March 1949, the War of Independence was not yet over but the Palestinian refugee problem had already become an issue. On the 10th of March, Israeli forces reached Um Rush Rush, currently Eilat, and completed the conquest of the Negev Desert. Many war refugees streamed into the Gaza Strip as well as to Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt.
The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, was living under tight security in Alexandria at the time, following his escape from Europe where he was to stand trial at Nuremberg as a war criminal.
More than any other Arab, the Mufti is the man who represents contemporary Islamic anti-Semitism and the Arab refusal to come to terms with Israel’s presence in the region.
It was the Mufti who fabricated the myth of “al-Aqsa is in danger,” according to which the Jews are plotting to destroy the mosque at the Temple Mount complex and rebuild the Third Temple on its ruins. He was the main instigator to the anti-Jewish riots of 1920 and 1929.
Husseini led the Arab revolt against the British and the Jews in the 1930’s in which 300 Jews and 262 British personnel were killed. The British reacted harshly to the uprising and the local Arabs paid a heavy price — 5,000 dead. But 3,500 of them were victims of a murderous campaign by the Mufti against his opponents.
The Nakba did not begin in 1948. It began with the exodus of the elite, fleeing the Mufti’s terror. And who supported the Mufti? Nazi Germany.
Following an understanding reached between the Mufti and Nazi officials, the Germans sent him funding as the Jews were the enemies of both Nazis and Islamists. The victims of this coalition were mainly Muslims though. Arab society in Palestine began to unravel while the Jewish Yishuv (settlement) prospered as they built a new port and began producing their own foodstuffs so as not to be reliant on the local Arab population.
The Peel Commission was established in the aftermath of the Arab uprising. It ultimately recommended partitioning the land in 1937. The committee allocated only 4,840 square km for a Jewish state and 110,000 square km for an Arab state (90,000 in Transjordan and 20,000 in western Palestine). Not only did the Mufti lead the resistance to the Jews receiving a small amount of territory, but he demanded that they be returned to Europe —the same Europe which Jews were fleeing ahead of the Nazi onslaught.
Having become a fugitive, the Mufti fled to Lebanon and then Iraq where he continued his collaboration with Nazi Germany, inciting against the Jews and encourage their persecution. That incitement led to the Farhud pogrom in Baghdad in 1942 during which at least 179 Jews were killed by Arab mobs.
The Jews in Iraq had been loyal, productive and well-integrated citizens. They even issued an anti-Zionist statement following pressure from Iraqi nationalists. It did not help. They were still Jews.
From Iraq the Mufti travelled to Germany to continue plotting the annihilation of the Middle East’s Jews. Following the war’s conclusion, he managed to avoid prosecution as a war criminal at Nuremberg by fleeing to Egypt in order to organize opposition to any compromise that would allow for Jewish autonomy in the region, no matter how minor.
On the 10th of March 1949, Yedioth Ahronoth published a story saying that the Mufti survived two assassination attempts. And who tried to kill him? Refugees from Palestine.
It is difficult to verify information regarding the attempted assassinations but it is clear that the Mufti was hated by many of the refugees who knew that he was responsible for their plight. The man who took an extremely radical line, eliminated his opponents, caused Arab flight from Palestine before the partition decision, brought about the anti-Jewish riots in Baghdad, opposed any arrangement — he is the man most responsible for the Palestinian Nakba of 1948.
There were many opponents to the Mufti in the Arab world. Many understood that he was leading the Arabs from one defeat to another. Ultimately, the fanaticism prevailed, while among the Jewish Yishuv, pragmatism prevailed.
The day the Arabs recognize their responsibility for the Palestinian AND Jewish Nakba and undergo rehabilitation from the false Palestinian narrative, the chance for an agreement and reconciliation will be greater. It must happen, for us and for them. God willing.
Reprinted with author’s permission from YNet News