Nobody had a greater influence on the early history of the Middle East conflict than the Mufti, who as president of the Supreme Muslim Council was not only the supreme religious authority but also the central figure in Palestinian nationalism. In the 1930s, there were countless Arab nationalists who viewed Germany as an ally against the British without concerning themselves with the nature of the Hitler regime. Things were different where the Mufti was concerned: he knew what the regime was about and was attracted to it for that very reason.As early as spring 1933, he assured the German consul in Jerusalem that "the Muslims inside and outside Palestine welcome the new regime of Germany and hope for the extension of the fascist, anti-democratic governmental system to other countries."8 The youth organization of the party established by the Mufti operated for a time under the name Nazi Scouts and adopted Hitler Youth-style shorts and leather belts. During the 1936-1939 Palestinian revolt, the swastika was used as a mark of identity: Arabic leaflets and graffiti were liberally decorated with it, Arab children welcomed each other with the Hitler salute, and vast numbers of German flags and pictures of Hitler were displayed even at celebrations of Mohammed's birthday. Anyone obliged to travel through areas involved in the Palestinian revolt would attach a swastika to their vehicle to ward off attacks by Arab snipers.9However, until the summer of 1937, this support was awkward for the German government. Berlin politely but firmly rejected the Arab officers of cooperation. While, on the one hand, Hitler had already stated his belief in the "racial inferiority" of the Arabs in Mein Kampf and contemptuously rejected their "Holy War,"10 on the other, the Auswärtige Amt (German Foreign Office) was extremely anxious not to jeopardize British appeasement of Berlin prematurely by activities in the Middle East, especially since the Mediterranean fell within the sphere of responsibility of Germany's Italian ally.Berlin revised this approach for the first time in June 1937. The trigger was the proposal from the British Peel Commission for the division of the Palestine Mandate territory into a smaller Jewish and a larger Muslim-Arab state. The formation of a Jewish state "is not in Germany's interest," was the instant response of Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath, since such a state "would create an additional position of power under international law for international Jewry. Germany therefore has an interest in strengthening the Arab world as a counterweight against such a possible increase in power for world Jewry."11Strengthening the Arabs against the Jews - it is true that Berlin initially pursued this new course surreptitiously, lest it alienate London. Nevertheless, the scale of the operations now set in motion was impressive. Students from Arab countries received German scholarships, firms took on Arab apprentices, and Arab party leaders were invited to the Nuremberg party rallies and military chiefs to Wehrmacht maneuvers. An "Arab Club" was established in Berlin as the center for Palestine-related agitation and Arabic-language broadcasting.12Under the direction of the German Propaganda Ministry, the Deutsche Nachrichtenbüro (German News Agency - DNB), whose regional headquarters in Jerusalem had set up an Arab service in 1936, stepped up its work. The head of DNB-Jerusalem, Dr. Franz Reichert, who had excellent links not only with the Mufti but also with the Arabic press, bribed journalists and brought dissident newspapers back on board with lucrative advertising orders.In September 1937, two members of the Jewish Department of the SS' secret service (Sicherheitsdienst - SD), one of them Adolf Eichmann, carried out an exploratory mission in the Middle East lasting several weeks. Extended visits by the leader of Hitler Youth, Baldur von Schirach, and the head of the Abwehr (counterintelligence service), Wilhelm Canaris, followed. Finally, in April 1939 the head of the Foreign Office's Oriental Department, Otto von Hentig, also spent time in Palestine and Egypt.
8. Yehoshua Porath, The Palestinian Arab National Movement: From Riots to Rebellion, Vol. 2, 1929-1939 (London, 1977), p. 76.
9. Ralf Balke, Die Landesgruppe der NSDAP in Palästina, thesis, Universität- Gesamthochschule Essen, 1997, pp. 214, 216 (German); Tillmann, Deutschlands Araberpolitik, p. 78 (German); Francis R. Nicosia, The Third Reich and the Palestine Question (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1975), p. 98. See also Iwo Jordan, Araberaufstand. Erlebnisse und Dokumente aus Palästina (Vienna-Leipzig, 1943), pp. 3, 97 (German). Jordan reprints an example of an Arab-Palestinian leaflet with swastikas.
10. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Munich: Verlag Franz Eher Nachfolger, GmbH, 1934), p. 747 (German).
11. Tillmann, Deutschlands Araberpolitik, p. 66. Italy did not seem reliable enough for the anti-Jewish project. In the last analysis, according to the German Foreign Ministry, Italy's rejection of the Peel Plan was motivated "less by antisemitic animosity than by fear that Britain might make the foundation of a Jewish state in Palestine the basis of its Mediterranean policy." See Melka, The Axis, pp. 70.
12. Melka, The Axis, p. 53.