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Terrorism Without “Occupation”: Some Lessons From The Early Arab Pogroms

The Bash-Israel media and the Arab terrorist amen chorus have been repeating for so many years that Palestinian terrorism and barbarism are caused by Israeli “occupation” that few are still capable of examining that “theory” critically.
 
The simple fact is that Palestinian terrorism and atrocities against Jews began not only long before Israel “occupied” the West Bank and Gaza, but long before Israel was created. Examining those early waves of violence can shed enormous light on the Middle East conflict even today and help us understand its true nature.

There were waves of attacks against Jews in Palestine throughout the 1920′s – the Jewish population of Hebron was destroyed by Arab terrorists in 1929. Palestine at the time was part of the British Mandate. While a few hundred thousand Arabs lived in there in the 1930′s, it had never been an Arab Palestinian state, and in fact had not been under any form of Arab rule since the Dark Ages.

The worst anti-Jewish atrocities in Palestine were part of a wave of Arab pogroms lasting from 1936 to 1939 and dubbed the “Arab Revolt” by apologists for the terrorism. They were designed to stop immigration to the Land of Israel by Jewish refugees trying to flee a Europe that was coming under the growing shadow of Hitler. During the “Revolt,” between 415 and 463 Jews (depending on the source) were murdered by the Arab pogromists.

The pogroms were aimed at Jewish civilians and sometimes at British colonial forces. They escalated in September 1937, after the British Royal “Peel Commission” made its recommendations. That commission called for a tiny Jewish mini-state and a large Arab state, both to be carved out of Western Palestine. It also called for severe restrictions on further immigration to Palestine of Jewish refugees from Europe. But because it did not rule out Jewish sovereignty and Jewish immigration altogether, which were the minimal demands of the terrorists, the pogrom leaders ordered escalated violence.

At the time, Palestinian Arabs were led by an “Arab High Command” headed by the infamous Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini. The mufti served as chief clergyman in Jerusalem with British approval, even though he had fought against the British in World War I.

Al-Husseini later went on to become Hitler’s ally and point man, assisting Hitler in recruiting Muslims for the German side in World War II.

On May 10, 1941 the mufti broadcast a fatwa (religious ruling) calling for a holy war against the British. It claimed the British had profaned the Al-Aksa mosque and were out to destroy Islam (an allegation reinvented against Israel by more recent Palestinian leaders). In 1943 the mufti was sent to Yugoslavia, where he organized the 13th Waffen SS division, which not only was responsible for the murder of about 90 percent of Bosnia’s Jews but also destroyed numerous Serbian churches and villages. In his memoirs, the mufti thanked Eichmann and praised him as “gallant and noble.”

Throughout this period the Jews did not “occupy” anything except their own personal property, exercising no sovereignty at all in the Land of Israel. The campaigns of Palestinian terrorism had nothing to do with occupation, because there was no Jewish occupation.

Apologists for the terrorists, like Hebrew University’s pro-Palestinian professor and propagandist Baruch Kimmerling, argue that the violence proves that a “Palestinian nationalism” was emerging in the late 1930′s. In fact, the term “Palestinian” referred at the time to Jews, not Arabs. Palestinian Arab leaders did not begin to demand the right to “self-determination” and statehood until after 1967. When the West Bank and Gaza were occupied by Egypt and Jordan, the Palestinian leadership had no complaints about any “alien occupation” and expressed no desire for self-determination.

Were there no voices of moderation and tolerance among Palestinian Arabs at the time? As a matter of fact, there were. And the story of what became of one of them can help us understand the entire Middle East conflict.

On May 4, a fascinating story related to that era was published for the first time by the dovish Israeli journalist (and filmmaker) Yehuda Litani in Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s leading daily. Litani is well known for

films sympathetic to the mundane problems of Palestinian Arabs.

Back when the mufti was beating the war drums and organizing mass murders of Jews, it seems that an article was published by a young Palestinian Arab intellectual, Araf al-Asli, age 27, denouncing the mufti, the pogroms, and the violence.

The article appeared in both Hebrew and Arabic leaflets. Titled “The History of the Jews and the Arabs,” its theme was that Jews and Arabs had cooperated in the past, especially during the era of cultural flowering in Muslim Spain. That cooperation had helped make Spain the most advanced civilization of its age, surpassing the rest of Europe in science, literature, and architecture. Indeed, Muslim Spain was the most tolerant regime in all of medieval Europe.

Al-Asli went on to denounce Arab leaders trying to organize violent assaults against Jews and trying to recruit support among Palestinian Arabs for the untrustworthy dictators of the Arab states. He called for cooperation and solidarity with the Jews. He warned the Arabs that if they chose the path of armed conflict with the Jews, rejecting the outstretched hand of the Zionists, the Arabs would lose.

In the midst of the anti-Jewish pogroms, al-Asli was proposing an immediate ceasefire, followed by an alliance with the Zionists that would produce prosperity for Jews and Arabs.

Soon after publication of the essay, terrorists commanded by the mufti kidnapped the dissident, interrogated him, and eventually walled him up inside a cave on Mount Scopus. Meanwhile, al-Asli’s father, a civil servant in Jordan, managed to persuade the mufti to let his son out of the cave. Afraid of antagonizing the Jordanian regime, the mufti allowed the battered son out, but banished him to Lebanon. There al-Asli found work waiting tables and teaching Hebrew to students at the American University of Beirut.

The story was buried for many years until relatives of al-Asli told it to Litani and he published it. The incident shows clearly why so few voices of moderation have ever been heard among the Palestinian Arabs.

The mufti died in 1974, but the al-Husseini family has continued to play a central role in Palestinian terrorism and extremism.

For those who think Middle East terrorism is attributable to Jews “mistreating” and “occupying” Palestinians, nothing can better remove the blinders than studying the 1936-39 period in Palestine.

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at Steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.


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