Arab Chemical Warfare Against Jews–in 1944

by Benyamin Korn

Iraq and Syria possess missiles which can reach Tel Aviv, and could be armed with chemical warheads. In the United States, synagogues and other Jewish institutions are said to be high on the list of targets for the next Al Qaeda attack, possibly involving chemical or other nonconventional weapons. And Hamas terrorists in Gaza are reportedly trying to obtain the technology needed to unleash chemical warfare.

As we contemplate the potential horrors of a chemical weapons attack on a Jewish target in 2003, it is also worth contemplating the lessons of the first attempt by Arab leaders to unleash chemical warfare against Jews–back in 1944.

The 1944 plan was the brainchild of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, the political leader and senior Islamic religious authority of the Palestinian Arabs.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Mufti instigated mass Arab violence against the Jews and British authorities in British Mandatory Palestine. Later he fled to Baghdad, where, in 1941, he helped engineer a short-lived pro-Nazi coup. Then it was on to Rome, where Husseini was warmly welcomed by Mussolini, and finally Berlin, where he and his entourage spent the remainder of the war actively collaborating with the Nazis.

From Berlin the Mufti made repeated Arabic-language radio broadcasts to the Middle East, brimming with hatred of Jews and appeals to the Arab masses to support Hitler. The Islamic cleric also assisted in the development of an Arab Legion of the German Army, recruited Soviet Muslims to fight alongside the Nazis, and organized a special all-Muslim division of the SS which committed so many atrocities in Yugoslavia that 38 of its officers were later tried as war criminals. As for the annihilation of European Jewry, the Mufti and his staff met with Adolf Eichmann and were briefed by senior German officials on the genocide process, of which he heartily approved. In 1943, the Mufti’s pressure succeeded in scuttling a proposed prisoner exchange that would have saved 4,000 Jewish refugee children. The children were instead sent to Auschwitz.

Sabotage squads organized by the Mufti were parachuted behind Allied lines both in Europe and the Middle East. In 1944, one such squad parachuted into Mandatory Palestine. The details of their mission were first revealed in the 1983 book ‘The Quest for the Red Prince’ by Michael Bar-Zohar, a biographer of Ben-Gurion and Labor Party Knesset Member, and Eitan Haber, a journalist who became Yitzhak Rabin’s closest aide and speechwriter when Rabin became prime minister.

According to Bar-Zohar and Haber, the five parachutists were armed with maps of Tel Aviv, canisters of “a fine white powder,” and instructions from the Mufti to dump the German-made chemicals into the Tel Aviv water system. The British policemen who discovered the men, hiding in a cave in Jericho, sent the mysterious substance to a laboratory for analysis. “I remember how amazed we all were,” district police commander Fayiz Bey Idrissi later recalled. “The laboratory report stated that each container held enough poison to kill 25,000 people, and there were at least ten containers.”

The Mufti’s attempt to unleash mass destruction through chemical warfare took place long before there were any conflicts over borders, territories, settlements, or refugees. The State of Israel did not yet even exist. The mere prospect that a Jewish state might be created in some small part of Mandatory Palestine sufficed to inspire attempted genocide.

Sadly, there are no signs that the Palestinian Arab community has come to grips with this black chapter in its history. Yasir Arafat calls the Mufti “our hero.” Prof. Adnan Musallam of Bethlehem University skeptically characterizes the Mufti’s activity as “so-called Palestinian contacts with Germany during World War II.” Arab journalists from eastern Jerusalem who toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in 1995 objected to the museum’s exhibit documenting the Mufti’s alliance with Hitler.

In recent days, A group of Israeli Arabs HAS announced plans to visit Auschwitz. It remains to be seen whether the visit will include acknowledgement and repudiation of the Mufti’s role in having 4,000 Jewish children shipped to Auschwitz and his plan for the mass murder of Palestinian Jewry. Such a repudiation would constitute a welcome departure from standard Arab commentary on the Holocaust, not to mention the present danger of chemical warfare against Jews in Israel and the Diaspora.

March 2003