23 August 09
Arab violence against Jews is often alleged to have begun with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 or as a result of Israel's capture in 1967 of territories occupied by Jordan. But even before the Mandate for Palestine was assigned to Great Britain by the Allies at the San Remo Conference (April 1920) and endorsed by the League of Nations (July 1922), Palestinian Arabs were carrying out organized attacks against Jewish communities in Palestine. Systematic violence began in early 1920 with murderous assaults by groups of local Arabs against settlements in the north and by Muslim pilgrims against Jerusalem's Jews. Again in 1921, Arab rioters attacked Jews in Jaffa and its environs. The primary agitator behind these attacks was Haj Amin al Husseini, who marshalled Arab discontent over Jewish immigration into violent riots.
In 1929, Husseini and his associates fomented a violent jihad as they called upon Muslims to "defend" their holy places from the Jews. As a result, pogroms were carried out across Palestine. Arab villagers sympathetic to Jews were often targets of murderous attacks by their Arab brethren as well. British forces were sharply criticized for not policing the territory adequately, for sympathizing with the Arabs, and for standing by and allowing havoc to be wreaked upon Jewish communities in Palestine.
In 1936, the Arab Higher Committee, led by Grand Mufti Husseini, launched a campaign of anti-Jewish violence across Palestine. Accompanied by a six-month-long strike, the campaign became known as "The Arab Revolt." As the British increasingly became targets of Arab violence, they used massive force to suppress the aggression. The revolt was finally quashed in 1939. The resulting White Paper of 1939 reversed British commitment to a Jewish State (the raison d'etre of the Mandate) and drastically limited Jewish immigration into Palestine.
1920-21: Attacks and Riots
Organized anti-Jewish violence began in earnest at the beginning of 1920. In January, Arab villagers attacked Tel Hai, a Jewish settlement in the Galilee near the Syrian border (then under French control), killing two members. Two months later, on March 1, 1920, hundreds of Arabs from a nearby village descended on Tel Hai again, killing six more Jews. Among them was Josef Trumpeldor — a Russian wartime hero who had fought in the Russo-Japanese war and who organized the defense of the settlements in the Galilee.
During the months of March and April, over a dozen Jewish agricultural settlements in the Galilee were attacked by armed Palestinian Arabs. These included Kfar Tavor, Degania, Rosh Pina, Ayelet Hashahar, Mishmar Hayarden, Kfar Giladi and Metulla. (Four of these — Hamara, Kfar Giladi, Metulla and Bnei Yehuda were evacuated after being repeatedly attacked, and the latter was completely abandoned.)
Around the same time, during the Passover and Easter holidays, a group of Palestinian Arab "Nebi Musa" pilgrims (making their annual pilgrimage from Jerusalem to the site they believed was Moses' tomb), were incited by Haj Amin al Husseini's anti-Jewish rhetoric to ransack the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and launch violent anti-Jewish riots. The violence, which took place between April 4 and April 7, claimed the lives of nine people — five Jews and four Arabs — and left 244 wounded, the vast majority Jews. The British military administration, sympathetic to the Arabs, did not allow the Jews to arm themselves.
Ze'ev (Vladimir ) Jabotinsky, a Russian journalist and Zionist activist, organized the defense of the Old City Jews with demobilized soldiers from the Jewish Legion who had participated in the British military campaign against the Ottomans. (Jabotinsky and Trumpeldor had organized and helped lead the Jewish volunteer military units that had fought with the British.) When the British authorities finally quelled the riots, Jabotinsky and 19 associates were arrested for possession of illegal weapons. Jabotinsky was stripped of his commission in Palestine, and was sentenced to 15 years of penal servitude. The Arab aggressors, by contrast, received much lighter sentences. Worldwide protests, however, forced the British to shorten and eventually revoke the sentences of Jabotinsky and his associates (as well as the incarcerated Arabs).
Haj Amin al Husseini
Meanwhile, Haj Amin al Husseini and other Arab leaders continued to incite against the Jews. On May 1, 1921, Arab rioters and policemen with knives, pistols and rifles took to the streets of Jaffa, beating and murdering Jews, and looting Jewish homes and stores. Twenty-seven Jews were killed and 150 were wounded. Attacks by Arab villagers spread to the Jewish communities of Petach Tikvah, Rehovot, Hadera, and as far north as Haifa. According to an Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine to the League of Nation, dated June 1921:
Troops were employed and suppressed the disturbances, and the attacks on the [Jewish] colonies were dispersed with considerable loss to the [Arab] attackers. Martial law was proclaimed over the area affected, but much excitement prevailed for several days in Jaffa and the neighbouring districts, and for some weeks there was considerable unrest. 88 persons were killed and 238 injured, most of them slightly, in these disturbances, and there was much looting and destruction of property. There were no casualties among the troops…
A commission of inquiry, led by Sir Thomas Haycraft, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Palestine, was set up to investigate the causes and circumstances of the riots and concluded that the violence was due to Arab resentment of Jewish immigrants to Palestine. As a result, the British High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, ordered a temporary halt to Jewish immigration. Ships carrying Jews were not allowed to land in Palestine.
In November 1921, another Arab attack on the Jewish quarter of the Old City was repelled by the Haganah, Jewish defense volunteers.
1928-1929: Jihad against Jews
Between 1918 and 1928, the Jewish population in Palestine doubled, to about 150,000. Palestinian Arabs were concerned about this and their leaders, with Haj Amin al Husseini at the forefront, fanned the flames of hatred and suspicion. Husseini, now the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, used the Western (Wailing) Wall — the last remnant of the Jewish Holy Temple compound — as a focal point for his anti-Zionist campaign.
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