Mufti of Jerusalem – The Zionists focus their attention on this British appointed reactionary
Al Husseini with one of his Nazi Muslim Troops – 1943
Hanzar SS Division.
A whole wall is dedicated at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Propaganda Museum in Jerusalem, to the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who collaborated with Hitler and the Nazis. In fact the Muslim SS divisions were not only not involved in the deportation of Jews, but Albania (and Denmark) were the only Nazi occupied countries in Europe not to deport any Jews. Yad Vashem was built on the lands of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, which was the victim of a horrific Zionist massacre in 1948.
What is not mentioned is that the SS Divisions not only were not involved in the deportation of Jews, but they had to be sent to France for ‘retraining’ such was their lack of zeal for perpetrating atrocities against Jews. Worse still, once they got to France they promptly rebelled! This was the only known rebellion among the ranks of the SS, which was known for its vehement hatred of Jews (though it was also the most pro-Zionist element of the Nazi Party).
In those Arab countries occupied by the Nazi or fascist forces of Italy and France, the number of Jews killed was approximately 1%, some 5,000 people, compared to rates of Jews killed up to 95% in Lithuania and 90% in Poland. The stories below give examples of both the actions of the Rector of the Great of Mosque of Paris in sheltering Jews and that of Khaled Abdelwahhab, the Arab Oscar Schindler are telling. Out of 24,000 Righteous Among the Nations (people whose behaviour towards Jews is in sharp contrast to that of most Israelis) only a few dozen are Muslims and none, not one, is Arabic.
Apparently Yad Vashem was unable to find the evidence, although that hasn’t stopped it making the Mufti of Jerusalem into a war criminal second only to Hitler himself. The Holocaust Encyclopaedia’s article on Husseini, someone who came 4th in the elections for Mufti but who the British, under Herbert Samuel imposes nonetheless, is longer than Goebbels and Eichman’s combined. Common sense might suggest that it was in the areas where fewest Jews died where the highest concentration of the ‘righteous’ dwelt. But that would be to miss the whole purpose of Yad Vashem. The holocaust isn’t something to study and commemorate objectively it is something to fashion into a weapon to be used against Israel’s enemies, the Arabs. That is why it is not possible to have Arabs made into The Righteous Among the Nations. It would contradict the whole rationale and purpose of Yad Vashem.
Instead, as we see in the blog Yad Vashem – the top tourist attraction for Europe’s neo-Nazi and far-Right politicians, http://www.azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/yad-vashem-top-tourist-attraction-for.html we now have the spectacle of neo-Nazi and far-right European politicians paying homage to the victims of the Nazis at Yad Vashem despite advocating the very policies that led to the holocaust. Such are the contradictions of Zionism, which never once fought against Zionism (although of course individual Zionists did).
Focusing on the tale of Algerian-born Jewish singer Salim Halali, a new French film looks at the little-known, and hard to confirm, efforts of the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris to save Jews during World War II. By Ofer Aderet, Haaretz, 23.03.12
Salim Halali was a huge star in France and Morocco in the mid-20th century. The Jewish singer, who was born in 1920 into a poor family in Algeria, came to France when he was 14. Within a few years he became known far and wide as the best “Oriental” singer in Europe.
Now, seven years after his death, Halali’s persona is back at center stage in a new French movie. The film, “Les hommes libres,” is being screened at the French film festival that is taking place at Cinematheques across Israel until April 5th.
The plot of the film centers on a heroic rescue tale, the details of which have yet to be studied fully by scholars, having to do with the Great Mosque of Paris having provided sanctuary and refuge to Jews, Halali among them, during the Holocaust. The film has sparked a renewed public debate over whether the honorific “Righteous Among the Nations” should be accorded to the mosque’s rector, who is depicted as one who placed Halali and other Jews under his protection. French actor in the film ‘Les hommes libres’
“The film pays homage to the people of our history who have been invisible. It shows another reality, that Muslims and Jews existed in peace. We have to remember that − with pride,” the film’s director, Ismael Ferroukhi, said in an interview with the New York Times. The mosque at the center of the film is housed in an impressive fortress-like building with a striking green roof, which occupies an entire street on Paris’ Left Bank. The French government built it in 1926 in honor of the Muslim soldiers who were killed fighting for the country in World War I, and to bolster the bond between the state and its Arab immigrants − and through them with their countries of origin.
After Nazi Germany conquered France in 1940, the Vichy government began persecuting Jews. The lives of Halali and thousands of other North African Jews living in Paris were in danger. Halali was 20 at the time, a young immigrant in a foreign city. The authorities knew he was Jewish, and harassed him.
When the danger grew, Halali turned to the mosque and sought help from its founder and rector, Si Kaddour Benghabrit. Like Halali, he was born in Algiers. And like many others, he too appreciated the young singer’s great talent. At first Benghabrit provided Halali with a fake identity as a Muslim. Later on, when it was feared that the counterfeit documentation would be exposed, he had the name of Halali’s grandfather engraved on a blank tombstone in a Muslim cemetery nearby. In the movie, Nazi soldiers lead Halali to this cemetery at gunpoint. They release him only when he succeeds in locating the fake tomb and ostensibly proves that his grandfather was Muslim.
Halali performed at the mosque during the war. After the liberation of France, in 1944, he became Europe’s most popular North African singer. The club he opened in Paris in 1947 became the site for grand parties and hosted people in high places. He subsequently moved to Casablanca, Morocco, where he opened the biggest cabaret in North Africa, which was burned down years later − some sources say because of anti-Semitism.
Halali, whose influence extended among others to “the king,” Zohar Argov, in Israel, was wonderful at blending different musical styles: Moroccan, Arabic, Maghrebi, Berber, French, Spanish and Jewish. In his heyday he was crowned the “King of Shaabi” (a folk-music style), and some regarded him the greatest darbuka player of all time. Dozens of his songs became runaway hits, and to this day he is considered a classic performer among Jews and Arabs alike.
Halali died in 2005 in lonely anonymity. His records are sold today on the Internet and his songs star on YouTube. The Moroccan-Israeli theater El Maghreb recently put on a musical based on his songs.
“The man was an enigma. A homosexual surrounded by women, an outright anti-Zionist who came to appear in Israel,” says Tom Cohen, the head conductor and artistic director of the Mediterranean Orchestra of Ashkelon. “Musically he was diverse as well, and was blessed with lots of color and richness. On the one hand, his singing was essentially Arab. On the other hand, he corresponds with styles that also spoke to Western ears. At heart he was a pop singer, the sort who performed in coffee shops and at weddings.”
Halali is played in the movie by the actor and musician Mahmud Shalaby, from Acre, “an Israeli Palestinian,” as he puts it. He learned French for the film, which was filmed in Paris and Morocco. “As a Palestinian, I could identify with the suffering he endured as a Jew,” Shalaby says during an interview with Haaretz. “Halali is not Jewish only, but also an Arab with characteristics of Muslims from North Africa,” he adds. “At that time, religion was not of importance. Jews and Muslims lived together in brotherhood and love, without anything to come between them. Halali united everyone.” The bond between the actor and Halali was helped by the fact that Halali was not a Zionist sympathizer. “In the ‘60s he performed in Jerusalem,” says Shalaby, “and he told the audience, in Arabic, ‘Long live the Arab nation.’ After they threw things at him on stage, he left and never came back,” Shalaby adds.
Halali never married and did not have children. Relatives from his extended family attended the film’s premiere in Paris a few months ago. “At the end of the screening they came up to me and told me that they were very impressed by the film and that the character as I present it is very close to who Halali was in real life,” Shalaby says.
Out of bounds
How many Jews like Halali were sheltered at the mosque and owe its rector their lives? The answer to that is unclear to this day, nearly 70 years after the Holocaust ended. Benghabrit continued to run the mosque after the war, but his popularity waned because of his support of French colonial rule in Algeria. He died in 1954 and was buried at the mosque.
Posing as Muslims would presumably have been technically possible for some of the North African Jews living in France. The Jewish men, like the Muslim ones, were circumcised. Jews and Arabs had shared surnames. Their outward appearance and knowledge of Arabic also helped an unknown number of Jews assimilate into the Muslim community. But the Germans did not easily give up on their demand that someone suspected of being a Jew prove his origins. That was the context for their turning to the Great Mosque of Paris with requests that it rule whether a particular person was Jewish or Muslim.
“Sometimes, the mosque certified claimants as Muslims; sometimes, it rejected claims and the accused were considered, under the law, as Jews,” writes the Jewish-American historian Robert Satloff, in his 2007 book “Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands.” (Satloff’s book was published in Hebrew translation in 2010 by Yad Vashem and Dvir.) “The mosque, then, certainly had the opportunity to determine the fate of these people. Whether it deliberately chose to help Jews, protecting the real identity of the claimants regardless of the evidence, is the key issue,” he writes.
The source for the information that the mosque and the man at its head saved Jews is a North African Jew, who fled from Germany to France and found refuge at the Paris mosque. In an article he published in 1983 in a French magazine, the man, named Albert Assouline, wrote that “no fewer than 1,732 Resistance fighters found refuge in the cellars of the mosque,” and noted that most of them were Jews. He added that the rector “took a great risk” in hiding the Jews, and supplied them − and the many children among them − with Muslim identities.
In a short documentary film that was produced a decade later, this same witness recounted that in emergencies, Jews would crowd into the sacred part of the mosque, an area that was designated “out of bounds” to non-Muslims. He further said that Benghabrit installed a special button that sounded an alarm in case of a police raid on the mosque. But this testimony was never corroborated by another witness. No one but him ever spoke about this large-scale rescue operation.
Satloff, who is director of the Washington Institute for Middle East Policy, uncovered the most important written evidence to date relating to the subject: a note from a bureaucrat in the French foreign affairs ministry to the foreign minister, dated September 24, 1940, which describes the Germans’ activity against the mosque. Here is what it says: “The occupation authorities suspect the personnel of the Mosque of Paris of fraudulently delivering to individuals of the Jewish race certificates attesting that the interested persons are of the Muslim confession. The imam was summoned, in a threatening manner, to put an end to all such practices. It seems, in effect, that a number of Jews resorted to all sorts of maneuvers of this kind to conceal their identity.”
Dalil Boubakeur, who heads the mosque today, confirmed the reports that the mosque had granted sanctuary to Jews in the Holocaust and supplied them with Muslim identity certificates that enabled them to survive. He estimated their number, however, at only 100.
“The mosque represented the sensibilities of the Muslims of North Africa toward their Jewish brothers,” he said during a conversation with Satloff seven years ago. “It was very courageous. Courageous and natural at the same time,” he added. But there is no documentation whatsoever naming those Jews who supposedly were sheltered at the mosque.
Dr. Simcha Epstein, a Paris-born historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who studies anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, sums up the problem for people researching this case: “The doubt is not about whether the mosque aided or did not aid Jews, but rather regarding the number of Jews the mosque helped. Nobody knows the exact number. The data is unclear. Naturally there is no documentation of it. Obviously the mosque itself would not write such things down, so as not to incriminate itself.” But, adds Epstein, “we are clearly not talking about numbers that amount to a thousand people. That is excessive and exaggerated.”
By contrast, Prof. Renee Poznanski, of Ben-Gurion University, a leading scholar of the subject of French Jewry during the German occupation, says that none of the story is familiar to her. “I have not come across any such thing in the documentation and testimonies. If it indeed happened, we are talking about a historically minor phenomenon, of very small dimensions, but important of course,” she says.
‘Not everyone was like that’
The film’s detractors say that it is one-sided and refrains from presenting the negative aspects of Jewish-Arab relations during the war years, first and foremost the collaboration of Arabs and Muslims with the Nazis.
“The film tends to depict the Arabs as being on the side of the good guys. In practice not everyone was like that. The reality is different from that shown in the movie,” says Epstein. “Along with Muslims and Arabs who saved Jews, there were ones who collaborated with the fascists and the Nazis. Just like Christians, some of whom behaved this way and others that way. The masses, in any case, were indifferent and neutral.”
Epstein says the movie should also be considered according to the target audience that it seeks to address, in his opinion: French viewers of Arab origin, who are hostile to Jews in France. “This film wishes to show today’s French public that the Muslims were on the good side of the story and not with the bad guys. The movie tries to portray positive, anti-Nazi, Muslim heroes also to stop the pro-Nazi surge now prevalent among young Muslims,” he says.
For Poznanski, too, the film might have a contemporary agenda: “The subject choice for the film is not necessarily related to the historical importance of the subject, but rather serves a cause that is important to its makers to raise on a public level,” she says.
The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial authority lists nearly 24,000 people as Righteous Among the Nations. Only a few dozen of these are Muslims. Not one is an Arab.
“Yad Vashem made a supreme effort to locate survivors who Benghabrit saved at the time of the Holocaust, and went to great lengths to gather archive material pertaining to the rescue operation at the Mosque of Paris, including applying to the mosque’s archive. Every effort was in vain. No testimonies from survivors or relevant documents were found,” Yad Vashem said in a statement. However, “if such were to arrive, we would be glad to bring up the matter of recognizing Benghabrit as a Righteous Among the Nations.”
Story of Tunisian farmer who sheltered Jews turns discussion of Holocaust
on its head” in the Arab world.
Some see Khaled Abdelwahhab as an “Arab Oskar Schindler” for risking his life to shelter Jews while Tunisia was under Nazi occupation. Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, sees the Tunisian farmer as “a very powerful symbol from a historical point of view.” He believes Abdelwahhab’s tale of heroism, and other stories Satloff collected of Arab actions during the Holocaust – from indifference to collaboration to attempts at saving and sheltering Jews – would “turn the discussion of the Holocaust on its head” in the Arab and Muslim world, where Holocaust denial is rampant. Speaking about his latest book, “Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands,” on April 25 at Yeshiva University in New York, Satloff said the stories of Abdelwahhab and others reveal no difference between reactions to the Holocaust in Europe and the Arab world. Event sponsors included Y.U.’s Stern College for Women and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Satloff said the book explains that the Holocaust is part of both the Arab and Jewish experience.
He nominated Abdelwahhab, who hid 24 Jews on his family farm for months during the Nazi occupation, for the distinction of “Righteous Among the Nations” at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel. Abdelwahhab would be the first Arab among nearly 22,000 “Righteous Gentiles.” Spreading the word about Abdelwahhab’s actions could help breed the kind of tolerance needed to heal rifts between the Arab and Jewish communities, Satloff said. Abdelwahhab’s daughter Faiza, who joined Satloff at the Y.U. presentation, said she hopes her father’s story will “help Jews and Arabs to become more like they were in Tunisia” before World War II. “We were very mixed,” Faiza said of the town where she grew up. “Thirty percent were Italian and French. Thirty percent were mixed [Arab and French], and 30 percent were Jewish. Everyone got along together very well.”
Faiza remembered her father as a “very stubborn person” who saw no difference between the various ethnic and religious groups in his hometown. Satloff said Abdelwahhab’s nonchalance about his actions was similar to that of other non-Jewish rescuers during the Holocaust. “They have very humble motivations,” Satloff said. “I don’t see any difference here.” Faiza said she did not learn that her father had sheltered Jews until Satloff uncovered it while researching his book. But she wasn’t surprised. Since Abdelwahhab, who died 10 years ago, lived in a society with fewer distinctions separating people, she and Satloff both characterized his deed as a “natural” thing to do for his fellow countrymen. Satloff hopes that for the Arab world, recapturing this neglected aspect of its history will mean accepting the basic premises of the Holocaust. Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world, even in schools and government-sponsored media, with many Arabs apparently believing that denying the Holocaust will undermine Israel’s legitimacy. Satloff said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks provided the “trigger” for his work, as he began to deeply consider the societies from which the attackers sprang. “It got me thinking about Holocaust education in Arab society,” Satloff said. The book “is my modest way of fighting the hatred of 9/11.” He said he tried “to make the Holocaust a story acceptable to Arabs. So I talk about choices Arabs made; it’s an Arab story.” With the book available in Farsi and Arabic, Satloff hopes it will help counter the “grotesque view of the Holocaust that is being propagated” in the Middle East and allow Arabs to “access their sides of the story” of the Holocaust.