During World War I, Germany Tried to Weaponize Radical Islam against Its Enemies

March 12 2021

As the 19th century entered its last decades, Germany—in contrast to France and Britain—had no colonies in the Arab world, and unlike either these powers or Russia, had no designs on the Ottoman empire’s territory. It therefore sought an alliance with the sultan, which, Wolfgang Schwanitz argues, would have long-lasting consequences.

Kaiser Wilhelm II . . . feared that Germany’s neighbors would import soldiers from abroad and use them in Europe against Germany. The Kaiser developed a new policy: align with the Ottomans, and, in case of an all-out war in Europe, turn Muslims against their colonial masters.

After the Kaiser’s trip to the Ottoman empire in 1898, [this evolved into an] “official Islam policy.” The Kaiser’s [challenge] was to avoid Islamist revolts in his own colonial areas while inciting them in his neighbors’ colonial territories. Germany did not have colonies in the Middle East, so his rivals would need to send colonial soldiers from Europe to put down any revolts overseas.

These ideas came to fruition when World War I broke out in 1914, and Germany found itself fighting Russia, France, and Britain simultaneously:

Oppenheim penned a plan for the Kaiser in early November 1914: The Revolutionizing of Islamic Areas of Our Foes. According to the text, the sultan would call for jihad against the Allies. Berlin would deliver money, experts, and guns. The Germans would seek to galvanize Muslims in British India, French North Africa, and Russian Asia, in addition to all Muslims in the enemies’ armies. The call to jihad would go out in their languages. Berlin would create an Oriental News Organization with up to 75 “reading halls” in the Ottoman empire. . . . Expeditions would be sent out to incite local jihad by fatwas that prepare for revolts from Kabul to India.

Now, 100 years later, the legacy of the German-Ottoman alliance and call for Islamist revolts endures.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Foreign Policy Research Institute

More about: Germany, Jihad, Ottoman Empire, World War I

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia