Jeffrey Herf: Maryland historian links roots of radical Islam with Nazi propaganda





The diffusion of Nazi ideology in the Middle East during World War II via a well-oiled propaganda machine that was abetted by Arab nationalists was an important chapter in the history of radical Islam which reached full bloom only decades later, according to an American historian.

"A confluence of Nazi anti-Semitism and Muslim fundamentalism did take place during the war which was a mixture of ideological affinity and shared political interests," said Prof. Jeffrey Herf of the University of Maryland during a recent lecture at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism.

"Though Nazi Germany failed in its military and propaganda advances in the Middle East, the ideas it conveyed to the Arabs found adherence," Herf said, pointing to the charter of Hamas, which was established in 1987 and grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated calls for the destruction of Israel.

Herf, whose forthcoming book deals with Nazi Germany's propaganda aimed at the Middle East, said that while Islamic extremism could have emerged without Nazism it played an important role in its development.

"The history of radical Islam must include the history of the interaction between fascist Italy, Vichy France and above all Nazi Germany, and the radical Arab nationalists of the wartime years," he said.

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