Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world. I asked Hitler for an explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem in a manner befitting our national and racial aspirations and according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews. The answer I got was: The Jews are yours. 

– Former Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini in his post-World War II memoirs.


The Mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry and had been a collaborator and adviser of Eichmann and Himmler in the execution of this plan… He was one of Eichmann’s best friends and had constantly incited him to accelerate the extermination measures. 

– Adolf Eichmann’s deputy Dieter Wisliceny in his Nuremberg Trials testimony.

Within weeks of Adolf Hitler’s ascendance to power Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini contacted the German counsel-general in Palestine. With the exception of funding some anti-Semitic riots Germans rejected the Arab’s overtures until 1937 when Adolf Eichmann and Herbert Hagen were sent to Palestine to establish a framework to provide Husseini with military and financial aid by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

By then the Mufti had already proven his anti-Jewish credentials to the Germans by organizing a three-year-long series of riots and massacres.

On April 19 1936 a crowd of Arabs stumbled upon Jews in the town of Jaffa. Having been incited by Mufti-spread rumors that Zionists were killing Muslims the crowd decided to kill three of the Jews they met. Six days later the Arab Higher Committee was created with al-Husseini presiding over the new body. The committee openly endorsed past violence and began organizing future terror.

On May 5 the British colonial authorities warned al-Husseini against committing illegal acts but did not appear particularly decisive leading the Arab to conclude that he could organize mass violence with impunity. By October 1936 nearly 300 people were killed and another 1 100 wounded.

Colonial forces arrested a few pawns and one major leader but took no action against the Mufti. The New York Times reported on June 14 1936 that al-Husseini had succeeded in convincing experienced high British civil servants that he is working for the government’s interests [and that] it was in the interest of the government that he should also be president of the new Arab High Committee so that Haj Amin el-Husseini enjoys the government’s complete confidence as its unofficial adviser on the Arab side of the situation….The government believes that he and only he is in a position to appease the Moslem masses; therefore it gives him every support while at the same time playing into his hands. 

Continuing its policy of siding with the Mufti in June the Brits arrested scores of members of the Defense Party sponsored by the rival Nashashibi clan despite lack of any evidence that the Nashashibis were involved in the massacres. Ninety percent of Arabs in the Sinai concentration camp belonged to the Defense Party with another 10 percent coming from smaller political movements. Noe of the Husseini-backed people were sent to the camp.

The UK was not the only power helping the Mufti in 1936. The USSR-sponsored Communist Party of Palestine also did its part. After the 1929 massacres (including the slaughter of 68 Jews in Hebron) the Communist Party issued a statement that revolutionary movement without pogroms [anti-Semitic riots] is impossible. The Communists even considered the Mufti too moderate in his fight against Jews.

In the run-up to the 1936-39 riots the Palestinian leader began coordinating the organization of anti-Jewish violence. In November 1935 Communists declared that Zionists were killing Arabs helping the Mufti’s propaganda campaign to spark Arab rage against the Jews. On the eve of the first riots Communists met al-Husseini to work out the final terms of their roles in the upcoming violence. Communist Party member Nimr Uda became the intelligence chief for the Mufti’s military units. Another Communist representative Fuad Nasir was named deputy to Abdul Qadir Husseini commander of Arab fighters in the southern West Bank.

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David Storobin is an attorney and former New York State Senator.