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«TOWARDS NAKBA: THE FAILURE OF THE BRITISH MANDATE OF PALESTINE, 1922-1939 A Thesis Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State ...»

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He imported 50,000 trees to plant on Muslim owned land. His most impressive undertaking was the renovation of the al-Asqua mosque and the Dome of the Rock. All of these initiatives endeared Hajj Amin to the Palestinian Arabs, and according to Mattar, “stimulated an Islamic revival throughout Palestine.” 70 The collective effect of all the public works and anti-Zionist rhetoric was international recognition of the Grand Mufti as the leader of the Palestinian Arab nationalism. Mattar argues, “The effort focused Arab and Muslim concern for Palestine, especially since the Mufti and his colleagues appealed to fellow Muslims to defend Palestine against the Zionists.” 71 Within Palestine, Hajj Amin installed fellow nationalists Mattar, p. 26.

Mattar, p. 27.

Mattar, p. 29.

Mattar, pp. 29-30.

as imams, khatibs, and qadis who supported his policies. Aside from his focus on Palestinian nationalism and religious issues, the Grand Mufti rarely entered the internal political arena of the Palestinian Arab community.

Hajj Amin’s power was not absolute. The Mayor of Jerusalem Ragib alNashashibi headed the opposition to Hajj Amin. He derided Hajj Amin as a collaborator with the British. Tension between the Nashashibi and Husseini families increased because of the dynamic of a Nashashibi mayor of Jerusalem and a Husseini Mufti. The Nashashibi faction, however, never garnered a significant following outside of Jerusalem because “its members were suspected of collaborating and land selling to Jews.” 72 By 1928, increases in Jewish immigration and the expansion of Zionist power in Palestine had firmly committed the majority of the Arab Palestinians to support Hajj Amin.

By 1929, Hajj Amin had consolidated his power within the Arab community and exerted his influence in politics. He maintained his open attacks on Zionism but never directly attacked British policy. He never appeared at nor organized anti-Zionist demonstrations. The Mandate government under Herbert Samuel considered Hajj Amin to be a moderate. Nevertheless, Hajj Amin led a campaign against the Colonial Office‘s policy established under the Lloyd George government in 1922 that affirmed the establishment of a national Jewish home land in Palestine. Hajj Amin sent a delegation to London to plead the Arab case against Zionism to Churchill. The Palestinian Arab delegation was led by former mayor of Jerusalem Mussa Kazim al-Husseini, who was from the same family of the Grand Mufti and one of his staunchest supporters.

In correspondence with Churchill’s office, Husseini stated, “In the preamble to the Palestine Order in Council ‘the declaration of November 2nd, 1917, in favor of the Mattar, p.31.

establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’ is made a basis for this order; the people of Palestine cannot accept this declaration as a basis for discussion.” 73 The British Colonial Office responded, “Mr. Churchill regrets to observe that his personal explanations have apparently failed to convince your delegation that His Majesty’s Government have no intention of repudiating the obligations into which they entered towards the Jewish People.” 74 The Arab delegation asserted that the British had no right to establish a homeland in Palestine for a people from Europe and that the Colonial Office had to rescind its policy of facilitating Jewish immigration. Churchill would not change Colonial Office policy in regards to the establishment of the Jewish national homeland and reminded the Arab delegation that they were not recognized as the political representatives of the Arab community of Palestine.75 British officials and Palestinian Arab nationalists disputed the proper interpretation and implementation of the Mandatory agreements. The Arab delegation argued that the British Government was bound by treaties it had made with the Hashemite and Saudi dynasties and by League of Nations Mandate to elevate Palestine to statehood. Husseini charged that in the British view, Palestine is considered as a colony of the lowest order, whereas according to paragraph 4 of article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, Palestine comes under Grade A, where certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistances by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. 76 Correspondence with the Palestine Arab Delegation and the Zionist Organization (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1922), p. 2.

Palestine Correspondence, p. 5.

Palestine Correspondence, p. 5.

Palestine Correspondence, pp 2-3.

Al-Husseini argued that not only was Palestine designated a class “A” Mandate, meaning it was in fact independent although still subject to the advice and assistance of the mandatory power, but that the British treated them like a lesser colony. Al-Husseini was well aware of the mechanisms of colonialism and he equated British consent to Zionist immigration as the first step in the creation of a settler state. Churchill responded to the Arab claim by stating, “Syria and Iraq are explicitly referred to in Article 94 of that Treaty of Sèvres (1920) as having been provisionally recognized as Independent States, in accordance with the fourth paragraph of article 22 of the League of Nations. Article 95, on the other hand, makes no such reference to Palestine.” 77 The Colonial Office argued that it had fulfilled its promises both to the Hashemite dynasty by recognizing its claim to the throne of Iraq and to the Sa’ud dynasty by recognizing its claim to the Arab peninsula under semi-autonomous governments. The region designated as Palestine was not mentioned in the Treaty of Sèvres and, therefore, fell under direct British control.





The main point of contention between the Arab delegation and the British government was over Jewish immigration. The delegation, which appointed itself as representative of the entire population of Palestine regardless of religion, was offended by the notion put forward by the British Government and the Zionist Organization that

European Jews had historical rights to re-establish a presence in Palestine:

Whilst the position in Palestine is, as it stands today, with the British Government holding authority by an occupying force, and using that authority to impose upon the people against their wishes a great immigration of alien Jews, many of them of a Bolshevik revolutionary type, no constitution which would fall short of giving the people of Palestine full control over their own affairs could be acceptable. 78 Palestine Correspondence, p. 5.

Palestine Correspondence, p. 2.

The term “alien Jews” revealed how the Arabs in Palestine saw the Jewish immigrants.

The British viewed the Jews as an Oriental people, but the Arabs of Palestine regarded them as European invaders and as a communist threat.

The Lloyd George government recognized Hebrew along with Arabic and English as the national languages of Palestine. The Palestinian Arab delegation scoffed at the

inclusion of Hebrew:

The Hebrew language is not universally used by the (Jewish) community as a vernacular, and business is transacted mostly in Arabic and Yiddish.

The religious and social life of the community is that same as in all countries where contemporary Jews live, and cannot be looked upon as distinctive to Palestine. When we protested against the recognition of Hebrew as an official language in the state, we were told it was harmless;

now we see that our fears have been realized and that this very recognition is used as an argument to establish “a right.” 79 In al- Husseini’s opinion, the recognition of Hebrew was a political tactic organized by the Zionists to re-enforce their already weak claim to Palestine.

The Arab delegation also scoffed at the lynchpin of Zionist claims: that Jews had a historical right to regard Palestine as their national homeland. The delegation called “the right of return”, the idea that Jews from all over possessed the right to settle in Palestine, “a line of reasoning which no people, let alone Arabs, would accept if applied to itself.” 80 Husseini points to both the past and the present to assert Arab ownership of

the land:

We have shown over and over again that the supposed historic connection of the Jews with Palestine rests upon very slender historical data. The historic rights of the Arabs are far stronger than those of the Jews…The Arabs…have been settled on the land for more that 1,500 years, and are the present owners of the soil.

Al-Husseini also argued against the Zionist religious claims to Palestine:

Palestine Correspondence, p. 24.

Palestine Correspondence, p. 24.

Further, Christians as well as Muslims look upon Palestine as a sacred land, and make yearly pilgrimages to it in a spirit of devotion and prayer.

Any religious sentiment, therefore, which the Jews might cherish for Palestine is exceeded by Christian and Moslem sentiment for that country. 81 Fear of mass Jewish immigration, combined with their interpretation of the League of Nations Mandate pertaining to Palestine, emboldened the Arabs to demand self-rule. Resentment of British rule, which would rise within Zionism later, was prevalent within the Arab community at the very outset of the Mandate period, as the riots of 1920 and 1921 demonstrated. Hajj Amin focused of what he perceived to be the most immediate danger to Arab security and possible statehood: Zionist immigration.

With Faisal’s flight to Damascus, the Arab nationalists’ dream of an independent and modern Middle East collapsed in 1922. The British and the French, who understood little about the Arab world outside of what the Orientalist school of thought had taught them, replaced the Turks as rulers of Arab Asia. Rather than include the nationalist leaders in governing their newly acquired Mandates, the British and French governments installed friendly rulers, such as the Hashemite dynasty, who allowed them to pursue their own agendas. In this context, Palestine proved to be unique. Palestinian Arab nationalism emerged from the debacle of 1922 as a united and centralized movement Hajj Amin, a product of the Damascus nationalist circles, wielded a great amount of power

and influence in Palestine after 1922. Hajj Amin was also faced with a unique problem:

the influx of Zionists, viewed by Hajj Amine and his followers as “European invaders.” The British Mandatory Government thus found itself in the middle of a struggle between Palestine Correspondence, p. 24.

Arab nationalists led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and Jewish nationalists from Europe.

–  –  –

The subject of this chapter is the rise and fracture of Zionism. Shepherd, Wasserstein, Joseph, and Kayyali depict a Zionist movement that is, for all intents and purposes, monolithic 82. They assert that there were political differences between differing Zionist groups, but that as a whole, the movement worked towards a single goal: they all wanted a Jewish state. This is true but the meaning of “the Jewish state” varied greatly from group to group. Internal Zionist divisions were never merely political. Different Zionist thinkers, like Herzl and Ha’am, had contradictory opinions on what it meant to be Jewish. During the Mandate period, the Zionist movement fractured into two antagonistic camps: mainstream and revisionist Zionism. Shepherd, Wasserstein, Joseph, and Kayyali do not address this splintering of Zionism.

The first section of this chapter examines of the origins of Zionism and the rise of its first intellectual leaders Theodor Herzl and Achad Ha’am. The second section examines the rise of Chaim Weizmann and Ze’ev Jabotinsky and the creation of the Mandate of Palestine. The chapter concludes with an examination of the internal split of Zionism caused by the difference between Weizmann and Jabotinsky following the partition of Transjordan from Palestine in 1922 and the rise of David Ben-Gurion.

Charles Smith and Shabtai Teveth juxtapose Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Zionism and David Ben-Gurion’s Labour Zionism against each other. 83 This is not an inaccurate picture. By 1930, Labour Zionism had became the mainstream of Zionist See: Naomi Shepherd, Ploughing Sand: British Rule in Palestine, 1917-1948 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1999); Bernard Wasserstein, The British in Palestine: the Mandatory Government and the Arab-Jewish Conflict ( London: Royal Historical Society, 1978); A.W. Kayyali, Palestine: A Modern History (London: Croom Helm, 1978) Shabtai Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985); BenGurion: The Burning Ground 1886-1948 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987).

thought while the Revisionists became the opposition. The rivalry between Labour or mainstream Zionism and Revisionist Zionism formed the poles of Zionist thought and, after 1948, Israeli politics. Chaim Weizmann’s writings and the research of Gideon Shimoni and Joseph Schectman make clear that Ze’ev Jabotinsky opposed anyone who did not agree with his worldview; his long list of opponents included David Ben-Gurion but was most ferociously directed at Weizmann himself. 84

–  –  –

Zionism originated with Ashkenazi Jews. The Ashkenazi spoke the HebrewGerman derived language of Yiddish and were divided into two geographic locations:



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