Who was the Grand Mufti, Haj Muhammed Amin al-Husseini?

Who was the Grand Mufti, Haj Muhammed Amin al-Husseini?

Grand Mufti with Hitler

Grand Mufti with Hitler

Muhammed Amin al-Husseini [many spelling variations] was born in 1893 (or 1895), the son of the Mufti of Jerusalem and member of an esteemed, aristocratic family. The Husseinis were one of the richest and most powerful of all the rivalling clans in the Ottoman province known as the Judaean part of Palestine.

Amin al-Husseini studied religious law at al-Azhar University, Cairo, and attended the Istanbul School of Administration. In 1913 he went to Mecca on a pilgrimage, earning the honorary title of “Haj”. He voluntarily joined the Ottoman Turkish army in World War I but returned to Jerusalem in 1917 and expediently switched sides to aid the victorious British. He acquired the reputation as a violent, fanatical anti-Zionist zealot and was jailed by the British for instigating a 1920 Arab attack against Jews who were praying at the Western Wall.

The first Palestine High Commissioner. Sir Herbert Samuel arrived in Palestine on July 1, 1920. He was a weak administrator who was too ready to compromise and appease the extremist, nationalistic Arab minority led by Haj Amin al-Husseini. When the existing Arab Mufti of Jerusalem (religious leader) died in 1921, Samuels was influenced by anti-Zionist British officials on his staff. He pardoned al-Husseini and, in January 1922, appointed him as the new Mufti, and even invented a new title of Grand Mufti. He was simultaneously made President of a newly created Supreme Muslim Council. Al-Husseini thereby became the religious and political leader of the Arabs.

The appointment of the young al-Husseini as Mufti was a seminal event. Prior to his rise to power, there were active Arab factions supporting cooperative development of Palestine involving Arabs and Jews. But al-Husseini would have none of that; he was devoted to driving Jews out of Palestine, without compromise, even if it set back the Arabs 1000 years.

William Ziff, in his book “The Rape of Palestine,” summarizes:

  • Implicated in the [1920] disturbances was a political adventurer named Haj Amin al Husseini. Haj Amin, was sentenced by a British court to fifteen years hard labor. Conveniently allowed to escape by the police, he was a fugitive in Syria. Shortly after, the British then allowed him to return to Palestine where, despite the opposition of the muslim High Council who regarded him as a hoodlum, Haj Amin was appointed by the British High Commissioner as Grand Mufti of Jerusalem for life. [P. 22]

Al-Husseini represented newly emerging proponents of militant, Palestinian Arab nationalism, a previously unknown concept. Once he was in power, he began a campaign of terror and intimidation against anyone opposed to his rule and policies. He killed Jews at every opportunity, but also eliminated Arabs who did not support his campaign of violence. Husseini was not willing to negotiate or make any kind of compromise for the sake of peace.

As a young man, al-Husseini worked with a native Jew, Abbady, who documented this comment:

  • Remember, Abbady, this was and will remain an Arab land. We do not mind you natives of the country, but those alien invaders, the Zionists, will be massacred to the last man. We want no progress, no prosperity. Nothing but the sword will decide the fate of this country.

In 1929, major Arab riots were instigated against the Jews of Palestine. They began when al-Husseini falsely accused Jews of defiling and endangering local mosques, including al-Aqsa. The call went out to the Arab masses: “Izbah Al-Yahud!” — “Slaughter the Jews!” After the killing of Jews in Hebron, the Mufti disseminated photographs of slaughtered Jews with the claim that the dead were Arabs killed by Jews.

In April, 1936 six prominent Arab leaders formed the Arab Higher Committee, with the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini as head of the organization, joining forces to protest British support of Zionist progress in Palestine. In the same month, riots broke out in Jaffa commencing a three-year period of violence and civil strife in Palestine that is known as the Arab Revolt. The Arab Higher Committee led the campaign of terrorism against Jewish and British targets.

Using the turmoil of the Arab Revolt as cover, al-Husseini consolidated his control over the Palestinian Arabs with a campaign of murder against Jews and non-compliant Arabs, the recruitment of armed militias, and the raising of funds from around the Muslim world using anti-Jewish propaganda. In 1937 the Grand Mufti expressed his solidarity with Germany, asking the Nazi Third Reich to oppose establishment of a Jewish state, stop Jewish immigration to Palestine, and provide arms to the Arab population. Following an assassination attempt on the British Inspector-General of the Palestine Police Force and the murder by Arab extremists of Jews and moderate Arabs, the Arab Higher Committee was declared illegal by the British. The Grand Mufti lost his office of President of the Supreme muslim Council, his membership on the Waqf committee, and was forced into exile in Syria in 1937. The British deported the Arab mayor of Jerusalem along with other members of the Arab Higher Committee.

According to documentation from the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials, the Nazi Germany SS helped finance al-Husseini’s efforts in the 1936-39 revolt in Palestine. Adolf Eichmann actually visited Palestine and met with al-Husseini at that time and subsequently maintained regular contact with him later in Berlin.

In 1940, al-Husseini requested the Axis powers to acknowledge the Arab right:

  • … to settle the question of Jewish elements in Palestine and other Arab countries in accordance with the national and racial interests of the Arabs and along the lines similar to those used to solve the Jewish question in Germany and Italy.

While in Baghdad, Syria al-Husseini aided the pro-Nazi revolt of 1941. He then spent the rest of World War II as Hitler’s special guest in Berlin, advocating the extermination of Jews in radio broadcasts back to the Middle East and recruiting Balkan Muslims for infamous SS “mountain divisions” that tried to wipe out Jewish communities throughout the region.

At the Nuremberg Trials, Eichmann’s deputy Dieter Wisliceny (subsequently executed as a war criminal) testified:

  • The Mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry and had been a collaborator and adviser of Eichmann and Himmler in the execution of this plan. … He was one of Eichmann’s best friends and had constantly incited him to accelerate the extermination measures. I heard him say, accompanied by Eichmann, he had visited incognito the gas chamber of Auschwitz.

With the collapse of Nazi Germany in 1945, the Mufti moved to Egypt where he was received as a national hero. After the war al-Husseini was indicted by Yugoslavia for war crimes, but escaped prosecution. The Mufti was never tried because the Allies were afraid of the storm in the Arab world if the hero of Arab nationalism was treated as a war criminal.

From Egypt al-Husseini was among the sponsors of the 1948 war against the new State of Israel. Spurned by the Jordanian monarch, who gave the position of Grand Mufti of Jerusalem to someone else, Haj Amin al-Husseini arranged King Abdullah’s assassination in 1951, while still living in exile in Egypt. King Tallal followed Abdullah as king of Jordan, and he refused to give permission to Amin al-Husseini to come into Jordanian Jerusalem. After one year, King Tallal was declared incompetent; the new King Hussein also refused to give al-Husseini permission to enter Jerusalem. King Hussein recognized that the former Grand Mufti would only stir up trouble and was a danger to peace in the region.

Haj Amin al-Husseini eventually died in exile in 1974. He never returned to Jerusalem after his 1937 departure. His place as leader of the radical, nationalist Palestinian Arabs was taken by his nephew Mohammed Abdel-Raouf Arafat As Qudwa al-Hussaeini, better known as Yasser Arafat. In August 2002, Arafat gave an interview in which he referred to “our hero al-Husseini” as a symbol of Palestinian Arab resistance.

Sources and additional reading on this topic:

Some of the links are dead but a lot of info in the live ones

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