ARABS AND NAZISM
(Editor's note: Writing in the November 1995 issue of the Israeli journal Nativ, of which he is editor, Arie Stav describes the similarities between Islam and Nazism. The following are excerpts.)
The Arabs' identification with the Nazis is normally explained in terms of a common enmity to France and Britain but this is only a partial explanation. The Arab masses admired Hitler in the 1920s and this admiration broke out with great enthusiasm after he seized the government in 1933. The day after he was appointed chancellor, the first telegrams of congratulation Hitler received were transmitted by Wolf, the German Consul in Jerusalem, followed by those from Arab countries.
Germany's anti-French and anti-British policies were not at all obvious to the Arabs until its open breach of the Versailles treaty. Until 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland, there was no reason to assume Hitler, who was an anglophile and based his strate gy in Mein Kampf on long term cooperation with England, might be the one to save the Arabs from English colonialism. The Middle East, precisely because it was primarily an area of British influence, had relatively low priority in Hitler's plans.
The Jews were, of course, the victims of Nazi anti-Semitism but, at least initially, Nazi anti-Semitism was
Nostalgic admiration of Nazis has remained strong in Syria.
directed against all members of the "Semitic race," including the Arabs. The Nazi leadership expressed disdain and racial abhorrence toward the Arabs and was confused and discomfited by the efforts of Haj Amin el-Husseini, the Jerusalem Mufti, to woo it, at least prior to the outbreak of the war.
As soon as Hitler rose to power, parties that imitated National Socialism were founded in Arab countries, like the Social-Nationalist Party in Syria led by Anton Sa'ada, who openly and enthusiastically copied the Nazis. Sa'ada, who styled himself as the Fuhrer of the Syrian nation, stated in the party platform that the Syrians were the superior race by their very nature. Hitler was "Islamicized" and known by his new name Abu Ali (in Egypt, for some reason, it was Muhammed Haidar). Egyptian followers even "found" the house in which Hitler's mother was born in Tanta, Egypt and the place became a pilgrimage site.
The most influential Arab party to follow the Nazi model was Young Egypt, known also as the Green Shirts, in tribute to the Nazi Jung Deutschland and the Brown Shirts of the SA. The party was founded by Ahmed Hussein in October 1933, and followed the German model down to the raised hand greeting. There were stormtroopers, torch processions, Nazi slogans including a literal translation into Arabic of "one folk, one party, one leader" as well as "Egypt over all." Bands of hooligans were formed for the
suppression of opponents and, of course, Ahmed Hussein took the role of Fuhrer. Nazi anti-Semitism was emulated in every detail, from a boycott of Jewish businesses to physical attacks and anti-Semitic incitement. Indeed, Nazi anti-Semitic theory, practice and policy fitted the needs of Arab nationalism of the 1930s like a glove.
During the war, members of the Young Egypt spied on behalf of Rommel's Afrika Korps and a young lieutenant by the name of Anwar Sadat was tried and imprisoned. After the war, Gamal Abdul Nasser, another member of Young Egypt, was among the group of officers who led the July 1952 revolution in Egypt. The first step of the new regime after it had seized power--shades of Hitler--was to outlaw all the other political parties in Egypt. Sadat continued to express open admiration for Hitler in a letter he sent to the Egyptian daily Al Mussawar on September 18, 1953. This open bow to Hitler--despite the revelations of Nazi atrocities in the Nuremberg trials--is evidence of the depth of Sadat's identification with Nazism.
Nazi ceremonials continue to be used in today's Egypt. The President's ceremonial troops wear Wehrmacht helmets and receive heads of government at Cairo airport with a military parade which contains the famous goosestep. One of the most surrealistic sights during the negotiations surrounding the peace treaty with Egypt was the figure of Begin, survivor of the Holocaust, walking past the honor guard like someone in a trance.
Nostalgic admiration of Nazis has remained strong in Syria. Sami al-Joundi, a founder of the Syrian Ba'ath movement, writes: "We were racists. We admired the Nazis. We were immersed in reading Nazi literature and books that were the source of the Nazi spirit...We were the first who thought of a translation of Mein Kampf. Anyone who lived in Damascus at that time was witness to the Arab inclination toward Nazism."
Needless to say, Hitler's definition of Zionism in Mein Kampf is endlessly quoted. "They [Zionists] do not have any intention to establish a Jewish state in Palestine in order to settle there. They only fight for one place in which they [can base] a central organization for carrying out their global plot, a city of refuge for criminals and a training center for the scoundrels of the future." This paragraph, cited in most anti-Zionist writings in the Arab world, bestows the weight of supreme authority.
Similarly, in answering the argument of "the Zionists" that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are a fabrication, Mein Kampf is quoted as proof of their authenticity, which settles the matter, given that Hitler's authority has assumed canonical status. Mein Kampf, incidentally, continues to be published in numerous editions in the Arab world, especially in Egypt.
The Arab countries were not unique in serving as refuge for fleeing war criminals, but only in the Middle East, and particularly in Egypt, could the Nazis find shelter bestowed on the basis of ideological identification. Nasser received hundreds of war