I picked up an Advance Reading Copy of Maryland Professor Jeffrey Herf’s soon-to-be-published book, “Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World”, read it over a three day period, and wound up totally and completely depressed.
The subject matter of book is fascinating. It is a description of Nazi Germany’s propaganda campaign in North Africa, Iraq and Iran during the Second World War. It deals both with written propaganda, as well as extensive radio broadcasts, copies of the text of which have been found in recently opened German archives and American archives. It also tells of the diplomatic history of the time (the book does not dwell on military campaigns), both through embassy activity in the countries in question, and in Germany itself, working with certain Arabs in exile, then living in Berlin, the most well known of whom was the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini.
Here are the basics of the approach made by the Nazis: “Anti-Semitism” refers to Jews only, not to Arabs. Arabs and Aryans are both pure races. Everything bad has been caused by the Jews, and their allies, the British and the Americans. Perhaps “allies” is the wrong word, because it is the Jews who control the British and the Americans. And of course, they control the Russians, as well, as they are behind Communism, as well as Capitalism. And that’s not contradictory, because both of these isms are merely tools being used to destroy the Aryan/Moslem world. As is Democracy. And of course the most immediate manifestation is the entry of Jews in to Moslem Palestine, under British rule, by theft and deceit, and if the Allies win the war, there will be a Jewish state created that will include Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and parts of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. And the Jews have been a problem since time memorial–look at what the Koran says. And there is only one thing to do about the Jews: kill them before they kill you.
While none of the Arab governments accepted this reasoning, the governments were all under British or French influence. But the masses of the people (there was no popular poling to be sure) seemed to be highly receptive to all of this, as did many of their popular leaders, not only the Grand Mufti. After all, it is during this period that the Moslem Brotherhood began to advance (before Egypt’s government cracked down) and they were behind this reasoning 100%.
What is worse, the British and Americans could not figure out a way to successfully argue against it: they couldn’t come out and strongly support the Jews (that would play into Nazi hands), and they couldn’t offend the Arabs or their governments (their need to have access through these lands, their military bases, and of course their need for oil kept them quiet). So the Germans had a pretty clear field.
When the war began going against the Arabs, starting with the defeat of Rommel at El Alamein in 1941, the propaganda no longer had the same effect on the military action, but it continued nevertheless, and the main themes (with which we are familiar even today) were picked up after the war by indigenous Arab and Moslem movements. In other words, traditional Arab or Moslem prejudice against the Jews was deepened through the addition of Nazi ideology, first to stir up support for the Axis during the war, and later simply to stir up more hatred towards the Jews.
And, to top it off, as many Nazi officials were brought to justice at Nuremberg, the middle eastern collaborators were, by and large, ignored. Again, this was primarily because no one wanted to upset the Arabs more than necessary. And some of these men had important careers well after the war ended.
The book is apparently the first to look at much of this material and is worth looking at if you need more detail than my sketch and have a high internal defense mechanism against complete and total (i.e. “what kind of world is this really?”) depression.