While the story of the cooperation of the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, with the Third Reich has been told many times, an Israeli historian has recently published an article, based on extensive research, showing that many Palestinian Arabs instead chose to cast their lot with the Allies during World War II. Mustafa Abbasi, who came to the topic via research into his own family history, has found that the British created many Palestine-based units, made up of Jews and Arabs, to fight against Germany. Nadav Shragai explains:
All in all, some 12,000 Arabs from Mandate Palestine volunteered for the British army during World War II, approximately half the number of Jewish volunteers. Hundreds of Palestinian fighters were captured. Approximately 300 died in battle. . . . At the time, the Arab population in pre-state Israel was split between the Husseinis, [led by the grand mufti], and the Nashashibi clan who openly supported the British and usually maintained good ties with the Jewish population.
Abbasi has also discovered that several dozen Jews and Arabs fought together alongside thousands of British and Egyptian troops at the First Battle of El Alamein in July 1942. . . . A few of the volunteers also took part in the Allied invasion at Normandy in the summer of 1944.
There were a total of 4,041 Arab volunteers and 10,000 Jewish volunteers from Palestine in the British infantry. . . . Jews and Arabs also served together in the Middle East Commando unit, which included 240 Jews and 120 Arabs under a team of British commanders. The volunteers with the unit underwent exhausting physical training and long marches in difficult conditions. At the end of 1940, some members of the unit took part in the first British attack in [Egypt’s] Western Desert and burst through Italian lines at Bardia on the Egyptian-Libyan border. In the winter of 1941, the unit fought fierce battles against the Italians.