How Nazi Propaganda and the Muslim Brotherhood Led to the 1948 Israel-Arab War

April 1, 2016 | Matthias Kuenzel
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Although the UN plan for partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab states was opposed by the vast majority of Arab leaders, most were long unwilling to go to war to prevent it from happening. What pushed the states to war, argues Matthias Kuenzel, was the persistent lobbying of the Muslim Brotherhood, its ability to shape popular Arab opinion with the help of Nazi-sponsored anti-Semitic propaganda, and its support for Grand Mufti Amin Haj al-Husseini—a former collaborator with the Nazis who rejected any compromise with the Jews:

In 1947 most Arabs in Mandatory Palestine itself were opposed to war. Tens of thousands of them had found work in Jewish-dominated economic sectors such as citrus-fruit production. Moreover, they were aware of the Zionists’ military strength. . . . There was a similar absence of war-like intentions in the Arab League states of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Transjordan, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. In August 1946, the Jewish Agency reported that “the Egyptians agree that there is no other acceptable solution to the Palestine question except partition.” . . . .

Let us consider this hypothetical proposition. Had the government of Egypt banned the Muslim Brotherhood at the end of 1945, its pro-Husseini campaign would not have taken place and there would have been far less pressure on the Egyptian authorities to re-install the mufti as leader of the Palestinian Arabs. Neither the Brotherhood nor the mufti would have been in a position to whip up war fever through the use of anti-Jewish attacks in Palestine. Egypt would have held fast to its original rejection of war. The outcome would have been different, and partition might have been implemented. History, however, took a different path. . . .

This war was not inevitable. It happened because Nazi anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist propaganda continued to dominate the political culture of the Arab world after the defeat of Germany, thus preventing any viable challenge to the anti-Semitic policies of the mufti and the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, the war of 1947-48 appears as an aftershock of the Nazi war against the Jews.

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