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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Rebutting Obsession

Historical Facts Topple Film's Premise That Violent Muslim Fundamentalists are Nazis' Heirs, Expose its Fear-mongering

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It is not our purpose here to try to untangle the knot of national awakenings, religious imperatives and material needs that came into conflict between nascent Israelis and Palestinians in the 20th century or to go into questions of what might have been done differently. We may simply observe that many Arabs in what the British occupiers called the Palestinian Mandate in the years before 1948 were excited at the prospect that their European overlords would leave the land and unwilling to accept a new influx of people whom they perceived as Western occupiers. On their own side, increasing numbers of Jews who entered Palestine as Nazism grew stronger and Eastern Europe roiled with political conflict considered themselves to be returning, in an hour of great need, to their legitimate, long-awaited homeland and could not perceive a difference between those Arabs who met them with hostility and the violent anti-Semites who had attacked them in the Diaspora.

Much is made, in Obsession, of the alliance, during World War II between the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, and Adolf Hitler, and of the participation in the war of a brigade of Bosnian Muslims, on the Nazi side. (No mention is made of those Bosnian Muslims, who risked their lives in the anti-Nazi resistance; for example, the famous Dervis Korkut, who risked his life to save the Sarajevo Haggadah.4) Indeed, John Loftus, perhaps the most radical of Obsession's pundits, asserts with no evident documentation that Muslims came from all over the Arab world to fight for the Nazis.

There is no question that the Mufti collaborated with the Nazis. Because of their hatred for Jews, al-Husseini saw in the Nazis allies for his central fight, resistance to what he considered European colonialism in the form of Zionism which stood as an impediment to an independent Palestinian state.

Obsession implies that their shared antipathy toward Jews amounted to a unique sort of ideological agreement between the Mufti and the Nazi regime. However, while overarching conflicts do shape global events, alliances do not divide up neatly on the basis of seamless ideological agreement.

What might be regarded either as the Mufti's opportunism or as his engagement with realpolitik had its many duplicates in the leaders of countries and political factions that are now regarded as allies of the West. For example, In Latvia, Estonia and other Eastern European collaborator states, there is little doubt that a shared cultural hatred of Jews, who were portrayed by local rightists and the new "liberating" Nazis as the beneficiaries of the previous Soviet occupation of the Baltic states, existed. During the Soviet occupation of September 1939 through June 1941, Gentile and Jewish Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians were sent to Siberia, but the old anti-Semitic tropes sufficed to help to fuel the idea of Jewish special privileges. Yet there is very much doubt that the makers of Obsession would want to paint current NATO allies or pro-United States members of the European Union as incipient fascists or intractable anti-Semites.

Other examples abound. Several key fighters for Irish independence from Britain, including figures who were prominent in the mainstream Irish party, Fianna Fail, and in the Irish Republican Army, which now shares a government with its formerly hated Protestant rivals, traveled to Germany during WWII. They sought friendly relations with the country that they regarded as a useful ally against their main enemy, England,5 as did the anti-British Iraqi rebel, Rashid Ali al-Kailani. The Finnish government not only fought with Germany on the Eastern Front but also fielded Jewish troops to fight by side-by-side with Nazis.6 (The protracted contemplation of that fact might make some members of Obsession's intended audience far more nauseous than repeated viewings of Al-Shatat ever could.) Questions remain about whether Pope Pius XII7, a possible candidate for sainthood, refrained from challenging the Nazi regime openly because he regarded the Bolsheviks to be a worse evil. For that matter, anti-Zionists often point gleefully to those Zionists who worked with the German government to get Jews out of the country and into Palestine in order to save their lives.8

All of these forces and factions found points of agreement with which to appeal to the Nazi government to form practical arrangements based on what they believed to be their political and existential interests.

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4. The New Yorker website, reviewing Geraldine Brooks', Chronicles, "The Book of Exodus," The New Yorker, December 3, 2007, p. 74.

5. Irish Nationalism website.

6. "Jews in Finland During the Second World War." Tuulikki Vuonokari (Autumn 2003) English-language section website.

7. Eugenio Pacelli, the 260th pope from March 2, 1939 until his death in 1958.

8. Holocaust: A History, by Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt, see especially pp. 113-114.



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Rebutting Obsession