dr. Weizmann realized it was Dachau. Since at that time Jews were still permitted to leave the Reich, the Jewish Agency applied to the British government and asked it to permit the immigration of 10,000 Jewish children from Germany. The request was refused. The more the Jews needed a homeland, the closer the British policy approached the Arab positions. Dr. Chaim Weizmann, in trying to explain the tragic situation of the Jews in Europe to the British, gave what was perhaps his best speech. He declared almost prophetically as early as February 8, 1939:

"Do you realize that even if I dare to demand as large a number as the immigration of, say, 70-80,000 persons a year over the next five years, this will not represent even 5% of the people who are condemned to annihilation… With a cruelty that can be compared only with that of Genghis Khan or Tamerlane, community after community is being destroyed in the Reich itself, in Austria, in Czechoslovakia, and now also in Hungary. And behind all this the deadly outline stands out in the distance of a still greater tragedy in Poland and Rumania… The fate of 6 million people is in the balance; they will have to go somewhere, but nobody can answer where. Some individual Jews may have a home, but as a people we are homeless, and there must be a place in the world where we shall not be tolerated strangers and a plague, but masters of our destiny. Jews lived in Germany for centuries, and lived in peace. All of a sudden they are wickedly eradicated and brutally annihilated. We need a homeland, in order that those who are persecuted today and those who will be persecuted tomorrow might find their home there." As far as David Ben-Gurion was concerned, he stated in his speech before Tel-Aviv workers on July 27, 1939, that "the MacDonald's White Paper of May 1939 is nothing but a new edition of Munich!"

On leaving the London conference, one of its participants and the leader of the Palestine Arabs arrived in Berlin in May 1939 and met with Alfred Rosenberg, one of the leaders of the Nazi party, who recorded in his diary that the guest had requested him to send to the Mufti in Beirut a consignment of 'medicines'. Rosenberg did not mention the name of this Arab leader, nor his reply to the request, but he boasted to have composed an anti-Jewish propaganda leaflet together with him.

Jennie Lebel: THE MUFTI of JERUSALEM HAJ-AMIN EL-HUSSEINI and National-Socialism Translated from Serbian by Paul Munch Chigoja Press, Belgrade 2007


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