The NAZIs never reached Palestine. With the German invasion of Poland, terrible rumors began to reach Palestine about NAZI attrocities. After the fall of France and the withdrawl of the French fleet, Palestine itself became threatened by the Axis. The British 8th Army stopped and subsequently defeated the Afrika Korps at El Alemain (July-October 1942). The NAZIs, however, had an ally in the Grand Mufti of Jurelselum. The Arabs both in Palestine and most other areas supported the NAZIs. There was only the open revolt in Iraq (1941), but most Arabs supported the NAZIs. This was for the most part because the British were the colonial power and the Germans had no Arab colonies. Anti-Semitism was a further factor in Palestine, but much less so among other Arabs. Outside of Iraq, the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini issued a formal fatwa-- "a holy war against Britain" (May 1941). The Mufti's announced the fatwa in Iraq and helped to launch "the pro-Nazi" Iraqi uprising. At the time the NAZIs had just seized Greece and Crete, convincing the Iraqis that with Axis aid they could drive out the British. The uprising suprized the NAZIs who were not prepared for it. The NAZI Arab policy was in some way constrained because of Hitler's focus on Russia and his willingness to give deference to Musollini when dealing with the Arabs. The Arab revolt in Iraq was of considerable significance. Iraqwas the source of the oil used by the British Mediterranean Fleet and the 8th Army fishing the Afrika Korps in the Western Desert. The British supressed the Iraqi Revolt (March 1941) with a pick up force from Palestine and then an Indian Division rushed to Iraq. Husseini escaped first to Tehran and then to Italy, finally reaching Berlin. He was enthusiastic received by the "Islamische Zentralinstitut" and the small Islamic community of Germany which due deference to the NAZIs pronounced him the "Führer of the Arabic world." Husseini's first speech in Berlin denounced the Jews as the "most fierce enemies of the Muslims" and an "ever corruptive element" in the world. Arab supporters of the NAZIs seemed to have blithy assumed that they would be liberated by the Axis and thus achieve independence. It is difficult to see how any minimally educated observer in 1940-41 could have reached that conclusion, especially given Italian conduct in Libya and German conduct in the Occupied East. Another largely ignored question is the fact that the Arabs are also semmites. NAZI racist science claimed that the Jews had genitically carried diseases. One wonders why the Arabs did not carry these diseases. Of course the NAZIracist science was a pseudo science so they could invent an Arab people free of such contamination. Husseini was an honored guest of the NAZI's in Berlin. He was received by Hitler twice. He pressed Hitler on the last group of Jews left in NAZI hands--the Hungarian Jews. He did not want them to be allowed to escape, fearing they would come to Palestine. Adolf Eichman at the time was attempting to negotiate with the British to exchange 5,000 Hungarian children for German POWs. Husseini's point of view prevalied. The SS were dispatched the children to the NAZI death camps in Poland. Husseini is reported to have visited Auschwitz and encouraged the SS staff operating the gas chambers to work harder. Husseini was exploited by Goebbels' propaganda machine and made numerous broadcasts in Arabic to the Middle East promoting the NAZIs and giving virulently anti-Semitic sermons.
If the Jerusalem Grand Mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini had his way, the first Kristalnacht would have been in Palestine. The Mufti helped inspire riots and disorders throughout Palestine (April 1936). Six prominent Arab leaders formed the Arab High Command to to protest Zionist activities, especially land purchases and immigration. The Arab High Command organized a general strike of Arab workers and a boycott of Jewish products (April 1936). Soon the initial peaceful actions escalated into attacks on Jews as well as the British authorities. Riots occured in Jerusalem and other cities. The Mufti took over leadership of what came to be called the Arab Revolt. These disorders, seen as the first stage of the 'Arab Revolt' continued until November, 1936. Another stage of disorders began in September, 1937. The cause was the Peel Commission which suggested the partition of Palestine. The second stage was much more violent. There were more intense figting with British forces as well as attacks on more Jewish settlements. The violence was not only aimed at the British and Jews. The Mufti used the violence to settle scores with rival Palestinian factioins. Under the cover of his Higher Arab Committee he ordered the killing of hundreds of Palestinian leaders in 11 different clans. The Mufti apparently obtained covert support from both The Italian Fascists and German NAZIs. Full details on this are not available. Count Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law and Italian Foreign Minister, wrote that the Italian Secret Service had funded the Mufti for many years. [Ciano] The NAZI Siecherheitsdienst (SS Secret Service) claimed that without their support, the Palestinians could not have continued the Revolt. The British were hard pressed at the time and actually authorized the arming of the Haganah. The British and the Haganah worked togrther. Effecive operations were organized by Charles Orde Wingate who later became famous in Burma. Wingate established Special Night Squads of Jewish volunteers. The British sucessfully defeated the Arab Revolt. Husseini was able to find refuge in Iraq. The British government cocerned about the British position in the Arab world sought to apease Arab opinion with the 1939 White Paper.
Plaestine was part of Ottman Empire for several centuries. The province has a largely Arab population. Zionism was founded in Europe during the 19th century and promoted emmigration to Palestine with the purpose of founding a Jewish homeland. The Ottomons permited small-scale Jewish emmigration. The Ottomans joined the Central Powers in World War I seeking to regain lost territory in the Balkans. As part of the operations of the Arab Army and Col T.H. Lawrence and a 1917 Britih offensive under Allenby, Palestine fell. After the War, the British administered Palestine under a League of Nations trusteeship. The British saw Palestine as a potentially valuable assett in the defense of Suez. Yhis proved to be the case when war came. The Arab population was restive, but the British used Palestine as a staging area for operations against pro-MAZI elements in Iraq and Vichy authorities in Syria. Securing Iraq with its important oil resource was vital for the defense of Suez. The rise of Fascism in Europe encouraged many Jews to seek refugee and strengthened the Zionist movement. The British attempted to restrict Jewish immmigration. The expanding Jewish population also resulted in growing anti-Semitism among the Palestinians. This had opposition to British colonial rule caused many Palestinians to sympethize and seek support from the NAZIs.
The NAZIs never reached Palestine. Thus Palesinian Jews were spared the Holocaust, although there were occastional attacks from Palestinian Arabs. With the German invasion of Poland, terrible rumors began to reach Palestine about NAZI attrocities. After the fall of France and the withdrawl of the French fleet, Palestine itself became threatened by the Axis. Italy had a powerful Mediterranean fleet. When the Italian invasion of Egypt faltered (September 1940), they were reinforced with German units which became known as the Afrika Korps. The Commander of the Afrika Korps, Erwin Rommel, was not associated with NAZI war crimes, but in the areas of North SAfrica controlled by the Germans, anti-Semetic laws were enforced and there are reports of the SS preparing to murder Tunisian Jews before the Germans were defeated. In Palestine the Germans would have a willing local population to assist with the muder of Jews. The British 8th Army stopped and subsequently defeated the Afrika Korps at El Alemain (July-October 1942). This removed the threat to Jews in Palestine. Jews in Palestine, however, had stopped receiving letters from their families in Europe.
The British in Palestine were in a complicated position. In the Balfour Seclaration, the had committed to a Jewish Homeland without defining what that meant. Any definition would have to include some kind of security force. Arab opposition to the idea of a Jewish Homeland caused the British to delay any concreate steps or to arm aby kind of Jewish security force. Thus the Jews were largely on their own with Arabs launched attacks. This was especially the case when the Grand Mufti organized anti-British and anti-Jewish riots (April 1936). The outbreak of World War II and Arab sympathies for the NAZIs forced the British to reassess their reluctance to organize an armed security group. Palestine and Egypt were secure as long as the France and the French fleet was in the War. The fall of France (June 1940) radically change the ballance of power, placing Egypt on the front line of World war II. Mussolini entered the War and ordered a latge Italian Army in Lubya to invade Egypt (September 1940). The British at the time had only a small military force in Egypt. The British proceeded to form 15 Palestinian Jewish battalions (September 1940). These units were incorporated into the British Army. No Palestinian Arab units were formed because the British did not consider them reliable. The Jewish units fought with the British in Greece (April 1941). About 100 Palestinian Jews were killed in Greece. The Germans captured 1,700 Palestinian Jews. We do not have details on their treatment. The British took the additional step of forming a Palestine Regiment out of three Jewish and one Palestinian Arab battalion (August 6, 1942).
The Palestinian Regiment fought in Egypt and the subsequent battles in North Africa after El Alemain as the 8th Army pursued the Afrika Korps west. The British finally formed the Jewish Brigade Group of the British army which was authorized to fight under the Zionist blue and white Star of David flag (September 1944). It was a volunteer unit consisting of more than 5,000 Palestinian Jews. It was organized into three infantry battalions and several smaller support units and commanded by Brigadier Ernest Benjamin. This was the only Jewish military unit to serve in World War II. The British hesitated to commit the Brigade. It was finally deployed to Italy and finally committed in the closing months of the War (March-May 1945). After the NAZI surrender, the British deployed the Jewish Brigade along the Italian border with Austria and Yugoslavia. Later it was move north to Belgium and the Netherlands. The men of the Brigade helped set up displaced persons (DP) camps for Jews who survived the Holocaust. Unlike many other DPs, many Jews did not want to return home and in many cases it was not safe to do so. Brigade members also became heavily involved in sureptious activities to assist Jewish refugees, especially DPs from Wastern Europe, trying to get the Palestine. The British at the time were attempting to prtevent Jews from entering Palestgine. Brigade members were also involved in operations aimed at obtaining armns for the Hagana--the Jewish underground defense force in Palestine. Partly as a result of these operations, the Britain disbanded the Jewish Brigade Group (summer 1946). Overall, about 30,000 Jewish Palestinian volunteers served with the British forces during World War II. About 700 Jews serving with the Brotish were killed.
The NAZIs had an ally in the Grand Mufti of Jurelselum. Haj Amin al-Husseini as a young man incited Palestinian Arab feeling against the Jews and fomented riots in wgich Jews were killed. He aplauded Hitler's seizure of power in Germany (1933). The Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini issued a formal fatwa-- "a holy war against Britain" (May 1941). The Mufti's announced the fatwa in Iraq and helped to launch "the pro-Nazi" Iraqi uprising. At the time the NAZIs had just seized Greece and Crete, convincing the Iraqis that with Axis aid they could drive out the British. When the revolt failed, Husseini escaped first to Tehran and then to Italy, finally reaching Berlin. He was enthusiastic received by the "Islamische Zentralinstitut" and the small Islamic community of Germany which due deference to the NAZIs pronounced him the "Führer of the Arabic world." Husseini's first speech in Berlin denounced the Jews as the "most fierce enemies of the Muslims" and an "ever corruptive element" in the world. Arab supporters of the NAZIs seemed to have blithy assumed that they would be liberated by the Axis and thus achieve independence. It is difficult to see how any minimally educated observer in 1940-41 could have reached that conclusion, especially given Italian conduct in Libya and German conduct in the Occupied East. Another largely ignored question is the fact that the Arabs are also semmites. NAZI racist science claimed that the Jews had genitically carried diseases. One wonders why the Arabs did not carry these diseases. Of course the NAZIracist science was a pseudo science so they could invent an Arab people free of such contamination. Husseini was an honored guest of the NAZI's in Berlin. He was received by Hitler twice. He pressed Hitler on the last group of Jews left in NAZI hands--the Hungarian Jews. He did not want them to be allowed to escape, fearing they would come to Palestine. Adolf Eichman at the time was attempting to negotiate with the British to exchange 5,000 Hungarian children for German POWs. Husseini's point of view prevalied. The SS were dispatched the children to the NAZI death camps in Poland. Husseini is reported to have visited Auschwitz and encouraged the SS staff operating the gas chambers to work harder. Husseini was exploited by Goebbels' propaganda machine and made numerous broadcasts in Arabic to the Middle East promoting the NAZIs and giving virulently anti-Semitic sermons. After the defeat of the NAZIs, al-Husseini managed to escape to Egypt where he was granted asylum. There he strongly influenced men like Yasser Arafat, Gamel Abdul Nassar, and Anwar Sadat.
One of the issues that the British faced after seizing Palistine from the Ottoman Empire and establishing a Mandate regime was Jewish immigration. The British had no real interest in Palistine other than security for the Suez Canal, but in administering Palistine they found themslves mired into the Arab-Jewish differences. Herbert Samuel, a British Jew, was appointed the first High Commissioner of Palestine. Unlike areviling myth, he proceeded to place restrictions on Jewish immigration. He set up two governing concerns: 1) the ‘interests of the present population’ and 2) the ‘absorptive capacity’ of Palistine. [Cohen, p. 172] The Arabs and their British supporters claimed that Jew immigrants were forcing the Arab fellahin (peasantry) off the land. At the time less than a million people lived in an area that now has a population of 9 million. Actually it was the British who significanly limited the absorptive capacity of Palestine. Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill approved severing four-fifths of Ottoman Palestine, from mandatory Palestine (35,000 square miles) to create a new Arab state--Transjordan (1921). This was the area east of the Jordan River. This was a kind of consolation prize for the Hejaz and Arabia which the Saudis seized from Sherif Hussein. Transyordan was awarded to Sherif Hussein’s son Abdullah for his part in the World War I fighting against the Ottomans. He was installed as Transjordan’s emir and moved to flatly prohibit Jews from his new state. The British also placed restrictions on Jewish land purchases in what remained of Palestine. This was a violtion of the provision of the Mandate (Article 6) stating that “the Administration of Palestine ... shall encourage, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency ... close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not acquired for public purposes.” British authoritres during the Mandate period allotted most of the 187,500 acres of cultivable land to the Arabs (87,500 acres) and very little to Jews (4,250 acres). [Auman, p. 25.] Ultimately, the British admitted the argument about the absorptive capacity of Palistine was largely specious. The Peel Commission found: “The heavy immigration in the years 1933–36 would seem to show that the Jews have been able to enlarge the absorptive capacity of the country for Jews.” [PRC, p. 300.] A range of factors affected the Jewish population and immigration in Palistine. The Jewish population in Palistine was basically unchanged during World War I, about 83,000-84,000. The Arab population, however, expanded from 590,000 to 643,000 (1915-22). [Census data]. We are not entirely sure why, but assume it was an influx from tribal areas of Atrabia seeking economic opportunity. Fluctuations during the 1920s were due to anti-Jewish economic legislation in Poland and restrictive American emmigration quota enacted by the United states. The fluctuations in the 1930s resulted from the NAZI seizure of power in Germany. The peak was in 1935 with the enactmnent of the Nuremberg Race Laws. British authorities were disturbed by the large numbers and informed the Jewish Agency that only a third of the requested quota would be allowed (1936). [Cohen, p. 53.] The British after the Arab Revolt moved to plascate the Arabs by establishing limits on Jewish immigtation in the 1939 White Paper. They commited to creating an independent Arab state within 10 years. And Jewish immigration would be limited to 75,000 for the next 5 years. Then it would cease completely. The British also prohibited land sales to Jews in 95 percent of Palestine. The Arabs, however, rejected the British proposal out of hand.
Aliyah Aleph or Aliyah 'A' is the limited Jewish immigration permitted by British authorities into Mandatory Palestine (1934-48). Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Jewish immigration to Palestine increased after World War I (1924-26), but then leveled off. The primary factors were anti-Jewish economic legislation in Poland (which had a large Jewish poplation) and rstrictive immigration quotas adopted by the U.S. Congress. (This was restrictions on immigration in general not speifically on Jewish immigration.) The rise of the NAZIs in Germany led to immigration increasing again, reaching a record 66,000 (1935). The British were afraid that this level of immigration would disturb the Arabs and lead to public disorder. The British inforned the Jewish Agency that less than one-third of the quota requested would be approved in 1936. And even during the Holocaust and War, the numbr of immigrants were far below the 1935 peak.
The British concerned about secrity and the NAZI threat acceeded to Arab demands by announcing in their 1939 White Paper that an independent Arab state would be created within 10 years, and that Jewish immigration was to be limited to only 75,000 pople for the next 5 years, after which it would be terminated. It also forbade land sales to Jews in 95 percent of the territory of Palestine. Even these draconian limitations were unaccptable to the Grand Mufti who had established control of the Palestinian community led The Arabs, nevertheless, rejected the proposal. In contrast, the British place no controls on Arab immigration. The Hope Simpson Commission investigating the 1929 Arab riots found that the British practice of ignoring Arab immigration from Egypt, Transjordan and Syria was displacing potential Jewish immigrants. The Jewish Agency could openly work with the legal immigrant and assimilate them into the (the Yishuv), the Palestinian Jewish community.
The subsequent Peel Commission reported in 1937 that the “shortfall of land is, we consider, due less to the amount of land acquired by Jews than to the increase in the Arab population.” [Palestine Royal Commission Report, p. 242.] Even after the British learned of the NAZI mass slaughter of Jews, they contunue to structly limmit Jewish immigration.
Aliyah Bet (עלייה ב') or 'Aliyah 'B' was the code name for Jewish to Mandatory Palestine between (1934-48). Bet is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Modern Israeli authors commonly use the term 'Ha'pala'. The British established significant limits on Jewish immigration, especially in the British White Paper of 1939. The full term is Aliya Bilty Legalit (עלייה בלתי-לגאלית ) or illegal immigration. Several Jewish organizations worked make immigration beyond the established British quotas possible. As NAZI persecution of Jews intensified, Palestinian grops understood the urgency to gt Jews oit of Germany. Jews in other countries also began to be targeted. Many of those active in the effort preferred to use the term 'clandestine' rather than illegal. There were two destincr stages to the effort. The first was the effort to help Jews escape NAZI persecution and genocide (1934-42). During this stage several organizations (including Revisionists) organizd the effort. The second stage is called Brich shifted to an effort to find homes for Jewish survivors of the NAZI genocide (Sh'erit ha-Pletah). Jews were among the millions of displaced persons (DPs) populating the refugee camps of occupied Germany. Jews were the most diffuclt to relocated. Most no longer had homes or familes to which they return. And in the East, espcially Polnd, mny did not want them to return. After World War II, the Mossad LeAliyah Bet (Institute for Aliyah B), a part of the Haganah oversaw the effort. Some 100,000 Jews attempted to enter Palestine in violation of the British immigration quotas. There were 142 voyages by 120 ships. More than half were stopped by Royal Navy patrols. The Royal Navy committed eight ships on station off Palestine. Other Royal Navy ships were ordered to track 'suspicious' vessels. Most of the intercepted Jewish immigrants were detained in internment camps set up in Cyprus (Karaolos near Famagusta, Nicosia, Dhekelia, and Xylotymbou). The British unlike Crete were able to hold on to Cyprus throughout the War. Some of the detainees were held at the Atlit detention camp in Palestine. A few were sent to Mauritius. The British at the peak of this effort some 50,000 Jews in these camps. More than 1,600 are belived to have drowned at sea. Only a few thousand of the detainees managed to enter Palestine before Israel declared its indepndence. The success of Aliyah Bet was modest if the metric is the number of Jews who managed to enter Palestine. It proved, however, to be a glvanizing issue in helping to unite the Jews in Palestine (the Yishuv) and for the Holocaust-survivor refugees in Europe (Sh'erit ha-Pletah) and to promte a new Israeli identity. .
The uprising suprized the NAZIs who were not prepared for it. The NAZI Arab policy was in some way constrained because of Hitler's focus on Russia and his willingness to give deference to Musollini when dealing with the Arabs. Strangely the Fascist message was well received in the Arab world, despite the vicious colonial war that Mussolini had waged in Libya, including the use of poison gas, and colonial policies whic involved settling Italians in Libya. Somehow the NAZI anti-Semitism and anti-British policies is what resonated among the Arabs. The Grand Mufti also ignored NAZI racial doctrine other than anti-Semitism. In fact the NAZIS ranked Arabs very low in their racial hierarchy. And this is the world that they wold have had to live in had the NAZIs in the War. The idea of the Arab leaders allying with the NAZIs given their racist ideology and raning if the Arab people id difficult to fathom.
The Arab revolt in Iraq was of considerable significance. Iraq was the source of the oil used by the British Mediterranean Fleet and the 8th Army fishing the Afrika Korps in the Western Desert. The British fought World War II primarily with American oil. The exceptin was the 8th Army and the Royal Navy Eastern Mediterranean squadron which used Iraqi oil. This was a major advantage they had over the Afrika Korps which had the greatest difficulty obtainibg oil. The British supressed the Iraqi Revolt (March 1941) with a pick up force from Palestine and an Indian Division rushed to Iraq.
The Arabs both in Palestine and most other areas supported the NAZIs. There was only the open revolt in Iraq (1941), but most Arabs supported the NAZIs. This was for the most part because the British were the colonial power and the Germans had no Arab colonies. Anti-Semitism was a further factor in Palestine, but much less so among other Arabs. Fascism strongly influenced Arab nationalists. Early Arab political parties such as The Syrian Popular Party anf Young Egypt were organized on Fascist models. Here the Grand Mufti was an important influence.
There has since the founding of Islam been a element of anti-Semtism. Christians and Jews were seen as "people of the book" and thus given special status. They were tolerated to differing degrees by various Islamic rulers. Generally until modern times Islamic regimes were more tolerant to the Jews than Christian kingdoms. This changed in the 20th century. The virulently anti-Semetic racism of NAZI Germany has become widely accepted to vaying degrees in the Islamic world. Here the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini asppears to have played a seminal role. One Jewish scholar argues that the Cromwell's charge that Pope Pius XII was Hitler's pope is both misleading an inaccurate. [Dalin] He argues that Hitler did have a cleric and that it was Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini who was complicit in the Holocaust.
The NAZIs studied just wher Jews were located, within and beyond occpied Europe. Palestine had one of thelargest concentation of Jews outsude of Europe other than the United States. And Rommel's Afrika Korps in both 1941 and 1942 launched offensives that provided the possibility of breaking through to Suez and Palestine with 0.5 million Jews and Iraq with oil. The SS prepared plans to conduct killing operations. A SS unit was deployed to Athens. Their assignment was after the Afrika Korps had defeated the British 8th Army, to proceed to Palestine and organize the murder of the Jews there. The unit, of course was never deployed because of the British victory at El Alemain (October 1942). [Mallmann and Cueppers]
The most tragic part of researching the Holocaust is the story of actual individuals. For Palestine this means accounts of Jewish residents as well as those European Jews that managed to reach Palestine. Some European Jews survived, by reaching Palestine, but it was a very difficult to escape NAZI-occupied Europe and even if they succeeded in doing this there were many other difficulties including the Turks, Vichy regimes in Syria and Lebanon, Arabs, U-boats, the Italian Navy and even the Royal Navy. And even if they got to Palestine there was the British authorities which attempted to restrict Jewish immigration. One such account is that of Israel Baruch, a young Bulgarian Jew.
Auman, Moshe. “Land ownership in Palestine 1880–1948,” in Michael Curtis, et al., The Palestinians (New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1975).
Cohen, Aharon. Israel and the Arab World (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1970).
Dalin, David. The Myth of Hitler's Pope
Mallmann, Klaus Michael and Martin Cueppers. Germans, Jews, Genocide.
Palestine Royal Commission Report (the Peel Report), (London: 1937).
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