Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Klaus-Michael Mallmann & Martin Cuppers, "Nazi Palestine" (English edition, 2010)

I am of two minds regarding this book, subtitled, "The Plans for the Extermination of the Jews in Palestine."

On one hand, it approaches a subject that is rarely written about, is very well researched, presents a compelling argument, and does not seem to have garnered criticism from experts on the subject. On the other, the translation or editing of the volume is shoddy, which gives the impression that the book was produced in much the same fashion. Additionally, the construction of the book's argument sometimes feels a little heavy-handed - not manufactured - but as if all evidence available leads inexorably towards a very few conclusions.

What does the book argue? Tracing the relationship between the Nazi plans for the Middle East, particularly Palestine, and the nascent Palestinian nationalism movements striving to throw off the colonial presence, Mallman and Cuppers make a convincing case for the Middle East as an overlooked realm of conflict in the Second World War, and one in which anti-Semitism played a pivotal role in bringing the Nazis and Palestinian/Muslim revolutionaries together.

An area where the book falls short, in my estimation (as someone who is not an expert on Middle Eastern history or politics), is in its attempts to link contemporary Palestinian/Israeli conflicts to events of the Second World War-era machinations of the Nazis. The Epilogue does offer an intriguing survey of contemporary positive references to Hitler, Nazis, and Nazi anti-semitic policies in Middle Eastern mass media, that does lend some credence to their argument for a connection between the past and the present.

On a personal note, I found the material discussing how the Nazis opted to build some flexibility into their racial policies, particularly for SS units, when the war on the Eastern front required more soldiers, and one of the candidate populations for willing recruits was Muslim anti-communists from the Caucasus. It was fascinating to read that the Germans were willing to provide halal food and imams for these troops, when the rhetoric of the Nazis more widely known and publicized makes such a compromise hard to conceive of.

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