Robert Fisk’s post-mortem of Yasser Arafat is full of the usual misinformation (for which the verb “to fisk” was invented), but toward the end he reveals more about Arafat than perhaps he intended.
Fisk describes a meeting between the Palestinian scholar Edward Said and Arafat in 1985:
…the two men were discussing Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who supported the 1936 revolt against British rule, who always believed that the Zionists would take Palestinian land for an Israeli state but who ended up in wartime Berlin, urging Hitler to prevent the emigration of Jews to Palestine and encouraging Bosnian Muslims to join the SS.
According to Said, the PLO leader laid his hand on Said’s knee and gripped it very tightly.
And Arafat said: “Edward, if there’s one thing I don’t want to be it’s like Haj Amin. He was always right and he got nothing and died in exile.”
A few additional facts about al-Husseini:
–On 1 March 1944 he said in a broadcast from Berlin: “Arabs! Rise as one and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor.”
–At the Nuremberg Trials, Adolf Eichmann’s deputy Dieter Wisliceny (subsequently executed as a war criminal), testified that “The Mufti [al-Husseini] 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. I heard him say, accompanied by Eichmann, he had visited incognito the gas chamber of Auschwitz.”
–Al-Husseini (who died in Lebanon in 1974) wrote in his memoirs, “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.'”
The Mufti and the Fuhrer
This is the man, Arafat told Said, who “was always right.”
As recently as August 2002 Arafat referred to “our hero al-Husseini” as a symbol of Palestinian resistance.
Can even dovish Israelis be excused for wondering if he was ever really serious about establishing a Palestinian state existing peacefully side by side with the Jewish state?