1936-1939 Arab Revolt in Palestine

The 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, was a nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs in Mandatory Palestine against the British administration of the Palestine Mandate. Furthermore,  The Palestinian were demanding Arab independence and the end of the policy of open-ended Jewish immigration and land purchases with the stated goal of establishing a “Jewish National Home”. The dissent was directly influenced by the Qassamite rebellion; following the killing of Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam in 1935, as well as the declaration by Hajj Amin al-Husseini of 16 May 1936 as ‘Palestine Day’ and calling for a General Strike.

The revolt was branded by many in the Jewish Yishuv as “immoral and terroristic”, often comparing it to fascism and Nazism. Ben Gurion, however, described Arab causes as fear of growing Jewish economic power; opposition to mass Jewish immigration, and fear of the English identification with Zionism.  The general strike lasted from April to October 1936, initiating the violent revolt. The revolt consisted of two distinct phases.

1936-1939 Arab Revolt in Palestine Is Divided Into Two Phases 

The first phase was directed primarily by the urban and elitist Higher Arab Committee (HAC) and was focused mainly on strikes and other forms of political protest. By October 1936, this phase had been defeated by the British civil administration using a combination of political concessions, international diplomacy (involving the rulers of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Transjordan, and Yemen), and the threat of martial law.

The second phase, which began late in 1937, was a violent and peasant-led resistance movement provoked by British repression in 1936 that increasingly targeted British forces. During this phase, the rebellion was brutally suppressed by the British Army and the Palestine Police Force using repressive measures that were intended to intimidate the Arab population and undermine popular support for the revolt.

During this phase, a more dominant role on the Arab side was taken by the Nashashibi clan, whose NDP party quickly withdrew from the rebel Arab Higher Committee, led by the radical faction of Amin al-Husseini, and instead sided with the British – dispatching “Fasail al-Salam” (the “Peace Bands”) in coordination with the British Army against nationalist and Jihadist Arab “Fasail” units (literally “bands”).

1936-1939 Arab Revolt in Palestine: Conclusions 

According to official British figures covering the whole revolt; the army and police killed more than 2,000 Arabs in combat, 108 were hanged, and 961 died because of what they described as “gang and terrorist activities”. In an analysis of the British statistics, Walid Khalidi estimates 19,792 casualties for the Arabs, with 5,032 dead: 3,832 killed by the British and 1,200 dead because of “terrorism”, and 14,760 wounded. Over ten percent of the adult male Palestinian Arab population between 20 and 60 was killed, wounded, imprisoned, or exiled. Estimates of the number of Palestinian Jews killed range from 91 to several hundred.

The Arab revolt in Mandatory Palestine was unsuccessful, and its consequences affected the outcome of the 1948 Palestine war. It caused the British Mandate to give crucial support to pre-state Zionist militias like the Haganah, whereas on the Palestinian Arab side, the revolt forced the flight into exile of the main Palestinian Arab leader of the period, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem – Haj Amin al-Husseini.

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Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history. 

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