Thursday, May 12, 2016

Convergence of Jew-hatreds: Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World

I'm currently reading Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World by Jeffrey Herf.


“Nazi wartime Arabic broadcasts fused modern European and German anti-Semitism with the anti-Jewish themes extracted from the traditions of Islam.”

From Chapter 8: Postwar Aftereffects

….For the Brotherhood, the dispute over Palestine was also a civilizational and religious conflict. Its anti-Zionism drew on opposition to a Jewish state that had long preceded a Palestinian refugee problem. It adamantly opposed compromise available in the two-state solution suggested by the U.N. Partition Plan. The Brotherhood explained Russian support for the plan with an anti-Semitic litany: the Soviets were "pleasing the Jews and rewarding them for supporting the Communist revolution against the Czarist regime and at the same time getting rid of the Russian Jews who will want to immigrate to Palestine."45 The position of the Muslim Brotherhood, no less than that of the Mufti, was rooted in anti-Semitic arguments that emerged well before the establishment of the State of Israel.

The previous month, American intelligence officials in the Central Intelligence Group, successor to the OSS and precursor to the CIA, received a report about the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine from Alba M. Kerr, who was working as a research analyst in Beirut. Kerr's sources reported that in Jerusalem, the Brotherhood met in Husseini's home, where they read from the Koran, at times heard from Hassan al-Banna, prepared for jihad should the U.N. support establishment of a Jewish state, and were "arming by contraband sent by collaborators in Europe." Kerr reported that the movement was young but spreading rapidly in Palestine due to its opposition to both Zionism and Communism. The conclusion is worth quoting at length.

The significance of this new development is two-fold, for this is the first direct evidence of an organized Islamic movement and therefore it constitutes a threat to permanent peace, since no harmony can exist where political differences are based on sectarian differences. Already Maronites are pleading for protection against this absorption, and young progressive Arab nationalists here deplore the rapid growth of the Muslim Brotherhood because they realize the need for Arab unity and want to abolish sectarian bonds; so there is a strong possibility of a Holy War (Jihad). On 12 September 1947, the Muslim Brotherhood broke up a meeting in Dier Eszor. The Communist daily newspaper "Sent Bah Shaab" refers to them as "a fanatic group whose spiritual power is the Sword." This Muslim Brotherhood appears to be as [sic] an offspring of the Mufti and his collaborators. Whatever complexion they now assume, they are anti-Occidental religious fanatics, thus powerful enough to arouse 70,000,000 devout Moslems in this part of the world. The one immediate measure to stem this tide is Palestinian in- dependence.46

Kerr's analysis and conclusions were in tune with those of past American military and civil intelligence reporting. American agents were accurately observing the emergence and importance of Islamist ideology and politics and noting the fears it was arousing among secular Arab forces, yet in contrast to President Truman, they concluded that establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine would only make a bad situation worse. The idea that Arab secular forces might defeat the Islamists and thus make possible compromises over land with the Jews was not one that Kerr's report considered. It was yet another of the early and prescient American observations of the implications of the emergence of Islamist politics in these years.

In February 1948, the Cairo Embassy sent an article to Washington from Al Ikhwan Al Muslimin about "The Jews and Communism." The article claimed that "every Jew" was a Communist but somehow was simultaneously "against Communism." The Jews were without principles. "It suits the Jews to convert the whole world into Communism, although they themselves may not believe in this destructive doctrine." Russia intended to use Jews as a fifth column in the Middle East. Russia had "already invaded the Middle East, dear Americans, but by way of Palestine which is already filled with its Fifth Column. "47 In other words, the Jews in Palestine were a tool of the Soviets. The style and logic of the argument was identical to the merging of Jews and Communism in the Nazi assault on "Jewish Bolshevism."

The Brotherhood's resort to violence and its attacks on the Egyptian government made headlines in Egypt and aroused the continuing interest of American officials in Cairo. Embassy personnel noted and recorded the text of the Brotherhood's program published in its newspaper in September 1948. Showing striking similarities to Europe's twentieth-century totalitarian ideologies, it called for "the dissolution of all parties and the direction of all the population's political efforts towards one single aim." Legislation was to be coordinated with "Islamic laws from all points of view." The army and youth organizations should be organized on a "patriotic basis of Islamic nature." All Islamic countries and especially Arab nations should address "the question of the Khalifate." There should be no distinction between individual and public life. All government actions should be based on Islamic laws and justice. All celebrations, movements, public ceremonies, prisons, and hospitals were to be subjected to the Islamic doctrine. "Azharists, that is, students and faculty of AlAzhar University, should be employed in military and administrative positions. Although its religious ground differed from fascism and Nazism, the Muslim Brotherhood shared their hatred of democracy and liberalism. It celebrated unity over division, was contemptuous of a multiplicity of political parties, sought one standpoint from which all matters should be judged, and favored a cult of youth and militaristic mobilization.48

The Brotherhood's program was one of unbridled authoritarian moralism. It aimed to control culture and fostered nationalist xenophobia toward foreigners. It called for strict "public morality" and "severe punishment for any breach thereof." Women were to be protected "in accordance with the Islamic spirit." Prostitution would be abolished and adultery treated as a crime. Gambling, drinking, and narcotics would be prohibited. Women would not be allowed to use cosmetics. "The display of beauty" was not acceptable among female teachers, students, and doctors. Girls' education would be modified to make it different from that of boys. Coeducation would be banned. "Any unlawful intimacy between a man and a woman" would be "a punishable crime." Marriage and procreation would be encouraged "by all possible means." Yet, like the fascists and National Socialists, the Brotherhood proposed a program of cultural repression and censorship. Cabarets and dance halls would be closed, and plays and films would be censored. The wording of songs would be "improved" and "controlled." Broadcasting would be used to foster "a good, patriotic and moral education." An Islamic government would "confiscate all risque and obscene plays and books and all those papers which encourage libertinism." Cafe opening hours would be limited, and they would be used instead to teach illiterates how to read and write. Those who did not fast on Ramadan would be punished. Schools would be annexed by the mosques. Religion would be taught in all schools, including the universities. Learning the Koran by heart would be encouraged at the private schools. "Degrees having any connection with religion or language courses" would not be given "unless the candidate knows by heart the Koran or, in respect to certain schools, a part of it." Special attention would be given to Islamic and national history, patriotic education, and the history of Islamic civilization. The learning of Arabic would be given priority. Further, such a government would "eliminate the use of foreign languages, foreign habits and fashions in the family and do away with the employment of foreign nurses and governesses and the like, by Egyptianizing them all, especially in the high class families." The state would control the press. Writers would be encouraged to write about Islamic subjects and public health would be improved.49

The economic program promoted by the Brotherhood was no less antimodern and illiberal. Interest would be forbidden. Foreigners working in Egyptian companies would be fired. "Only local elements" would be employed. The public should be protected from "the despotism of monopoly companies." Employees' salaries should be raised and the pay of "High Officials" reduced, yet employment should be expanded, the standard of living raised, and Egypt's natural resources exploited. The program was an attack on capitalism from the right. From the standpoint of market economics, it was economic illiteracy. The program was profoundly and deeply antiliberal in politics, economics, and culture. These programmatic statements of the Muslim Brotherhood demonstrated again what had been obvious from the meeting of hearts and minds in Berlin that produced the broadcasts of Voice of Free Arabism and Berlin in Arabic: during and after World War II, Nazism and fascism found common ground with radical Islam. The collapse of fascist and Nazi ideology taking place in postwar Europe was simply not in evidence in the program of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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