Historical Facts Topple Film's Premise That Violent Muslim Fundamentalists are Nazis' Heirs, Expose its Fear-mongering
Anthropologist Osama Doumani, who lived in Palestine during the war, writes that the Mufti's "pro-German stance represented an extant sentiment of a section of the Palestinian people at the time, certainly not a position held by all." Writes Doumani: "Most Palestinians in the 1930s were still rural, illiterate or semi-literate people, living off the land. Even the townsfolk had no idea what Hitler stood for or what Nazism was all about. They would have been horrified to learn that he classified them, along with the Jews, toward the bottom of humanity!"
A look at the book, Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood, by Idith Zertal9, indicates that David Ben-Gurion (Israel's first prime minister, from May 14, 1948 until 1963) was one of the first Jewish political figures to make much of the Mufti's alliance with Hitler; he did so in the context of Israel's trial of Nazi administrator Adolf Eichmann in 1961 in service of the idea that only a strong, militarized Israel could protect world Jewry against the ongoing threat of anti-Semitism. According to Zertal, Ben-Gurion wanted to unite, in the public mind, the centuries-long history of European Jew-hatred with the newly kindled antagonism between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East in order to resist all political attempts to replace his government with one more sympathetic to the claims of Israel's Arab citizens and neighbors or with displaced Arab refugees. This move was an attempt to invest Ben-Gurion's political direction with the moral authority accorded to the struggles against Nazism and anti-Semitism. Zertal reports that State Prosecutor Gideon Hausner over-stressed the Mufti's role in his interrogation of Eichmann on the orders of Ben-Gurion. Zertal indicates that, while Hitler and the advantages he could offer may have been important to al-Husseini, the Mufti was never of great importance to Hitler or to his staff.
It is worth noting here how strongly Ben-Gurion and his political allies objected to Hannah Arendt's well-known book about the Eichmann trial, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil10; in particular to Arendt's devastating portrait of Eichmann, not as a fascinating monster, but as a mediocre little man who supervised mass murder with the same striving diligence that he would have devoted to the export of paper clips, a corporate team player whose sole genius was in organization and who could only express himself in clichés. It is striking how offensive this portrait of Eichmann became to those who were engaged in spinning a grand narrative of an ongoing heroic battle. What looks to be the current hunger of the makers of Obsession for an epic struggle with a suitably impressive opponent resembles Ben-Gurion's desire for a hideously impressive adversary to figure in the narrative of the need for his leadership.
9. Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood (University of Cambridge: 2005). Pages 100-110 are especially pertinent.
10. Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Penguin Classics: 2006. In particular, see Chapter VIII: The Duties of a Law-Abiding Citizen.