Monday, January 10, 2011

The Dark Legacy of the Shephard Hotel

Shepherd Hotel 2010
The Shepherd Hotel in Jerusalem, 2010

The world should be celebrating the transformation of a Nazi collaborator's home to a synagogue; instead, it is attempting to cast a legal sale of land as Israeli aggression. Pitiful.

The dilapidated hotel was once home to the Nazi collaborator and Muslim leader Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini (y"s). In 1985, the hotel and surrounding area was legally purchased for $1 million by US Jewish philanthropist Irving Moskowitz. In the building plans, the untried Nazi's collaborator's home will be renovated into a synagogue in memorial of Holocaust victims.

Yet rather than atone for its past in protecting Al-Husseini, the world is decrying the delapidated building's transformation into a place of Jewish worship.

During WWII, Al-Husseini broadcast propaganda for the Axis Powers with the aim of influencing Arab public opinion. In 1941, he participated in efforts to convince Bosnian Muslim leaders that a Muslim S.S. division would be in the interest of Islam, and helped recruit Bosnian Muslims into SS units, one of which committed atrocities against Christian Serbs during operations in the Balkans in 1944.

Al-Husseini on Radio Berlin, March 1, 1944: 'Arabs, rise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you.'

So Al-Husseini was a nut, but Europe must have condemned him after the war, right? Wrong. Europe's condemnation of Israel's renovation of this testament to crimes of humanity is hardly new. After WWII Al-Husseini fled to Switzerland, but was detained and sent back to Germany, where he was arrested by French troops in May 1945. Ah, the French. They'll put him to justice, right?

Wrong. Discussions with Mufti post-arrest were put in the hands of Henri Ponsot, a former ambassador of France in Syria. France sought status in the Arab world through Al-Husseini's wide connections, and ended up handing him benefits, priveleges, special detention conditions, and constant concern for the well-being of him and his entourage. Despite British requests for his extradition, and his presence on the list of names of war criminals, France considered him a political prisoner and denied British requests.

In September 1945, realizing they were holding a hot potato, France organized the transfer of Al-Husseini to Egypt. On May 29th, al-Husayni left France on a TWA flight for Cairo using a fake Syrian passport. Once in Egypt, the British could no longer arrest him.

In August 1947, Al-Husseini thanked French Foreign Minister Georges Bidault in a letter and suggested France continue its policy to increase prestige in the Muslim world. One month later, an Arab Higher Committee delegation proposed to Paris an neutral Arab position on North Africa in exchange of France's support in the Palestinian question. 

Catherine Ashton, British Labor Politiciana and EU Foreign Policy Chief, 2011, in today's statement: "I strongly condemn this morning's demolition of the Shepherd Hotel and the planned construction of a new illegal settlement. I reiterate that settlements are illegal under international law, undermine trust between the parties and constitute an obstacle to peace. Furthermore, we recall that East Jerusalem is part of occupied Palestinian territory."

Mohammad Amin al-Husayni 
Tsilla Hershco, Le grand mufti de Jérusalem en France : Histoire d'une évasion, Revue Controverses, n°1, mars 2006

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