Haj Amin al-Husseini died in 1974, but his life and teachings have had a profound impact on the current struggles that Israel faces against Arab opposition to the very existence of a Jewish state. The Grand Mufti’s successors, one being Yasser Arafat, have adopted and expanded upon his vitriolic hatred for the Jewish people.
Haj Amin al-Husseini was born in Jerusalem to the Mufti of Jerusalem at the time, Taher al-Husseini, a fierce opponent of Zionism. When World War I began, and following a brief period in the Ottoman army, Haj Amin al-Husseini was appointed by the British Military in 1918 to the Office of the Governor of Jerusalem. Over the years, Husseini would climb the political and religious ladder, becoming both the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the leader of the Supreme Muslim Council.
Holding two of the highest religious positions, the newly appointed Grand Mufti turned his attention to the derelict and unkempt Al-Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. Renovating these sites served a particular purpose for al-Husseini – to bolster his image in the Muslim community, focusing the attention of Muslim countries on the plight of the Palestinian Arabs and reinventing Jerusalem as the new Muslim holy capital despite ‘Jerusalem’ not being mentioned once in the Koran.
Using the renovation of the Al-Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock as his pretext, al-Husseini exploited the attention of the Arabs and Muslim countries to incite hatred for the Jews, claiming that they were plotting to destroy the mosque and build the Third Temple in its place. Al-Husseini further exploited the Jews’ fight to pray at the Western Wall, and its adjoining narrow prayer plaza, to fan the flames of Jewish hatred among Muslims.
Jews have visited and prayed at the Western Wall since the twelfth century. As the last remnant of Solomon’s Temple, it has existed as a holy site and place of prayer for the Jewish people for hundreds of years, and gained status as the second holiest site for Jews, only after the Temple Mount itself. However, it was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that Jews began bringing ritual and religious articles and furnishings to the Western Wall prayer plaza. It was at the same time that the Jews renewed their efforts to officially acquire the prayer plaza that was claimed by the Waqf Muslim rule.
In August 1929, the incitement of hatred against the Jews that Haj Amin al-Husseini had been aggressively promoting came to a head when Arabs attacked and injured Jews who had come to the Western Wall to pray. This incitement to violence against Jews continued and eventually culminated in the riots of 1929 – large-scale pogroms against the Jews in neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, and spread to the Jewish urban centres of Haifa, Tel Aviv, Safed and Hebron. In all, one hundred and thirty-three Jews were murdered, and three hundred and thirty-nine were injured.
Al-Husseini’s vicious hatred of the Jews served to further his agenda – to identify competition for holy sites as the crux of the Palestinian plight and foundational ethos, in opposition to any Jewish claims to the land. This has continued as the predominant basis for the Palestinian Arab claim that no Jewish nation should exist on the land – “From the river to the sea” – and the justification for the two intifadas under Yasser Arafat that caused the death of tens of thousands of Jews.
Haj Amin al-Husseini’s hatred of the Jews did not stop at inciting pogroms against them in the future Jewish state, but stretched to Europe with his active collaboration against European Jewry alongside Hitler. Indeed, al-Husseini was instrumental in the creation of an all-Muslim member SS Division, and he referred to Adolf Eichmann as “the greatest friend of the Arabs”. In 1941, he met with Hitler to discuss the fact that the Nazis had found a solution to the “Jewish problem”, and in 1942 al-Husseini penned a letter together with Iraqi Prime Minister Rashid Ali al-Kilani that supported Germany in its aim to annihilate the Jewish people.
Haj Amin al-Husseini even went so far as to declare his hatred on Berlin radio, stating, “Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This finds grace in the eyes of God, history and religion.”
Haj Amin al-Husseini’s hatred of, and propaganda against, the Jews remains relevant today; it has transformed into the ethos of the so-called plight of the Palestinian Arabs. In fact, 60 years after the creation of the State of Israel, it has subversively and insidiously undermined, delegitimized and incited violence against Jews worldwide and the Jewish state.