“The Greatest Arab” redux

At Socialist Unity, Andy Newman has taken this historic moment to rerun his 2009 tribute to “The Greatest Arab”– the late Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdul Nasser, who, it should be noted, died long before most Egyptians were born and whose relevance to the current moment is questionable.

So in turn let me take this opportunity to rerun part of my post in response:

There are many things that could be said about Nasser and his “leftwing” admirers– and some of us said a few of them in the comments to Andy’s post.

But I’ll simply add that under Nasser, Egypt was a haven for fugitive Nazi criminals– and for the Nazi collaborator, Grand Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini.

One of those Nazis, Goebbels’s protege Johann von Leers, was noted for the virulence of his Jew hatred and his antisemitic writings during the Third Reich. He came to Egypt in 1955. With the help of his close friend the Mufti, he got a job in the Information Ministry, where he specialized in anti-Israel propaganda (hardly a stretch– just change a few words here and there). He died in Cairo in 1965.

Louis Heiden, a wartime employee of the German Press Agency, also ended up in Egypt, where he translated Mein Kampf into Arabic. The Egyptian government published an Arabic version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which Nasser recommended to a visiting Indian journalist in 1958.

“It is very important that you read it,” The Greatest Arab explained. “I will give you a copy. It proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that three hundred Zionists, each of whom knows all the others, govern the European continent.”

Edmund Standing adds:

Von Leers died in Cairo in 1965, thereby escaping war crimes charges, but without his hoped for German ‘revolt’ taking place. While von Leers is dead and the ‘revolt’ never occurred, his legacy remains in the form of the ideology he helped to spread throughout the Arab world. In a very tangible form, the legacy of the Cairo Nazis has returned in contemporary Britain.

In 2002, two Daily Telegraph journalists were surprised to find an Arab language copy of Mein Kampf on sale in three newsagents on Edgware Road in central London, in an area with a large Arab population. The book, with a picture of Hitler and a swastika on its cover, was being sold for £10, alongside newspapers, magazines, cigarettes, and sweets. The book was the product of a Lebanese publishing house and dated to the 1990s, but the translation itself dated to the 1960s and had an introduction by the translator, Luis al-Haj. ‘Luis al-Haj’ was the Arab name adopted by Louis Heiden, a wartime employee of the German Press Agency and one of von Leers’ circle of emigree Nazis in Cairo, and in the introduction he proclaims: ‘National Socialism did not die with the death of its herald. Rather, its seeds multiplied under each star’.

In 2005, another investigation of Edgware Road turned up Arab language copies of both Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in two bookshops. The copy of Mein Kampf is, once again, the translation of the Nazi Louis Heiden. The edition of The Protocols was published in Egypt and is accompanied by ‘academic’ analysis from Dr.Ahmad Hijazi al-Saqa (Professor of Comparative Religion at Al-Azhar University) and Hisham Khadr (a journalist for the Qatari periodical Al-Sharq), as well as a Foreword written by Ali Jum’ah (Professor of the Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University). As we have seen, Egypt has been exporting copies of Mein Kampf since the ’60s, thanks to the original work of German Nazis at the Egyptian Information Ministry. How von Leers would be gloating if he were aware that 40 years after his death his attempts at infecting Muslims with Nazi ideology were still succeeding.

And here’s Newman’s hero, who compares Nasser to Bush and Blair as follows:

President Abd Al-Nasser, one of the greatest men of the 20th century … President Abd Al-Nasser and Saddam Hussein will live in history long after these dogs are forgotten.