Last updated on: 5/14/2008 2:54:00 PM PST

What Were the Arab Revolts of 1936 - 1939?



General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Baruch Kimmerling, PhD, Professor of Sociology at Hebrew University, and Joel S. Migdal, PhD, Professor of International Studies at the University of Washington, in their 2003 book The Palestinian People: A History, wrote:

"The great Arab revolt in Palestine, as Arabs have called it, was sparked by the murder of two Jews on April 15, 1936. Although there were some claims that the act was purely criminal, it was probably engineered for political purposes by a disciple of Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam. In any event, Jewish retaliation followed swiftly, leaving two Arabs dead as well. Within a few days, beatings and additional murders inaugurated a period of horrifying violence in the country. In a short time, the violence was transformed into a major Arab upheaval.

As the first sustained violent uprising of the Palestinian national movement, and the first major episode of this sort since 1834, perhaps no event has been more momentous in Palestinian history than the Great Arab Revolt. It mobilized thousands of Arabs from every stratum of society, all over the country, heralding the emergence of a national movement in ways that isolated incidents and formal delegations simply could not accomplish. It also provoked unprecedented counter mobilization... The Zionists embarked upon a militarization of their own national movement -- nearly 15,000 Jews were under arms by the Revolt's end...

While the Arabs' concerted opposition would not in the end bring about the demise of Zionism, they did appear, for the moment, to have the advantage. The result impelled the British to reverse their policy in support of a Jewish national home, first set out in the Balfour Declaration two decades earlier. The extensive Arab mobilization and the intensity of their activity demanded unprecedented British attention to the Palestinian position, and Palestinians somehow seemed to have developed the social and political cohesion necessary to make their point forcefully and unambiguously."

2003 - Joel S. Migdal, PhD 
Baruch Kimmerling, PhD 

Albert Hourani, the late Oxford University historian, in his 1991 book A History of the Arab Peoples, wrote:

"By the middle 1930's, it was becoming more difficult for Britain to maintain a balance [between Arab and Jewish interests]. The coming to power of the Nazis in Germany increased pressure from the Jewish community and their supporters in England to permit larger immigration; and immigration in its turn was changing the balance of population and power in Palestine. In 1936 the opposition of the Arabs began to take the form of armed insurrection."

1991 - Albert Hourani 

A United Nations document from June 30, 1990 titled "The Origins and Evolution of the Palestine Problem: 1917-1988, Part I 1917-1947," contained the following:

"In 1936, the Palestinian resistance to foreign rule and to foreign colonization broke out into a major rebellion that lasted virtually until the outbreak of the Second World War. Palestinian demands for independence drew impetus from the simultaneous nationalist agitations in Egypt and Syria which had forced Great Britain and France to open treaty negotiations with those two Arab countries neighboring Palestine.

In April 1936, what started as minor Arab-Jewish clashes quickly flared into a widespread revolt. A new union of Palestinian political parties was formed, the Arab Higher Committee, headed by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Al Hajj Amin al-Husseini. The Committee called for a general strike to support the demand for national government. Despite strong Palestinian resistance to Jewish immigration, the British Government issued permits for several thousand new immigrants, offering further provocation to Palestinian nationalists. An unprecedented feature of this nationalist movement was the open identification with it by senior Arab officials of the Palestine administration who protested to the High Commissioner that Palestinians had been forced to violence because of loss of faith in British pledges and alarm at the extent to which Britain was susceptible to Zionist pressure.

As the strike prolonged, violence increased. There were attacks on British troops and police posts as well as on Jewish settlements, sabotage of roads, railways, pipelines and so on. The British administration imposed curfews, called in troop reinforcements from Britain, Egypt and Malta, and resorted to mass arrests, collective fines, and internments in concentration camps and other emergency measures. Large parts of the Arab quarter in the town of Jaffa were demolished by the authorities on the grounds of urban improvement - in the midst of the revolt - but order could not be restored.

During earlier Palestinian Arab uprisings, Jewish settlers often had restrained retaliation under the doctrine of the Havlaga, or restraint. But now, not unexpectedly, there were Jewish reprisals. The principal vehicle was the Haganah, a covert paramilitary force formed early in the mandate years (and which was to play a leading role in later events in Palestine). The Jewish settlers also benefited from 2,800 of their number being enrolled in the police forces as supernumeraries.

The failure of the Palestine authorities to suppress the revolt by military means led to political measures. The British Government announced the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the causes of the 'disturbances' and turned to the rulers of other Arab States for the mediation that eventually led to the calling off of the strike in October 1936. The official count of casualties was 275 dead and 1,112 wounded, but the Royal Commission's estimate was 1,000 deaths.

The end of the strike was to prove a lull in the rebellion. The issue of the Royal Commission's report brought an almost immediate renewal of violence, starting with the assassination of a British District Commissioner. Although it was not conclusively established that the assassins were Arab, the High Commissioner declared the Arab Higher Committee proscribed, arresting its prominent leaders and deporting them to the Seychelles Islands, while the Mufti of Jerusalem was able to escape to Lebanon, from where he continued to direct the rebellion."

June 30, 1990 - United Nations (UN)