1941, the press report that one time former chief of staff of the Egypian
army, General Aziz el Masri Pasha, then suspected of pro-Nazi sympathies,
was arrested with two acomplices, attempting to flee from Egypt to escape
1942, it is disclosed that the general, and his two accomplices (Egyptian
Air Force officers), had been released from custody on the orders of Premier
Mustapha el Nahas Pasha.
fall of 1951, the daily newspaper Al Misri reported that General Aziz El
Masry, former C-inC of the Egyptian army, had been asked to command the
"Liberation Legions" forming to fight against British occupation. It is
claimed that the general circulated a 64-page "Guerilla Textbook, profusely
illustrated with drawings of British soldiers impaled on Egyptian bayonets,
and being killed by Egyptian commados."
been unsuccessful in discovering any further mention of the gentleman under
review until March 14, 1953, when the Winnipeg Free Press printed the following:,
"ENVOY TO MOSCOW CAIRO
(Reuters) The Kremlin has approved the appointment of Field Marshal Aziz
El Masry, one of Egypt's best-known soldiers, as ambassador to Moscow.
led the "liberation battalions" that fought British troops in the Suez
Canal Zone last year."
of 1953, the newspaper Al Gumhurryia said Lt. Gen. Aziz El Masri had been
recalled from Moscow to join in talks here in Cairo. Official sources said
Egypt wants to have a well-defined foreign policy before resuming talks
with Britain on the Suez question. From this point on, the trail goes cold.
members whose interest has been aroused by this topic, may wish to know
that I intend to upload the contemporary newspaper reports referred to
above, to my photostream in the next day or so
University is a university in Alexandria, Egypt. It was established
in 1938 as a satellite of Fuad University (the name of which was later
changed to Cairo University), becoming an independent entity in 1942. It
was known as Farouk University until the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 when
its name was changed to the University of Alexandria. Taha Hussein was
the founding rector of Alexandria University. It is now the second largest
university in Egypt and has many affiliations to various universities for
A war not known about
that took place in Egyptian politics during 1938 was one that could be
described as a "war of statues". Professor Yunan Labib Rizk writes that
all of the influential political powers in the arena that year and up until
1942 took part
war of the statues began on the occasion of the completion of the Saad
Zaghloul statue erected in Alexandria. Upon the dismissal of El-Nahhas
Pasha's government on 30 December 1937, only a few final touches remained
related to the lighting and the design of a base that the Wafdist government
did not have enough time to complete.
first reference to the war was in the form of a long article published
by an Al-Ahram reader, Amin El-Gharib, in the 3 January 1938 issue. It
occupied an expansive area of pages one and 11, and was titled "Talk of
statutes -- on the occasion of the unveiling of Saad's statue."
were hastily under way to unveil the statue of Saad Zaghloul in Alexandria
at the time of the dismissal of El-Nahhas Pasha's government at the end
of 1937. Some imagined that the celebration of this occasion, the like
of which the king was accustomed to heading, would be delayed for an undetermined
period of time as had happened previously during the reign of King Fouad
with the unveiling of the "Egypt's Renaissance" statue. Yet many matters
had changed since the end of that king's reign and the beginning of the
reign of his successor, the young boy.
one hand, Farouq did not hold the same animosity towards Saad Zaghloul
or the nationalist movement that had existed during his father's reign,
particularly as he had surrounded himself with a number of men of acumen,
foremost Ali Maher, who were smarter than involving the palace in such
superficial issues. On the other, the political arena had changed with
the departure of El-Nuqrashi Pasha and Ahmed Maher from the Wafd Party
and their declaration of being closer to and more representative of the
statue's bearer. They even called themselves "Saadists," and called those
who remained in the Wafd Party under the old leadership "El-Nahhasists."
formed a faction composed of the strongest factions of the coalition government
formed under the premiership of Muhammad Mahmoud Pasha. It won the greatest
share in the council of representatives in the election held following
the dissolution of the Wafdist parliament subsequent to the dismissal of
the El-Nahhas government. It was natural that after all this change each
party would attempt to prove that it was responsible for the rush to unveil
the statue of the late leader in Alexandria.
yet another perspective, the intensifying pitch of the battle between the
two parties reminded the members of the old Watani Party. Following the
death of the late nationalist leader Mustafa Kamel Pasha in 1908, Egyptians
had contributed to the collection of the funds necessary to erect a stature
of him. Yet matters quickly shifted following his death with the shrinking
of the Watani Party, particularly after the 1919 revolution and the Wafd
Party and Saad Zaghloul occupying the leadership. Yet when the occasion
of the unveiling of Saad Zaghloul's statue arose, Watani Party members
seized the opportunity and became one of the parties to the coalition formed
by Muhammad Mahmoud Pasha. Thus, a new element was added to what rightfully
gained the name "the battle of statues," which began directly following
the appearance of Amin El-Gharib's article and which lasted throughout
THE EARLIEST NEWS
of the first battle over the unveiling of Saad's statue in Alexandria incited
suspicion. The news appeared on 15 January and stated that winds had been
strong over the previous weeks and had torn part of the covering placed
over the statue to the point that a section of its back was visible. It
went on to say that the Ministry of Public Works had placed a new covering
of white silk over the statue "until His Majesty the King can unveil it,
although the date of the celebration has not yet been determined."
of the issue dried up for about five months when one of the Saadist members
of the council of representatives asked the minister of public works, Hussein
Sirri Pasha, who was affiliated to the royal palace, about the date for
the unveiling of the statue of the "eternal leader." His reply was that
it would take place after work was completed in building the necessary
construction around the statue in terms of fences, slanting roofs, reflective
lights, and about a month following, that the square would be organised
and the garden would be landscaped, and... have mercy on me!
matter took up about another three months when one of the Alexandrian newspapers
published that the king would unveil the statue on 27 July, and that it
had reservations over this because the department of construction had not
done "what was asked of it in terms of organising the statue's base and
building steps under it. Neither has the municipality landscaped the garden
in which the statue is erected." This news item was the equivalent of a
cue to begin the battle of statues.
very next day there was news that a number of "Wafd committees" in numerous
districts of Cairo, Damietta, Quwisna and Heheya would hold celebrations
to honour the anniversary of the late leader's death. In response was news
that "Saadist Union committees" in Al-Gamaliya, Al-Ezbekiya, Abdin, Alexandria,
Akhmim and Aswan would hold celebrations for the same occasion.
in the palace did not fail to comprehend the purport of these celebrations.
Only two days passed before the government announced that the celebration
for the unveiling of the statue would be on Saturday 27 August but with
a change. After it had been determined that King Farouq himself would undertake
this duty, Ahmed Khesheba, the minister of justice, was deputised to it.
"At the head of those invited are the honourable members of the royal household,
the members of the senate and the council of representatives, the members
of the judiciary, scholars, religious figures, and members of the diplomatic
corps. Heading the ministers present will be Their Excellencies Ahmed Maher
and El-Nuqrashi Pasha, as well as the honourable lady, the mother of Egyptians
[Sophia Zaghloul, Saad's wife]."
closer the date of the unveiling celebration approached, the more intense
the battle between the El-Nahhasists and the Saadists grew. This was revealed
by the celebrations held on 23 August, on the occasion of the anniversary
of the passing away of the great leader. The El-Nahhasists gathered that
morning in the Saadist Club and went to Saad's tomb, where a spacious tent
was erected for that evening's recitation of the Qur'an. The Saadists gathered
in the Saad Zaghloul Club and then went to the tomb and then to "the mother
of Egyptians," and erected a large tent at Ismailia palace.
that the lords of Abdin had regained their sense of danger in the king
not participating in this celebration, as it was mentioned that the council
of ministers met two days before the festivities to amend parts of the
speech which the government's representative was to make on the occasion.
The change was not limited to the speech but rather extended to the celebration
itself. It was decided that the king would attend, a fact established by
Al-Ahram when it reported that it had been decided to set up a raised throne
in the centre of the area "allocated for the seating of His Majesty the
King. Around him will sit Their Excellencies the Vice Premier and the Ministers.
One of the royal guard's music troupes will be mandated to play the royal
anthem. The celebration's programme will begin with the Vice Premier giving
a speech and then turning to His Majesty and requesting him to remove the
curtain, at which point the King will rise and press a button especially
prepared for that purpose."
day determined for raising the curtain, Al-Ahram published on its front
page an article titled, "Eternalising the meaning of Saad." It began with
the following words: "Today Saad rises again on his feet in the world of
bodies at the entrance to the sea and at the heart of the Nile, but an
everlasting rising that refuses to decline." It included a poem by Ali
El-Garim Bey, an excerpt of which follows:
You lived free, and
so the best companionfor you after life is the open air
The birds boast of the
leader, fluttering their wings with love and loyalty
As the country sings of
the sky responds in song
following day, on 28 August 1938, Al-Ahram offered a detailed description
of what took place at the celebration in Alexandria. It began by pointing
out that it was the third El-Nahhas government that had decided in 1936
to take the measures to erect the statue, and that it had charged an Italian
sculptor with fashioning it. A site was chosen for it on a spot next to
the Ramla tram station between the Italian consulate and the Cecil Hotel,
in front of a grand line of imposing buildings in the direction of the
1937, the statue arrived from abroad. Its base was 14.5 metres square and
its height reached 5.5 metres. The garden surrounding it was nearly 10,000
metres square "and the costs of constructing the base reached nearly LE7,000,
while the costs of the sculpture's construction was LE5,000."
the celebration, it caught the attention of the Al-Ahram reporter in the
port city that the large pavilions set up in the area were filled to the
brim with revellers and those invited, who numbered nearly 1,000. At the
head of them was the prime minister and the ministers, the staff of the
royal palace and a number of former ministers, representatives from all
the religious sects, many businessmen, members of the chamber of commerce,
and lawyers, in addition to the masses on the streets who surrounded the
area hoping to see the sight of the veil being removed and the statue being
the Al-Ahram reporter also recorded two important observations related
to the ongoing war. The first was that the "mother of Egyptians" did not
attend the celebration despite the attempts of Ahmed Maher and El-Nuqrashi
to have her change her mind, as well as the repeated attempts by Ali Maher,
the head of the royal court, and Abdel-Fattah Yehyia, the deputy prime
minister. Yet the wife of the statue's bearer held firm to her position,
and we may interpret that as Mrs Sofia Zaghloul not wanting to get involved
in the differences held between the El-Nahhasists and the Saadists. She
considered them all the children of Saad, and she had expressed her anger
over the split between the two when she barred both of them from holding
their meetings in Beit Al-Umma [Zaghloul's home].
second observation was that the Wafd Party under the leadership of El-Nahhas
Pasha, despite the statue being constructed during its term, had preferred
to boycott the celebration. The successor to the leader who was the statue
bearer was intentionally outside the country on this occasion, in Montecatini,
where he was spending part of the summer.
greatly pleased by the "mother of Egyptians" not attending the unveiling
celebration. He telegraphed her and expressed his being touched by the
position of her not attending "the celebration of the unveiling of Saad's
statue in the absence of your children deeply devoted to his memory. I
thank you with all my heart."
the exception of that, the traditional customs of raising the curtain were
held. The king arrived at 5pm and stood next to the deputy prime minister
who gave a short speech that suggested loyalty to the king more than fidelity
to the statue bearer. At the end, the king raised the curtain.
approached the statute and most of those gathered walked behind him. "He
ascended several steps to the level of the base. The ground around the
base was covered with plant ornamentation, and the steps were covered with
a red carpet. His Majesty grabbed the cord tied to the statue's curtain
and tugged it, and the curtain fell. Saad Pasha was revealed, standing
straight with his head held high. Everyone in the area clapped spiritedly,
and the crowds cheered for the king and the memory of Saad." This cheering
ended the first battle in the war of statues.
THE SECOND BATTLE
revolved around the statue of Mustafa Kamel. It began when one of his supporters,
Shoukri Hafiz, formed a committee to work on bringing out the statue of
Mustafa Kamel, Egypt's first leader, as he put it, after being imprisoned
all those years. It was a call that was adopted by Muhammad Ali Alouba
Pasha, the head of the lawyers' guild, who wrote to Al-Ahram about how
this act would renew the memory of the youth of their heroes and make them
visible "so as to serve as an upright model. I don't want to have to remind
people that the statue of Mustafa Kamel is present, but imprisoned in his
school, and that setting it up would not cost much."
committee to erect the statue of Mustafa Kamel in one of the capital's
squares grew remarkably quickly. Branches of it spread in a number of the
university's colleges and a committee delegation visited the home of the
prime minister, Muhammad Mahmoud Pasha, who expressed to them his conviction
that Mustafa Kamel had undertaken momentous work, and that "the least he
deserves is a statue of him to be placed in one of the most important squares
of the capital."
occasion, someone who described himself as an "Alexandrian historian" wrote
to remind the old supporters of the Watani Party to strive to make officials
allow them to erect the statue of the first Egyptian national hero. He
ended his words with a request that stemmed from his affiliation to his
city when he wrote, "How nice it would be if the ministry permitted erecting
this statue in the city of Alexandria, for it is a city the deceased loved.
He chose its stages from which to give his enthusiastic nationalist speeches."
same time, a women's committee was formed to get across the same message.
It was led by the wife of Osman Labib, and called itself "The ladies' committee
for bringing out the imprisoned statue." It issued a statement that laid
out the glorious deeds of the late leader: the journalist who turned his
newspaper into an open school for the people, the man of society who set
examples for people that progress not supported by strong, upright morals
is on its way to collapse and national destruction, the man whose love
of Egypt steered his heart and soul. The statement ended by asking all
Egyptians, not only a certain institution or party, to participate in the
noble nationalist effort "to bring out the statue. which the nation has
same time, the committee succeeded in gaining the support of a number of
prominent personalities, led by Prince Omar Touson, who made the following
statement to its members: "I agree with all my heart that this statue of
Mustafa Kamel Pasha, built with the people's money, should be released.
This is not a wonder, for he placed the foundation stone of the nationalist
renaissance. I believe that his statue should have been released long ago."
February 1938, a public meeting was held in the courtyard of the Mustafa
Kamel School, where his statue stood. It was attended by members of the
committees in the Egyptian and Azhar universities and the college of science.
Speeches were given, and then the participants went to the Ministry of
Education where they met the minister, who recommended that they submit
their proposal to the cabinet at the first opportunity in order for it
to be studied. A higher committee was formed led by Alouba Pasha. It included
among its members the lawyer Fikri Abaza, a professor in the college of
commerce Ali El-Zini, professors in the college of law Wahid Ra'fat and
Ali Abu Heif, and two instructors in the college of engineering Ibrahim
Rifaat and Ibrahim Osman.
of the Watani Party did not miss this opportunity. Abdel-Rahman El-Rafai
Bey wrote a long article in the 10 February edition of Al-Ahram titled
"Mustafa Kamel -- the 30th anniversary of the founder of the nationalist
movement." In it he offered a summary of the life of this spiritual leader
and the role he had played in leading the nationalist movement. At the
end of the article, its purpose was revealed when the author asked Egyptians
to show loyalty to the late leader and stated that "releasing his statue
from its imprisonment is the first sign of this loyalty."
Ramadan Pasha, president of the Watani Party, did the same thing when he
wrote to Al-Ahram that he had received an open letter from the owner of
the French La Liberte newspaper expressing his surprise that the statue
of Mustafa Kamel remained imprisoned in the school bearing his name, and
that he did not know how Egyptians had failed to grasp the opportunity
of the date on which the Egyptian leader had departed this world -- 10
February -- to hold a celebration for him.
the many requests, the cabinet did not move on this until early September,
when it studied the matter in one of its meetings and took the decision
to erect the statue of the deceased in Ataba Square in Cairo, which at
that time had the name Queen Farida. The necessary measures were taken
to implement this decision in a short period of time.
decision was met with various opinions in the partisan press. While newspapers
inimical to the Wafd Party welcomed it, Al-Jihad newspaper, which was issued
at that time by the Wafd Party, saw it as a "new spirit of appreciation
for men." Another Wafdist newspaper, Al-Misri, viewed it as a response
to the "wave of anger that has washed over the government due to the virtuous
and honourable lady, the mother of Egyptians, excusing herself from attending
the celebration for the unveiling of the statue of the eternal leader Saad
that the opinion of the Wafdist press had some credit, evidenced by the
development of subsequent events. The government charged the department
of construction with drafting the design for the base of the statue in
the square agreed upon, and the work was to take six months to be completed,
during which time the ministry changed its position.
claimed during that period that the statute was too small to be placed
in such a large square, and it was decided to erect it in the smaller Sawaris
Square, which was famous as a stop for the cars of the company bearing
the protests of some newspapers, the square is where the statue eventually
was placed, and the name of the square changed from Sawaris to Mustafa
are at odds with each other with regard to the different incidents that
took place in various places as the reason for the outbreak of the 1936
to Yehuda Bauer, "the incident that is commonly regarded as the start of
the 1936 disturbances" occurred on 19th April 1936, when Palestinian Arab
crowds in Jaffa attacked Jewish passers-by.
view of Isa al-Sifri60, Salih Mas'ud Buwaysir and Subhi Yasin62, the first
spark was lit when an unknown group of Palestinian Arabs (Subhi Yasin describes
it as a Qassamist group including Farhan al-Sa'udi and Mahmud Dairawi)
ambushed fifteen cars on the road from Anabta and the Nur Shams prison,
robbed their Jewish and Arab passengers alike of their money, while one
of the three members of the group made a short speech to the Palestinian
Arabs, who formed the majority of the passengers, in which, according to
al-Sifri, he said "We are taking your money so that we can fight the enemy
and defend you."
Abd al-Wahhab al-Kayyali thinks that the first spark was lit before that
- in February 1936, when an armed band of Palestinian Arabs surrounded
a school which Jewish contractors were building in Haifa, employing Jewish-only
all sources rightly believe that the Qassamist rising, sparked off by Sheikh
Izz al-Din al-Qassam was the real start of the 1936 revolt.
the report of the Royal Commission (Lord Peel) which Yehuda Bauer regards
as one of the more authoritative sources written about the Palestine problem,
sidesteps (ignores) these immediate causes for the outbreak of the revolt,
and attributes the outbreak to two main causes: the Arabs' desire to win
national independence and their aversion to, and fear of, the establishment
of the "Jewish national home" in Palestine.
not difficult to see that these two causes are really only one, and the
words in which they are couched are inflated and convey no precise meaning.
Lord Peel mentions what he calls "secondary factors" which contributed
to the outbreak of the "disturbances." These are:
spread of the Arab nationalist spirit outside Palestine.
Jewish immigration since 1933.
fact that the Jews were able to influence public opinion in Britain. The
lack of Palestinian Arab confidence in the good intentions of the British
government. The Palestinian Arabs' fear of continued land purchases by
Jews. The fact that the ultimate objectives of the Mandatory government
were not clear.65
The way the then-leadership
of the Palestinian national movement understood the causes can be deduced
from the three slogans with which it adorned all its demands. These were:
stop to Jewish immigration.
of the transfer of the ownership of Palestinian Arab lands to Jewish settlers.
establishment of a democratic government in which Palestinian Arabs would
have the largest share in conformity with their numerical superiority.
these slogans, in the bombastic versions in which they were repeated, were
quite incapable of expressing the real situation, and in fact to a great
extent all they did was to perpetuate the control of the feudal leadership
over the nationalist movement.
the real cause of the revolt was the fact that the acute conflicts involved
in the transformation of Palestinian society from an Arab agricultural-feudal-clerical
one into a Zionist (Western) industrial bourgeois one, had reached their
climax, as we have already seen.
process of establishing the roots of colonialism and transforming it from
a British mandate into Zionist settler colonialism, as we have seen, reached
its climax in the mid-thirties, and in fact the leadership of the Palestinian
nationalist movement was obliged to adopt a certain form of armed struggle
because it was no longer capable of exercising its leadership at a time
when the conflict had reached decisive proportions.
of conflicting factors played a role in inducing the Palestinian then-leadership
to adopt the form of armed struggle:
Firstly: the Izz
al-Din al-Qassam movement.
Secondly: The series of
failures sustained by this leadership at a time when they were at the helm
of the mass movement, even with regard to the minor and partial demands
that the colonialists did not usually hesitate to yield to, in the hope
of absorbing resentment. (The British took a long time to see the value
of this manoeuvre; however, their interests were safeguarded through the
existence of competent Zionist agents.)
violence (the armed bands, the slogan of "Jewish labor only," etc.
) in addition to colonialist violence (the manner in which the 1929 rising
had been suppressed.)
discussion of the 1936-1939 revolt, a special place must be reserved for
Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam. In spite of all that has been written about
him, it is not too much to say that this unique personality is still really
unknown, and will probably remain so. Most of what has been written about
him has dealt with him only from the outside and because of this superficiality
in the study of personality several Jewish historians have not hesitated
to regard him as a "fanatical dervish," while many Western historians have
ignored him altogether. In fact it is clear that it is the failure to grasp
the dialectical connection between religion and nationalist tendencies
that is responsible for the belittling of the importance of the Qassamist
whatever view is held of al-Qassam, there is no doubt that his movement
(12th-19th November 1935) represented a turning point in the nationalist
struggle and played an important role in the adoption of a more advanced
form of struggle in confrontation with the traditional leadership which
had become divided and splintered in the face of the mounting struggle.
the personality of al-Qassam in itself constituted the symbolic point of
encounter of that great mass of interconnected factors which, for the purposes
of simplification, has come to be known as the "Palestine problem." The
fact that he was "Syrian" (born in Jabala on the periphery of Latakia)
exemplified the Arab nationalist factor in the struggle. The fact that
he was an Azharist (he studied at Al-Azhar) exemplifies the religious-nationalist
factor represented by Al-Azhar at the beginning of the century. The fact
that he had a record of engaging in nationalist struggle (took part in
the Syrian revolt against the French at Jabal Horan in 1919-1920 and was
condemned to death) exemplified the unity of Arab struggle.
came to Haifa in 1921 with the Egyptian Sheikh Muammad al-Hanafi and Sheikh
Ali al-Hajj Abid and immediately started to form secret groups. What is
remarkable in al-Qassam's activities is his advanced organizational intelligence
and his steel-strong patience. In 1929, he refused to be rushed into announcing
that he was under arms and, in spite of the fact that this refusal led
to a split in the organization, it did succeed in holding together and
to a well-known Qassamist, al-Qassam programmed his revolt in three stages,
psychological preparation and the dissemination of a revolutionary spirit,
the formation of secret groups, the formation of committees to collect
contributions and others to purchase arms, committees for training, for
security, espionage, propaganda and information and for political contacts
- and then armed revolt.
of those who knew al-Qassam say that when he went out to the Ya'bad hills
with 25 of his men on the night of 12th November 1935, his object was not
to declare the armed revolt but to spread the call for the revolt, but
that an accidental encounter led to his presence there being disclosed,
and in spite of the heroic resistance of al-Qassem and his men, a British
force easily destroyed them. It appears that when he realized that he could
no longer expand the revolt with his comrades, Sheikh al-Qassam adopted
his famous slogan: "Die as Martyrs."
due to al-Qassam that we should understand this slogan in a "Guevarist"
sense, if we may use the expression, but at the ordinary nationalist level,
the little evidence we possess of al-Qassam's conduct shows that he was
aware of the importance of his role as the initiator of an advanced revolutionary
This slogan was to bear fruit
immediately. The masses followed their martyr's body 10 kilometres on foot
to the village of Yajur. But the most important thing that happened was
the exposing of the traditional leaders in the face of the challenge constituted
by Sheikh al-Qassam.
leaders were as conscious of the challenge as was the British Mandate.
to one Qassamist, a few months before al-Qassam went into the hills he
sent to Hajj al-Amin al-Hussaini, through Sheikh Musa al-Azrawi, to ask
him to coordinate declarations of revolt throughout the country. Hussaini
refused, however, on the ground that conditions were not yet ripe. When
Al-Qassam was killed his funeral was attended only by poor people.
leaders adopted an indifferent attitude, which they soon realized was a
mistake. For the killing of al-Qassam was an occurrence of outstanding
significance which they could not afford to ignore. Proof of this is to
be found in the fact that representatives of the five Palestinian parties
visited the British High Commissioner only six days after the killing of
al-Qassam, and submitted to him an extraordinarily impudent memorandum
in which they admitted that "if they did not receive an answer to this
memorandum which could be regarded as generally satisfactory, they would
lose all their influence over their followers, extremist and irresponsible
views would prevail and the situation would deteriorate." They obviously
wanted to exploit the phenomenon of al-Qassam to enable them to take a
by his choice of the form of struggle al-Qassam had made it impossible
for them to retreat, and this in fact is what explains the difference between
the attitude of the Palestinian leaders to the killing of Sheikh al-Qassam
immediately after it happened, and the attitude they adopted at the ceremony
held on the fortieth day after his death. During these forty days they
discovered that if they did not try to mount the great wave that had been
set in motion by al-Qassam, it would engulf them. They therefore cast off
the indifference they had displayed at his funeral and took part in the
rallies and speeches at the fortieth day ceremony.
Hajj Amin al-Hussaini was to remain aware of this loophole in later times.
Even more than twenty years later the magazine Filastine, the mouthpiece
of the Arab Higher Committee, tried to give the impression that the Qassamist
movement was nothing but a part of the movement led by the Mufti, and that
the latter and al-Qassam had been "personal friends."
the British, they told the story of al-Qassam in the report on the incidents
of 1935 that they submitted to Geneva as follows:
were widespread rumors that a terrorist gang had been formed at the inspiration
of political and religious factors, and on November 7, 1935, a police sergeant
and a constable were following up a theft in the hills of the Nazareth
District, when two unknown persons fired on them, killing the sergeant.
. . This incident soon led to the discovery of a gang operating in the
neighborhood under the leadership of Izz al-Din al-Qassam, a political
refugee from Syria who enjoyed considerable prestige as a religious leader.
He had been the object of strong suspicion some years before, and he was
said to have had a hand in terrorist activities."
al-Qassam's funeral in Haifa was attended by very large crowds, and in
spite of the efforts made by influential Muslims to keep order, there were
demonstrations and stones were thrown. The death of al-Qassam aroused a
wave of powerful feelings in political and other circles in the country
and the Arabic newspapers agreed in calling him a martyr in the articles
they wrote about him."
British, too, were aware of the challenge represented by the killing of
al-Qassam, and they too tried to put the clock back, as is shown by the
view expressed by the High Commissioner in a letter he wrote to the Minister
for the Colonies. In this letter he said that if the demands of the Arab
leaders were not granted, "they would lose all their influence and all
possibility of pacification, by the moderate means he proposed, would vanish".
it was impossible to put the clock back, for the Qassamist movement was,
in fact, an expression of the natural pattern that was capable of coping
with the escalation of the conflict and settling it. It was not long before
this was reflected in a number of committees and groupings, so that the
traditional leadership was obliged to choose between confronting this escalating
will to fight among the masses or to quell their will and to put them under
the British took rapid action, and proposed the idea of a legislative assembly
and mooted the idea of stopping land sales, it was too late: The Zionist
movement, whose will began to crystallise very firmly at that time, played
its part in diminishing the effectiveness of the British offer. All the
same, the leadership of the Palestinian nationalist movement had not yet
decided its attitude, but was extraordinarily vacillating, and up to April
2nd, 1936 the representatives of the Palestinian parties were prepared
to form a delegation to go to London to tell the British government their
point of view.
things blew up before the leadership of the nationalist movement intended,
and when the first flames were ignited in Jaffa in February 1936, the leaders
of the Palestinian nationalist movement believed that they could still
obtain partial concessions from Britain through negotiations.
they were surprised by the following events. All who were closely associated
with the events of April 1936 admit that the outbreak of violence and civil
disobedience was spontaneous and that, with the exception of the acts instigated
by the surviving Qassamists, everything that happened was a spontaneous
expression of the critical level that the conflict had reached.
when the general strike was declared on 19th April 1936 the leadership
of the nationalist movement lagged behind. However, they soon got on the
bandwagon before it left them behind, and succeeded, for the reasons already
mentioned in our analysis of the social-political situation in Palestine,
in dominating the nationalist movement.
the organisational point of view the Palestinian nationalist movement was
represented by a number of parties, most of which were the vestiges of
the anti-Ottoman movements that had arisen at the beginning of the century.
This meant both that they had not engaged in a struggle for independence
(as was the case in Egypt, for example) and that they were no more than
general frameworks, without definite principles, controlled by groups of
notables and dependent on loyalties rooted in and derived from the influence
they enjoyed as religious or feudal leaders or prominent members of society;
they were not parties with organised bases.
from al-Qassam himself (and the Communists, naturally) not one of the leaders
of the Palestinian nationalist movement at this time possessed any organising
ability; even Hajj Amin al-Hussaini, who had unusual administrative
abilities, had no conception of organisation as applied to struggle.
responsibilities were most often based on individual talents in the subcommittees
and among the middle cadre. However, they were usually incapable of transforming
their abilities into policy.
eve of the revolt the situation of the representatives of the nationalist
movement in Palestine was as follows: with the dissolution of the Arab
Executive Committee in August 1934 six groups emerged:
Arab Palestine Party, in May 1935, headed by Jamal al-Hussaini;
it more or less embodied the policy of the Mufti and represented the feudalists
and big city merchants.
National Defence Party, headed by Raghib al-Nashashibi; founded in
December 1934 it represented the new urban bourgeoisie and the senior officials.
Independence Party, which had been founded in 1932, with Auni Abd
al-Hadl at its head. It included the intellectuals, the middle bourgeoisie
and some sectors of the petty-bourgeoisie; this contributed to its left
wing playing a special role.
Reform Party which, founded by Dr Husain al-Khalidi in August 1935,
represented a number of intellectuals.
National Bloc Party, headed by Abd al-Latif Salah.
The Palestine Youth Party,
headed by Ya'qub al-Ghusain.
This multiplicity was purely
superficial; it was not a clear and definite expression of the class configuration
in the country. The overwhelming majority of the masses were not represented
(according to Nevill Barbour 90% of the revolutionaries were peasants who
regarded themselves as volunteers).
at the class structure in Palestine in 1931 shows that 59% of the Palestinian
Arabs were peasants (19.1% of the Jews), 12.9% of the Arabs worked in construction
industry and mining (30.6% of the Jews). 6% of the Palestinian Arabs worked
in communications, 8.4% in commerce, 1.3% in the administration, etc.73
means that the overwhelming majority of the, population was not represented
in these parties which, although they represented the feudal and religious
leaders, the urban compradors and certain sectors of the intellectuals;
they were always subject to the leadership of the Mufti and his class,
which represented the feudal-clerical leaders, and was more nationalist
than the leadership which represented the urban bourgeoisie. The latter
was represented by the effendis at a time when they were starting to invest
their money in industry (this trend became more pronounced after the defeat
of the 1936-1939 revolt).
petty-bourgeoisie in general (small traders, shopkeepers, teachers, civil
servants and craftsmen) had no leadership. As a class they had had no influence
and no importance under the Turkish regime, which depended on the effendi
class, to which the Turks gave the right: of local government, due to the
fact that it had grown in conjunction with the feudal aristocracy.
labour movement was newly established and weak and was, as a result, exposed
to oppression by the authorities, crushing competition from the Jewish
proletariat and bourgeoisie, and persecution by the leadership, of the
Arab nationalist movement.
the Arab Higher Committee was' formed, with, Hajj Amin al-Hussaini at its
head, on 25 April 1936, Jamal al-Hussaini, the leader of the Arab Party,
had been dissatisfied by people's growing belief that the English were
the real enemy, and the National Defence Party which represented, first
and foremost, the growing urban comprador class, was not really disposed
for an open clash with the British.
two days earlier, on 23 April 1936, Weizmann, the leader of the Zionist
movement, had made a speech in Tel-Aviv in which he described the Arab-Zionist
struggle, which was beginning to break out, as a struggle between destructive
and constructive elements, thereby putting the Zionist forces in their
place as the instrument of colonialism on the eve of the armed clash. This
was the position on both sides of the field on the eve of the revolt!
countryside the revolt assumed the form of civil disobedience and armed
insurrection. Hundreds of armed men flocked to join the bands that had
begun to fan out in the mountains, Non-payment of taxes was decided on
at the conference held in the Raudat al-Ma'aref al-Wataniya college in
Jerusalem on May 7, 1936 and was attended by about 150 delegates representing
the Arabs of Palestine. A review of the names of the delegates made by
Isa al-Safri74 shows that it was at this conference that the leadership
of the mass movement committed itself to an unsubstantial alliance between
the feudal-religious leaderships, the urban commercial bourgeoisie and
a limited number of the intellectuals. The resolution adopted by this conference
was brief, but it was a clear illustration of the extent to which a leadership
of this kind was capable of reaching.
conference decided unanimously to announce that no taxes will be paid as
from May 15th, 1936 if the British government does not make a radical change
in its policy by stopping Jewish immigration."
British response to civil disobedience and armed insurrection was to strike
at two key points: the first was the organizational cadre which was, for
the most part, more revolutionary than the leadership, and the second the
impoverished masses who had taken part in the revolt and who in fact had
nothing but their own arms to protect them.
goes a long way towards explaining why the only two people who were comparatively
proficient at organisation - Auni Abed el-Hadi and Mohammad Azat Darwazeh
- were arrested, while the rest were subjected either to arrest or to harassment
to the extent that they were totally paralysed. This is shown by the fact
that 61 Arabs responsible for organising the strike (the middle cadre)
were arrested on May 23rd. However, these arrests did not prevent Britain
from giving permits to four of the leaders of the revolt, Jamal al-Hussaini,
Shibli al-Jamal, Abd al-Latif Salah and Dr Izzat Tannus to travel to London
and meet the Minister for the Colonies, which took place on June 12th.
There was nothing unusual about this incident, which was to be constantly
repeated throughout the subsequent months and years. The British High Commissioner
had observed with great satisfaction that "the Friday sermons were much
more moderate than `I had expected, at a time when feelings are so strong.
This was mainly due to the Mufti".
the outset the situation had been that the leadership of the Palestinian
nationalist movement regarded the revolt of the masses as merely intended
to exert pressure on British colonialism with the object of improving the
conditions of the masses as a class. The British were profoundly aware
of this fact, and acted accordingly. They did not, however, take the trouble
to grant this class the concessions it desired; London persisted in meeting
its commitments as regards handing over the colonialist heritage in Palestine
to the Zionist movement and, moreover, it was during the years of the revolt
- 1936-1939 - that British colonialism threw all its weight into performing
the task of supporting the Zionist presence and setting it on its feet,
as we shall see later.
British succeeded in achieving this in two ways: by striking at the poor
peasant revolutionaries with unprecedented violence, and by employing their
extensive influence with the Arab regimes, which played a major role in
liquidating the revolt.
The British Emergency Regulations played an effective role. AI-Sifri cites
a group of sentences passed at the time to show how unjust these regulations
were: "six years' imprisonment for possessing a revolver- 12 years far
possessing a bomb - five years with hard labour for possessing 12 bullets-
eight months on a charge of misdirecting a detachment of soldiers. nine
years on a charge of possessing explosives- five years for trying to buy
ammunition from soldiers- two weeks' imprisonment for possessing a stick
. . . etc."
to a British estimate submitted to the League of Nations, the number of
Palestinian Arabs killed in the 1936 revolt was about one thousand, apart
from wounded, missing and interned. The British employed the policy of
blowing up houses on a wide scale. In addition to blowing up and destroying
part of the city of Jaffa (June 18th, 1936) where the number of houses
blown up was estimated at 220 and the number of persons rendered homeless
at 6,000. In addition one hundred huts were demolished in Jabalia, 300
in Abu Kabir, 350 in Sheikh Murad and in Arab al-Daudi. It is clear
that the inhabitants of the quarters that were destroyed In Jaffa and of
the huts that were destroyed in the outskirts were poor peasants who had
left the country for the town. In the villages, according to al-Sifri's
estimate. 143 houses were blown up for reasons directly connected with
the revolt. These houses belonged to poor peasants, some medium peasants
and a very small number of feudal families.
Amir Abdullah of Transjordan and Nuri Said started to take
action to mediate with the Arab Higher Committee. However, their mediation
was unsuccessful, despite the readiness of the leadership to accept their
good offices. But the movement of the masses was not yet ready to be domesticated
in 1936 although these contacts did have a negative effect on the revolt,
and left a feeling that the conflict then in progress was amenable to settlement,
And in fact this initiative which started with failure was to be completely
successful in October of the same year, only about seven weeks later.
that these contacts were the only form assumed by the dialectic of the
relations between Palestine and the neighbouring Arab countries. This dialectic
was more complicated and reflected the complexity of the conflicts, We
have already seen what al-Qassam represented in this field; and in fact
the Qassamist phenomenon in this sense continued to exist. Large numbers
of Arab freedom fighters poured into Palestine; among them were Sa'id al-As,
who was killed in October 1936, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ashmar and many others.
This influx also comprised a number of adventurist nationalist officers,
the most prominent of whom was Fauzi al-Qawuqji who shortly after entry
into Palestine at the head of a small band in August 1936 declared himself
commander in chief of the revolt.
these men improved and expanded the tactics of the rebels, the greater
part of the burden of revolutionary violence in the country and of commando
action in the towns, continued to be borne by the dispossessed peasants.
In fact it was the "officers" who emerged from the ranks of the peasants
themselves who continued to play the major role, but most of them were
subject to the leadership of al-Mufti. They also represented legendary
heroism for the masses of the revolution.
the British officials in Palestine did not completely agree with London's
policy of reckless support for the Zionist movement, and thought that there
was room for an Arab class leadership whose interests were not linked with
the revolt, to cooperate with colonialism. Britain finally accepted, so
it seems, on June 19th, 1936, the "importance of the organic link between
the safety of British interests and the success of Zionism in Palestine".
Britain decided to strengthen its forces in Palestine and to increase repressive
by this decision, the leadership of the Palestinian nationalist movement
vacillated and lost its nerve. Hajj Amin al-Hussaini, Raghib Nashashibi
and Auni Abd al-Hadi hastened to meet the British High Commissioner, and
it is clear from reports he sent to his government at the time they confirmed
that they were prepared to end the revolt if the Arab kings asked them
to do so. They did not, however, dare to admit to the masses that they
were the originators; of this tortuous scheme, and repeatedly denied it.
this large numbers of British troops, estimated at twenty thousand, poured
into Palestine, and on 30th September 1936, when they had all arrived,
a decree was issued enforcing martial law. The mandatory authorities stepped
up their policy of relentless repression, and September and October witnessed
battles of the greatest violence - the last battles, in fact, to cover
nearly the whole of Palestine.
October 1936, the Arab Higher Committee distributed a statement calling
for an end to the strike, and thereby the revolt: "Inasmuch as submission
to the will of their Majesties and Highnesses, the Arab kings and to comply
with their wishes is one of our hereditary Arab traditions, and inasmuch
as the Arab Higher Committee firmly believes that their Majesties and Highnesses
would only give orders that are in conformity with the interests of their
sons and with the object of protecting their rights; the Arab Higher Committee,
in obedience to tire wishes of their Majesties and Highnesses, the Kings
and amirs, and from its belief ill the great benefit that will result from
their mediation and cooperation, calls on the noble Arab people to end
the strike and the disturbances, in obedience to these orders, whose only
object is the interests of the Arabs."
a month later (on 11th November 1936) the "General Command of the Arab
Revolt in Southern Syria-Palestine" announced that it "calls for all
acts of violence to be stopped completely, and that there should be no
provocation towards anything liable to disturb the atmosphere of the negotiations,
which the Arab nation hopes will succeed and obtain the full rights of
the country."80 Ten days later the same command issued another statement
in which it declared that it had "left the field, from its confidence in
the guarantee of the Arab kings and amirs, and to protect the safety of
al-Shuqairi says: "So, in obedience to the orders of the kings and amirs,
the strike was called off, and the activities of the revolt came to an
end within two hours of the call being published"
at that time Britain was challenging the Palestinian leaderships on precisely
the point over which they had deceived the masses - the question of Jewish
immigration to Palestine - and although these leaders decided to boycott
the Royal Commission (the Peel Commission), the Arab kings and amirs obliged
these leaderships to obey them for the second time in less than three months.
King Abdul Aziz Al Sa'ud and King Ghazi wrote letters to Hajj Amin al-Hussaini
saying: "In view of our confidence in the good intentions of the British
government to do justice to the Arabs, it is our opinion that your interest
requires that you should meet the Royal Commission". In fact this incident,
which appears trivial, shattered the alliance in the leadership of the
nationalist movement, as the forces to the right of Hajj Amin al-Hussaini,
led by the Defence Party, immediately opposed the decision to boycott the
Peel Commission, and gave numerous indications of their desire to accept
the settlement that Britain was to propose. The leaders of this party,
which represented mainly the urban effendis, relied on the discontent felt
by the big merchants in the towns and on the dislocation of the interests
of the urban bourgeoisie, which depended on close economic relations embodied
in the agencies they held from British, and sometimes Jewish, industrial
Arab regimes, especially that of Transjordan, strongly supported the attitude
of this right wing, and Hajj Amin al Hussaini and what he represented had
no inclination to turn to the leftist front which, in fact, he had started
to liquidate. Thus his attitude began to be increasingly vacillating and
hesitant, and it was clear that he had got into a position where he could
not take a single step forward with the revolt, and where, equally, retreat
could no longer do him any good. However, when the British thought that
they could now achieve the political liquidation of the Mufti in the period
of quiet that followed the end of the strike, they found that this was
not true, and that the Mufti's right wing was still much too weak to control
the situation. The British High Commissioner maliciously continued to realise
how great a role the Mufti could play while he was restricted to that position
between the Defence Party on his right and the' Independence Party (its
left wing) and the young intellectuals' movements on his left. This High
Commissioner realised Britain's ability to take advantage of the wide margin
between "the inflexibility (obstinacy) of the villagers who resisted for
six months, receiving little pay but not indulging in plunder" and the
weakness or non-existence of great qualities of leadership in the members
of the (Arab Higher) Committee."
correctness of the High Commissioner's view of the limited role that the
Mufti's right-wing could play was shown when the Defence Party failed to
take an unambiguous stand against the report of the Peel Commission, which,
published on 7th July 1937, recommended partition and the establishment
of a Jewish state.
same time, it became clear that the High Commissioner's fear that pressure
from the Mufti's left-wing might lead hum to abandon his moderate attitude
was not groundless. This pressure, however, was not exerted by the quarter
from which the High Commissioner had expected it, but by the middle cadre
which was still represented on the national committees, and which was daily
represented by groups of dispossessed peasants and unemployed workers in
the cities and the countryside.
the only course left to the Mufti was to flee. He avoided arrest by taking
refuge in the Haram al-Sharif, but events forced him into a position which
he had not been able to take up a year earlier. In September 1937 Andrews,
the District Commissioner of the Galilee district, was shot dead by four
armed commandos outside the Anglican church in Nazareth. Andrews was "the
only official who administered the Mandate as Zionists consider it right
... he never succeeded in winning the confidence of the Fellahin [Palestinian
peasants]." The Arabs regarded him as a friend of the Zionists and believed
that his task was to facilitate the transfer of Galilee to the Zionist
state that had been demarcated by the partition proposal. The Arab peasants
disliked him,, and accused him of facilitating the sale of the Huleh lands,
and the commandos who killed him are believed to have belonged to one of
the secret cells of the Qassamites.84
the Arab Higher Committee condemned this incident on the same night, the
situation, exactly as had happened when al-Qassam was killed, had got out
of the control of the Mufti and his group, so that, if they wanted to remain
at the head of the national movement, they had to hang onto it and mount
the rising wave, as had happened in April 1936.
time, however, the revolutionary enthusiasm of the masses was more violent,
not only because of the experience they had acquired during the past year,
but also because the conflict that was taking place before their eyes had
become increasingly clear. It is certain that this stage of the revolt
was directed substantially, if not entirely, against the British rather
than the Zionists. The growth of the conflict had led to the crystallisation
of more clear-cut positions; the peasants were in almost complete control
of the revolt, the role of the urban bourgeoisie had retreated somewhat,
and the wealthy people in the country and the big middle peasants were
hesitant to support the rebels, while the Zionist forces had effectively
gone on the offensive.
are two important questions to be considered as regards this stage of the
Arabs contacted the Zionists, proposing that they reach some kind of an
agreement on the basis of a complete severance of relations with Britain.
But the Zionists immediately rejected this, because they regarded their
relations with Britain as fundamental". This was accompanied by a rise
in the number of Zionists serving in the police in Palestine; from 365
in 1935 to 682 in 1936. and at the end of that year the government announced
the recruitment of 1240 Zionists as additional policemen armed with army
rifles. A month later the figure rose to 286386 and British officers played
a prominent role in leading Zionist groups in attacks on Palestinian Arab
fact that the leadership of the revolt was outside Palestine (in Damascus)
made the role of the local leadership, most of which were of poor peasant
origin, more important than it had been in the previous period. These were
closely linked with the peasants. This does much to explain to what extent
the revolt was able to go. In this period, for example, Abd al-Rahim al-Hajj
emerged as a local commander, and the Communists say that they were in
contact with him and supplied him with information. This development might
have constituted a historic turning point in the revolt had it not been
for the weakness of the "left" in both the relative and the true sense,
and had not these local commands been obliged to maintain their organisational
link, to a certain extent, with the "Central Committee for Struggle" (Jihad)
in Damascus, not only because of their traditional loyalty to it, but also
because they depended on it to some extent for financing.
In the whole history of
the Palestinian struggle the armed popular revolt was never closer to victory
than in the months between the end of 1937 and the beginning of 1939. In
this period the British forces' control of Palestine weakened, the prestige
of colonialism was at its lowest, and the reputation and influence of the
revolt became the principal force in the country.
at this time, Britain became more convinced that it would have to rely
on Zionists who had provided them with a unique situation that they had
never found in any of their colonies - they had at their disposal a local
force which had common cause with British colonialism and was highly mobilised
against the local population.
time Britain began to be alarmed at the necessity of diverting part of
its military forces to confront the ever more critical situation in Europe.
Therefore Britain viewed with increasing favour "the rapid organisation
of a Jewish volunteer defense force of 6,500 men already in existence."It
had already gone some way in pursuing a policy of relying on the local
Zionist force and handing over to it many of the tasks of repression, which
were increasing. However, it did not destroy the bridge which it had always
maintained with the class led by the Mufti, and it was in this field and
at this time in particular that the British played a major role in maintaining
the Mufti as the undisputed representative of the Palestinian Arabs. Their
reserves of the leadership on the right of the Mufti were practically exhausted
so that if the Mufti were no longer regarded as the sole leader, this would
"leave no-one who can represent the Arabs except the leaders of the revolt
in the mountains", as the British High Commissioner for Palestine said.89
There can be no doubt that this, among other reasons, contributed to keeping
the Mufti at the head of the leadership of the Palestinian nationalist
movement in spite, of the fact that he had left his place of refuge in
the Aqsa Mosque in a hasty manner, and had been in Damascus since the end
of January 1937.
oppression, which had escalated to an unexpected level, and the escalation
of police raids, mass arrests and executions throughout 1937 and 1938 weakened
the revolt but did not end it. The British had come to realise that both
in essence and substance, and as regards its local leadership, it was a
peasant revolt. As a result of this, the revolutionary spirit that prevailed
throughout the whole of Palestine led to everyone in the towns wearing
the peasant headdress (keffiya and agal) so that the countryman coming
into the town should not be subjected to oppression by the authorities.
Later, all were forbidden to carry their identity cards, so that the authorities
should not be able to distinguish a townsman from a countryman.
situation indicates very clearly the nature of the revolt and its influence
at that time. The countryside in general was the cradle of the revolt,
and the temporary occupation of towns in 1938 was achieved after attacks
by peasants from outside. This meant that it was the peasants and villagers
in general who were paying the highest price.
a number of peasants were executed merely for being in possession of arms.
A rapid glance at the list of the names of those who were sent to prison
or to the gallows shows us that the overwhelming majority were poor peasants.
For example, "all the inhabitants of the village of Ain Karem, three thousand
in number, were sentenced to go ten kilometres every day to report to the
police station."91 During that period Britain sentenced about 2,000 Palestinian
Arabs to long terms of imprisonment, demolished more than 5,000 houses
and executed by hanging 148 persons in Acre prison, and there were more
than 5,000 in prison for varying terms.
which in November 1938 had abandoned the partition proposal recommended
by the Peel Report, now started trying to gain time. The Round Table Conference
held in London in February 1939 was a typical illustration of the dubious
transaction that was going on silently all the time between the command
of the Palestinian revolt and the British, who knew for certain that the
command was prepared to bargain at any moment. Of course Jamal al-Hussaini
did not go to the Round Table Conference in London alone; he was accompanied
by representatives of the "independent" Arab countries. Thus the Arab regimes
which were subject to colonialism were destined for the second time in
less than two years to impose their will on the Arabs of Palestine through
the identity (latent and potential) of interests of all those who sat around
the Round Table in London.
speeches made by Jamal al-Hussaini, Amir Faisal (Saudi Arabia), Amir Hussein
(the Yemen), All Mahir (Egypt) and Nuri al-Sa'id (Iraq), who declared that
he was speaking as a close friend of Britain and who did not want to say
a single word that might hurt the feelings of any Briton, because he was
their friend from the bottom of his heart, only confirmed the success of
the policy which Britain had for so long been carefully pursuing vis-a-vis
the leadership of the Palestinian nationalist movement; it did not abandon
it, and kept it constantly at the end of an open bridge. And the British
were confident that Iraq and Saudi Arabia "were prepared to use their influence
with the Palestinian leaders to put an end to the revolt and ensure the
success of the Conference."
the revolt in Palestine had not subsided (according to official figures,
in February 1939, 110 were killed and 112 wounded in 12 engagements with
the British, 39 villages were searched, curfews were imposed in three towns
three times, about 200 villagers were arrested, there were fires in five
government departments, ten Arabs were executed on charges of carrying
arms, there were attacks on ten Zionist settlements, the oil pipeline was
blown up; a train between Haifa and Lydda was mined, and a search post
was set up in the Aqsa Mosque).
British figures presented by the Colonial Secretary show that "between
20th December and 29th February, there were 348 incidents of assassination,
140 acts of sabotage, 19 kidnappings, 23 thefts, nine mine and 32 bomb
explosions, while the Army lost 18 dead and 39 wounded, and the Palestinians
lost 83 dead and 124 wounded; these figures do not include casualties to
the rebels. . "
continued in this way until September 1939, the month in which the Second
World War broke out. In the meantime the Palestinian Arabs suffered irreplaceable
losses; the leadership quite apart from the spirit of compromise that was
afoot, was outside the country; the newly constituted local commands were
falling one after the other on the various fields of battle, British oppression
had reached its climax, and Zionist violence had been constantly escalating
since the middle of 1937. There can be no doubt that the British concentrated
presence and the persistence that accompanied it in the Palestinian theatre
had exhausted the rebels, who, with their leadership, no longer really
knew who they were fighting against or why. At one moment the leadership
would talk of traditional friendship and common interests with Britain,
at another went so far as to agree to the granting of autonomy to the Jews
in the areas where they were settled. There can be no doubt that the vacillation
of the leadership, and its inability to determine a clear objective to
fight for, played its part in weakening the revolt.
this must not lead us to neglect the objective factor: the British used
two divisions of troops, several squadrons of planes, the police, and the
Transjordan Frontier Force, in addition to the six thousand strong quasi-Zionist
force; all this was thrown in to gain control of the situation. (The Peel
Commission admitted that security expenditure in Palestine had risen from
PL 826,000 in 1935 to PL2,223,000 in 1936).
campaign of terrorism and the efforts that were made to cut the rebels'
links with the villages, exhausted the revolt. The killing of Abd al-Rahim
al-Hajj Muhammad in March 1939 came as a crushing blow to the revolt, depriving
it of one of the bravest, wisest and most honest of the popular revolutionary
leaders. After that the local commands started to collapse and leave the
field. Moreover, the Franco-British rapprochement on the eve of the Second
World War certainly made it easier to surround the rebels; Arif Abd al-Razzaq,
worn out by hunger and pursuit, was handed over to the French, along with
some of his followers; Jordanian forces arrested Yusuf Abu Daur and handed
him over to the British, who executed him. Also British and Zionist terrorism
in the villages had made people afraid to support the rebels and supply
them with ammunition and food, and doubtless the lack of even a minimum
of organisation made it impossible to surmount these obstacles.
time the Palestinian Communist Party attributed the failure of the revolt
to five principal causes:
absence of the revolutionary leadership;
individualism and opportunism of the leaders of the revolt.
lack of a central command for the forces of the revolt,
weakness of the Palestinian Communist Party.
inauspicious world situation.
whole, this is correct, but to these causes must be added the fact that
the Communist Party was close to the leadership of Hajj Amin al-Hussaini,
whom they viewed as "belonging to the most extremely anti-imperialist wing
of the nationalist movement", while it regarded his enemies as "feudalist"
traitors. And this in spite of the fact that the Mufti's group had absolutely
no hesitation in liquidating leftist elements who tried to penetrate labour
Communist left, in addition to being weak, was incapable of reaching the
countryside; it was concentrated in certain towns. It had failed to Arabise
the Party, as the Seventh Comintern Congress had recommended, and was still
a victim of its restricted view of Arab unity, and of relations, as far
as the struggle was concerned, with the rest of the Arab homeland, which
had organisational repercussions,
clear that the shortcoming that was mainly responsible for this defeat
was the great gap caused by the rapid movement of society in Palestine
which, as we have seen, was undergoing an extremely violent transformation
from an Arab agricultural society into a Jewish industrial one. This was
the real reason why the Arab nationalist bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie
did not play their historical role in the Palestinian nationalist movement
at the time, and allowed the feudal religious leaders to lead this movement
for a long period without rivals.
Abd al-Wahhab al-Kayyali adds other important causes. "Weariness with fighting,"
he says, "constant military pressure, and the hope that some aspects of
the White Paper would be applied, in addition to the lack of arms and ammunition,
all played their part in making it difficult to continue the revolt. Moreover,
in view of the fact that the world was on the brink of the Second World
War, France suppressed the rebels' headquarters in Damascus."
this we can add two important interconnected factors which can be discussed
together, as they played a prominent role in frustrating the revolt. They
are the attitude of Transjordan as embodied in the attitude of the subservient
regime led by the Amir Abdullah, and the activity carried on by agents
of the counter-revolution in the interior who were on the periphery of
the terrorist activities of the British and Zionist forces.
Defence Party, led by Raghib Nashashibi, played the role of legal representative
of the subservient Transjordan regime in the Palestinian nationalist movement.
This link was probably a kind of camouflage because of the Party's inability
to reveal the links of subservience which connected it with British colonialism
in the midst of a battle in which the principal enemy was that same colonialism.
Therefore the link with the regime in Transjordan was a sort of camouflage
accepted by both sides. The Defence Party consisted of a small group of
urban effendis who chiefly represented the interests of the rising comprador
bourgeoisie and had begun to discover that its existence and growth depended
on its being linked not only with British colonialism but also with the
Zionist movement which controlled the industrial transformation of the
Palestinian economy. Because of this class situation it is possible to
sum up their history by saying that they "cooperated with the occupation
authorities in the administrative field and with Zionism in the commercial
field, sold land to the Jews, acted as brokers, disseminated misgivings,
impeded nationalist activity, strengthened the link between Abdullah and
Hussain and the Zionists in 1923-1924 supported immigration and the Mandate
in the twenties and partition in the thirties, advocated the establishment
of a Jewish national home in part of Palestine and the surrender of the
other part to Transjordan ... etc."
the Amir Abdullah of Transjordan was suppressing the Transjordanian mass
movement which, on its own initiative, had decided at the popular conference
held with Mithqal al-Faiz in the chair in the village of Umm al-Amd, to
support the Palestinian revolt with men and material, the British decided
to consider Transjordan as part of the field of action against the activities
of the Palestinian rebels.
role played by the subservient Transjordan regime was not restricted to
this; it closed the roads to Iraq to prevent any support arriving, and
restricted the movements of the Palestinian leaders who, after the construction
of the barbed wire entanglement along the northern frontier of Palestine,
had been obliged to increase their activities from Transjordan. The regime's
activities culminated in the arrest in 1939 of two Palestinian leaders.
One of them, Yusuf Abu Durrar, was handed over to the British whereupon
he was executed.
time, the forces of the Transjordan regime were engaged side by side with
the British troops and the Zionist gangs in hunting down the rebels. There
can be no doubt that this role played by the Transjordan regime encouraged
elements of the internal counter-revolution to step up their activities.
A number of the Defence Party leaders took part in the establishment of
what they called "peace detachments," small mercenary forces which were
formed in cooperation with the English, and helped to hunt down the rebels,
took part in engagements with them and evicted them from some of the positions
they controlled. Fakhri al-Nashashibi was a leader of one of these divisions,
in arming them and directing their activities ... this led to his being
killed a few months after the end of the revolt. Before that, the savage
British campaign to disarm the whole of Palestine had depended on "encouraging
elements hostile to the Mufti to supply them (the British) with information
and to identify rebels." The attitudes of Iraq and Saudi Arabia at that
time were not much better than that of the Jordanian regime. At the London
Conference they had expressed their readiness "to use their influence with
the Palestinian leaders to put an end to the revolt." But all this could
not make the leaders of the counter-revolution (the agents of the British)
a force that had any weight with the masses. On the contrary, it strengthened
the Mufti and his leadership, whereas the encouragement of counter-revolutionary
elements was intended, among other things, to curb the Mufti and confine
him within a field that could eventually be controlled. Throughout, the
British acted in accordance with their conviction that al-Nashashibi could
never be a substitute for the Mufti.
small marginal degree of manoeuvreability of the Mufti's command, which
was the result of the minor disputes their in progress between French colonialism
in Syria and Lebanon and British colonialism, was not capable of leading
to a radical change in the balance of power, and it soon contracted to
the point where it hardly existed at all on the eve of the War.
facts as a whole show that the Palestinian revolt was attacked and received
blows in its three most vital points:
subjective point - meaning the incapacity, vacillation, weakness,
subjectivity and anarchy of its various leaders.
The Arab point - meaning
the collusion of the Arab regimes to frustrate it at a time when the weak
popular Arab nationalist movement was only interacting with the Palestinian
revolt in a selective, subjective and marginal way.
international point.- meaning the immense disequilibrium in the
objective balance of power which resulted from the alliance of all the
members of the colonialist camp with each other and also with the Zionist
movement, which was henceforward to have at its disposal a considerable
striking force on the eve of the Second World War.
The best estimate of Arab
human losses in the 1936-39 revolt is that which states that losses in
the four years totaled 19,792 killed and wounded; this includes the casualties
sustained by the Palestinian Arabs at the hands of the Zionist gangs in
the same period.
estimate is based on the first conservative admissions contained in official
British reports, checked against other documents.102 These calculations
establish that 1200 Arabs were killed in 1936. 120 in 1937, 1200 in 1938
and 1200 in 1939. In addition 112 Arabs were executed and 1200 killed in
various terrorist operations. This makes the total of Arabs killed in the
1936-39 revolt, 5,032, while 14,760 were wounded in the same period.
numbered about 816 in 1937, 2,463 in 1938, and approximately 5,679 in 1939.
real significance of these figures can be shown by comparisons. In relation
to numbers of inhabitants, Palestinian losses in 1936-39 are equivalent
to losses by Britain of 200,000 killed, 600,000 wounded and 1,224,000 arrested.
In the case of America the losses would be one million killed, 3 million
wounded and 6,120,000 arrested!
the real and most serious losses lay in the rapid growth of both the military
and economic sectors which laid the foundations of the Zionist settler
entity in Palestine. It is no exaggeration to say that this economic and
military presence of the zionists, whose links with Imperialism grew stronger,
established its principal foundations in this period (between 1936 and
1939) and one Israeli historian goes so far as to say that "the conditions
for the Zionist victory had in 1948 been created in the period of the Arab
general policy followed by the Zionists during this period can be seen
in their profound determination to avoid any conflict between themselves
and the mandatory authorities, even at a time when the latter, hard-pressed
by the Arab rebels, were obliged to refuse some of the vigorous demands
of the Zionist movement.
Zionists clearly knew that if they gave the British - who at the time had
the strongest and most aggressive colonial army in the world - the chance
to crush the Arab revolt in Palestine, this army would be doing a greater
service to their schemes than they ever could have dreamed of.
the main Zionist plans ran along two parallel lines: the closest possible
alliance with Britain - to the extent that the 20th Zionist Congress held
in the summer of 1937, expressed its readiness to accept partition in its
determination to conciliate Britain and avoid any clash with it. Such a
policy was pursued so as to allow the colonialist empire to crush the Arab
revolt that had broken out again that summer.
other line of their policy consisted of the continuous internal mobilization
of Zionist settler society, under the slogan adopted by Ben Gurion at the
time of "no alternative," which emphasized the necessity of laying the
foundations of a military society and of its military and economic instruments.
question of the greatest possible conciliation with the British, in spite
of the fact that they had, for example, taken steps to reduce Jewish immigration,
was a pivotal point in the history of Zionist policy during that period,
and in spite of the fact that there were in the movement certain elements
that rejected what was called "self-control," the voice of this minority
had no effect. The law that led the policies of the Zionists during that
period was that summarized by Weizman who said: "There is a complete similarity
of interests between the Zionists and the British in Palestine."
this period, cooperation and interaction between the two lines of policy:
(1) alliance with the British mandate to the greatest possible extent,
and (2) the mobilization of the Jewish settler society; had extremely important
Jewish bourgeoisie took advantage of the spread of the Arab revolt to implement
many of the projects that they would not have been able to implement under
different circumstances. Suddenly freed from the competition of cheap**
Palestinian Arab agricultural produce, this bourgeoisie proceeded to take
action to promote its economic existence. Naturally it was not possible
to do this without the blessing of the British.
the revolt the Zionists and the mandatory authorities succeeded in building
a network of roads between the principal Zionist colonies and the towns
which were later to constitute a basic part of the infrastructure of the
Zionist economy. Then the main road from Haifa to Tel-Aviv was paved, and
the Haifa harbor was expanded and deepened, and a harbor was constructed
at Tel-Aviv which was later to kill the port of Jaffa. In addition the
Zionists monopolized contracts for supplying the British troops who had
started to flood into Palestine.
Zionist colonies were established between 1936 and 1939, and in between
1936 and 1938, Jews invested PL1,268,000 in building works in five Jewish
towns, as against only PL120,000 invested by Arabs in 16 Arab villages
in the same period. Jews also engaged extensively in the British security
projects undertaken to absorb and employ large numbers of unemployed Jewish
workers, who were constantly increasing in numbers on the frontiers of
Palestine, for which "the British employed Jewish labor at a cost of PL100,000
to build"104 as well as dozens of other projects.
published later give us a more accurate idea: the value of exports of locally
manufactured goods rose from PL478,807 in 1935 to nearly double that figure
(PL896,875) in 1937, in spite of the revolt.105 This can only be explained
by the greatly increased activity of the Jewish economy.
scope of this mobilization expanded from the economic field, in alliance
with the Mandate, to the military field, in collusion with it.
British realized that their Zionist ally was qualified to play a role that
no one else could play so well. In fact, Ben-Gurion is only telling part
of the truth when he admits that the number of Jewish recruits in the quasi-police
force armed with rifles rose to 2,863 in September 1936, for this was only
a part of the Jewish force - there were 12,000 men in the Haganah in 1937,
in addition to a further 3,000 in Jabotinski's National Military Organization.106
The alliance of these, as the real representatives of the Zionist movement,
with British colonialism, led to the idea of a "Quasi-Police Force" in
the spring of 1936. The idea served as a cover for the armed Zionist presence
which enjoyed the blessing and encouragement of the British.
force served as a transition period for some months, during which the Haganah
prepared to move, at the beginning of 1937, to a new stage. Not only were
the British aware of this, they actually helped it to take shape. This
stage consisted of forays by patrols and limited operations against the
Palestinian Arabs, the main object of which was to distract and confuse
them. It would have been quite impossible to advance to this stage and
at the same time to maintain the "truce" (the alliance) with the Mandatory
authorities had this not been the result of a joint plan. Ben Gurion affirms
that the additional Zionist police farce made an ideal "framework" for
the training of the Haganah.
summer of 1937 this force was given the name "Defense of the Jewish Colonies",
which was later changed to "Colony Police". It was organised under the
supervision of the British Mandate throughout the length and breadth of
the country, and the British undertook to train its members. In 1937 it
was strengthened with 3,000 new members, all of whom played a direct role
in repressive operations against the Palestinian rebels, especially in
the North. In June 1938 the British decided that offensive operations must
be undertaken against the rebels. They therefore held instruction courses
on this subject which provided training to large numbers of Haganah cadres,
who later became cadres of the `Israeli' army. At the beginning of 1939,
the British army organized ten groups of Colony Police into well armed
groups, which were given Hebrew names. Members of this force were allowed
to abandon the Qalbaq, the official headgear, for the Australian bush hat,
to make them even more distinctive. These groups totalled 14,411 men, each
being commanded by a British officer, who was assisted by a second in command
appointed by the Jewish Agency. By the spring of 1939 the Zionists also
had 62 mechanised units of eight to ten men each.
spring of 1938 the British command decided to entrust to these Zionist
elements the defense of railways between Haifa and Ludd that were blown
up frequently by Palestinian commandos, and sent 434 members to execute
this mission. However, only six months later the Jewish Agency had succeeded
in raising their numbers to 800. This development was not only of service
in the building up of Zionist military strength, but also helped to absorb
and employ large numbers of unemployed Jewish workers, who were constantly
increasing in numbers in the towns. In this way the Jewish proletariat
was directed to work in repressive organizations, not only in British security
projects directed against the revolt, but also in the Zionist military
foundations of the Zionist military apparatus were laid under British supervision.
The Zionist force which had been'' entrusted with the defence of the Haifa-Lydda
railway was later given the defence of the oil pipeline in the Bashan plain.
This pipeline, which had been recently constructed (1934) to bring oil
from Kirkuk to Haifa, had several times been blown up by the Palestinian
was of great symbolic value, The Arab rebels, who were aware of the value
of the oil to the British exploiters, blew up the pipeline for the first
time near Irbid on 15 July 1936. It was later blown up several times near
the villages of Kaukab, Hawa. Mihna Israil, Iksal, and between at-Ufula
and Bashan, and at Tell Adas, Bira, Ard al-Marj, Tamra, Kafr Misr, Jisr
al-Majami, Jinjar, Bashan and Ain Daur. The British were unable to defend
this vital pipeline, and admitted as much, that the "pipe" as the Palestinian
Arab peasants called it, was enshrined in the folklore which glorified
acts of popular heroism.
rate, the British secured minimum protection for the pipeline in two ways.
Inside Palestine it was defended by Zionist groups while in Jordanian territory
the task of guarding it was given to "Shaikh Turki ibn Zain, chief of the
Zain subdivision of the Bani Sakhr tribe, whom the company authorized to
patrol the desert by any means necessary."109
Gurion almost reveals this fact directly when talking about British efforts
to establish a Zionist Air Force, whose task was to be to safeguard these
British in an early stage were able to see the strategy called by the Americans
30 years later "Vietnamization". This was extremely important, because
it was this incident that strengthened Britain's conviction that the formation
of a Zionist striking force would solve many problems connected with the
defence of Imperialist interests accompanied by efforts to form a Zionist
armed force to protect these interests.
field the British officer Charles Orde Wingate played a prominent role
in translating the British-Zionist alliance into practical action. Zionist
historians try to give the impression that Wingate's efforts were the consequence
of personal temperament and "idealistic" devotion. But it is clear that
this intelligent officer, who was sent to Haifa by his chiefs in the autumn
of 1937, had been entrusted with a specific task - the formation of the
nuclei of striking forces for the Zionist armed force which had been in
existence for at least six months, but which needed crystallisation and
British officer, whom "Israeli" soldiers regard as the real founder of
the "Israeli" army, made the pipe-line problems his special task, However,
this task led on to a series of operations involving terrorism and killing,
and it was Wingate who took upon himself the task of teaching his pupils
at Ain Daur - among whom was Dayan - to become an expert in such operations.
can be no doubt that, in addition to his qualifications as an experienced
imperialist officer, Wingate was equipped with an unlimited racialist hatred
for the Arabs. It is clear from the biographies written by those who knew
him that he enjoyed killing or torturing Arab. peasants, or humiliating
them in any way.
imperialists like Wingate, and through reactionary leaders of the
type of the Amir Abdullah the British were making it possible for the Zionist
movement to become at both military and economic levels, a beach-head to
guard their interests. All this happened from the conviction of all concerned
that the leadership of the Palestinian nationalist movement was not sufficiently
revolutionary to enable it to stand up to these closely united enemies.
midst of all this, the Palestinian nationalist movement, which had been
paralysed by the subjective factors we have mentioned and the violent attacks
launched both by the British and the Zionists, was in a difficult situation
on the eve of the Second World War. The claims of some historians that
the Arabs "stopped" their revolt to allow the British to wage its world
war against Nazism, are naive, and refuted not only by the facts, but also
by the fact that Hajj Amin al-Hussaini took refuge in Nazi Germany
throughout the war.
picture as a whole represents the political and social map that prevailed
through the years 1936-1939. It is this situation, with the dialectical
relations involved in it, that explains the stagnation of the Palestinian
nationalist situation throughout the war. When the war ended, the British
found that the Palestinian nationalist movement had been pretty well tamed:
its head was broken and scattered, its base had been weakened and its social
fabric worn out and disintegrated as a result of the violent change that
was taking place in society and of the failure of its leaderships and parties
to organise and mobilise it and also as a result of the weakness and confusion
of the left and the instability of the nationalist movement in the neighbouring
the Zionist movement entered the forties to find the field practically
clear for it, with the international climate extremely favourable following
the psychological and political atmosphere caused by Hitler's massacres
of the Jews. While the Arab regimes in the neighbouring Arab countries
were bourgeois regimes in the historical predicament without any real power.
Nor was there in Jewish society in Palestine at that time any leftist movement
to exert pressure in the opposite direction - practically the whole of
this society was devoted to settlement through invasion. The Palestinian
left had, with the Second World War, begun to lose the initiative with
which it had started in the middle thirties, as a result of the change
in Comintern policy, accompanied by the failure to Arabize the Party. What
is more, the communist left was becoming more and more subject to repression
by the defeated Arab leadership. (For example, the Mufti's men assassinated
the trade unionist leader Sami Taha in Haifa on 12 September 1947 and before
that, the assassination in Jaffa of the unionist Michel Mitri, who had
played an important role in mobilizing Arab workers before the outbreak
of the troubles in 1936).
this enabled the Zionist movement in the middle forties to step up its
previously only partial conflict with British colonialism in Palestine,
after long years of alliance. Thus in 1947 circumstances were favourable,
for it to pluck the fruits of the defeat of the 1936 revolt which the outbreak
of the war had prevented it from doing sooner. Thus the period taken to
complete the second chapter of the Palestinian defeat - from the end of
1947 to the middle of 1948 - was amazingly short, because it was only the
conclusion of a long and bloody chapter which had lasted from April 1936
to September 1939.
Lutfi el-Sayed Pasha (15 January 1872-1963) was an Egyptian intellectual,
anti-colonial activist, the first director of Cairo University. He was
also one of the architects of modern Egyptian nationalism as well as the
architect of Egyptian secularism and liberalism. He was fondly known as
the Professor of the Generation. He was one of the fiercest opponents of
pan-Arabism, insisting that Egyptians are Egyptians and not Arabs.
was born to a family of land owners in the village of Berqin, near Al Senbellawein
in the Dakahlia Governorate on 15 January 1872. He was educated at Al-Azhar
University where he attended lectures by Muhammad Abduh. Abduh came to
have a profound influence on Lutfi's reformist thinking in later years.
Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed subsequently attended the School of Law from which
he graduated in 1894.
Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed founded Egypt's first political party, el-Umma (the
Nation), which came as a reaction to the 1906 Dinshaway Incident and the
rise of Egyptian nationalist sentiment. He also founded the Umma Party
newspaper, el-Garida, whose statement of purpose read: "El-Garida is a
purely Egyptian party which aims to defend Egyptian interests of all kinds."
a member of the Egyptian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference held
in Versailles in 1919, where he pleaded for the independence of Egypt from
Lutfi el-Sayed was also the first director of the Egyptian University,
inaugurated on Monday 11 May 1925. He was a close friend of Taha Hussein,
and resigned his post as university director as a protest against the Egyptian
government's decision to transfer Hussein from his university position
in 1932. He resigned again in 1937 when the Egyptian police broke into
the court of the Egyptian University. During his presidency of the Egyptian
University, the first promotion of females graduated with a university
Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed held various positions such as the minister of education,
the minister of interior, the director of the Arabic language assembly,
and the director of House of Books. He died in 1963.