Hamas’s Chosen Weapon Against Muslim Moderates Is Holocaust Denial, New Report Shows
The spectacle of the Nazi swastika flying alongside Palestinian flags at violent demonstrations on the Israel-Gaza border over the last fortnight has been widely interpreted in Israel as one more example of the “genocidal message” that Hamas is sending to the Jewish state.
Significantly, a new briefing from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) issued on Wednesday suggests that at the same time as expressing admiration for Nazi antisemitism, Hamas nonetheless remains committed to denying Nazi crimes against the Jews.
This stance can be traced back to the original Hamas Charter issued in 1988. That document depicted World War II as a Jewish plot in which “the Zionists…grossed huge profits from their trade of war materials.”
In the interim, Holocaust denial has become both a staple of the Islamist organization’s ideology and — more recently — a political weapon to wield against its growing adversaries in the Muslim world.
A lengthy column published in the Hamas mouthpiece Filasteen in January by Isam Shawar, translated by MEMRI, illustrates the manner in which Hamas is now using the Holocaust as a stick with which to beat Arab and Muslim advocates of dialogue with Israel.
Shawar’s principal target was Muhammad al-Issa, the former Saudi Arabian justice minister who now heads the influential Mecca-based Muslim World League (MWL). In a dramatic move in January 2018, al-Issa broke with the long tradition of Holocaust denial in Arab countries by issuing a statement to mark International Holocaust Memorial Day. Al-Issa spoke of the “evil” of Nazism and condemned the “denial of the Holocaust or minimizing of its effect a crime to distort history, and an insult to the dignity of those innocent souls who have perished.”
Instructively, before challenging al-Issa on the veracity of the Holocaust, Shawar first portrayed the MWL chief as an American stooge who was “leading an unprecedented campaign for normalization with the Israeli occupier, and is holding many meetings in Europe with Zionist extremists.”
More broadly, Shawar’s article demonstrated that Hamas vehemently objects to al-Issa’s vision of Islam — as al-Issa himself put it in an interview with The Algemeiner in February — as a “humane religion, and a religion of coexistence and tolerance…that calls its followers and all mankind to peace.”
Shawar wrote, “Dr Muhammad al-Issa says that the MWL’s motive in defining the Holocaust as a crime is purely humanitarian.”
In a reference to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December, Shawar continued: “We say [that it is] clearly political, and that it was coordinated with the ‘Slap of the Century’ plot against Jerusalem, Palestine, and the Palestinian people.”
“This is the first time in the history of the MWL that it mentions and condemns the Holocaust, even though it was founded over 50 years ago,” Shawar complained.
According to Shawar, however, there was no Holocaust to condemn. “All the scientific university studies have proven resolutely that the Holocaust in the dimensions that the Jews claim did not take place, and could not have taken place,” he wrote. “That is, it cannot be accepted as the truth.”
Those like al-Issa who claimed otherwise, Shawar said, should be ignored by the faithful. “Do not let the condemnation of the Holocaust by an institution presenting itself as Islamic mislead you, and do not believe one bit of it,” he wrote. “They are condemning, and shedding tears over, a tale that belongs only in museums, books, and Israeli stories, and also in the minds of the Arab normalization-seekers.”
In Shawar’s view, recognizing that the Nazis exterminated six million Jews as part of a broader program to eliminate the Jewish people is the same thing as recognizing Israel — and there is nothing to indicate that the leaders of Hamas disagree with him. Indeed, Article 17 of the new Hamas Charter issued last year dismissed “the Jewish problem” as a European concern, and one utterly disconnected from “the history of the Arabs and the Muslims or to their heritage.”
As al-Issa’s statement in January made clear, recognition of the Holocaust and its significance is an essential component of removing the dehumanized, conspiratorial view of the Jewish people that prevails in the Muslim world. Whether Hamas and its ideologues will now intensify their assault on al-Issa and the MWL is not yet clear; but if they do, it’s worth noting that the MWL — which runs the World Supreme Council for Mosques and maintains a Constituent Council of 60 of the world’s leading Muslim scholars — could prove to be a formidable foe.