The Grand Mufti: Haj Amin al-Hussiani, Founder of the Palestinian National Movement
by Zvi Elpeleg
Trans. from Hebrew by David Harvey and edited by Shmuel Himelstein. London: Frank Cass, 1993. 239 pp. $45.00
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
With the publication of Elpeleg's excellent biography, Hajj Amin al-Husayni is now the subject of six biographies in English alone, as well as several in other languages. Why so much attention to a seemingly minor and failed figure now repudiated by his own people? Because, as Elpeleg shows, Hajj Amin established many of the basics of Palestinian nationalism that endure to this day-from the adoption of the 1916 Sharifian banner as the Palestinian flag to the inveterate anti-Semitic tone of Palestinian politics. Elpeleg credits him, "more than any other figure," with turning a local conflict into a major regional crisis. More: Hajj Amin determined the lines of Palestinian politics that endure decades after his influence eroded: "There is almost nothing in the PLO doctrine, or in the national charters of the Palestine National Council, which had not already been conceived and given expression by Haj Amin."
Despite his profound importance, the man is neglected by his heirs today, embarrassed as they are by his overt extremism, his failure, and his smell of evil (he joined the Nazi cause and succeeded in preventing Jews from escaping the Nazi death machine). Still, along with Yasir Arafat, he remains one of the two outstanding figures of Palestinian nationalism; thanks to Elpeleg's meticulous, comprehensive, and fast-moving account, we have a real sense of who this figure was and how it was that he did uniquely much to poison relations between Jews and Muslims in Palestine.
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy, Palestinians | Daniel Pipes | June 1994 MEQ
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