Rebels, Terrorists, and Self-Restraint; Israeli Historiography of the Palestinian Arab Revolt
Al-thawra al-kubra (the Great Revolt) lasted between April 1936 and September 1939. It was a genuine nationalist uprising. Mainly a lower-class peasant rebellion, the revolt consisted of armed Arab peasant bands who directed their efforts against the British authorities, and to a lesser extent against the small but growing Jewish community in Palestine. The revolt sought to achieve three key objectives: that the British grant the Palestinians their national independence, halt the increasing Zionist emigration to Palestine, and prohibit the further sale of Arab lands to the Jews. Although the revolt was crushed in 1939, ending with the disbanding of the rebels and exile for most of the Palestinian leaders, the revolt was nonetheless successful in deriving substantial concessions from the British. The revolt pitted poorly armed and outnumbered peasant guerrillas against the strongest imperial power of the time. Although the rebel bands did engage in brutal excesses against villages and Arab opposition groups, leading inevitably to the development of Palestinian counter-revolt 'peace bands,' the rebels did attempt to implement a comprehensive program for national change. This program threatened traditional Arab notable dominance over Palestinian society.
Israeli understandings of the thawra is critically significant for two reasons. First, given that the revolt was essentially an anti-colonial nationalist uprising, its awareness undercuts Israel's own tradition of its struggle for national independence in Palestine. Second, it was during the revolt that for the first time in their conflict Jews and Palestinians confronted each other on a major military scale. The way mainstream Israeli historians have understood and depicted the revolt reflects underlying and deeply held cultural values of broader Israeli society.
The most significant work on Israeli historiography of the thawra to date is Ted Swedenburg's Memories of Revolt. According to his analysis, mainstream Israeli historians' have denied the revolt its national character. As he explains, Israeli national identity has permitted "space only for one authentic national liberation movement in Israel-(Palestine): the one that led to the foundation of Israel in 1948."(3) That liberation movement consisted of both the War of Independence as a whole, and the history of anti-British activity which led in part to the abandonment of the Mandate in 1948.In response to British restrictions against the migration of Holocaust refugees to Palestine, Jewish underground fighters of the mainstream Jewish defence organisation, the Haganah, as well as the dissident organisations, the Irgun (IZL) and the Stern Gang (LHI), periodically attacked British targets from February 1944 to mid-1947. At the same time, the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine) conducted shipping operations to smuggle refugees illegally into the country, while trying to evade British naval patrols and coast guards.
According to Swedenburg, mainstream Israeli historians have denied the revolt its national character by depicting it not as a genuine anti-colonial uprising, but more as a series of riots, disturbances, and terrorist attacks directed primarily against Jews. Additionally, mainstream Israeli historians, Swedenburg argues, attribute the demise of the revolt not to British military superiority, or the fact that the revolt was successful in deriving substantial concessions from the British, but to the rebellion's internal deterioration.(4) The rebellion, argue mainstream Israeli historians, deteriorated into an incoherent series of killings, plunder, and feuding: "It degenerated," Swedenburg continues, "into a reign of terror against the 'moderate' internal opposition, an orgy of rebel plunder of wealthy Palestinians and internecine rivalry among revolt commanders. This deterioration was inevitable, the argument runs, given the backward nature of a society characterised by the demagogic and manipulative rule of despotic feudal landowners and a venal and fanatical religious caste over an ignorant mass of peasants."(5)
Swedenburg's analysis, therefore, presents mainstream Israeli historiographical depiction as transforming the revolt essentially because of the struggle between Palestinian and Israeli nationalisms. Swedenburg's analysis, however, is incomplete as he has largely overlooked the ways in which this same historiography has also transfigured the Yishuv's actions undertaken during the rebellion. Essentially, mainstream Israeli historians have drawn moral significance from the Jewish community's response to the revolt, arguing that their official policy of havlaga, self-restraint, in the face of Arab terrorist attacks was a product of higher Jewish morality. In addition, these historians have also exonerated elite Haganah fighters from their own acts of terrorism committed against Palestinian civilians.
This article is divided into four parts. The first section offers a brief historical overview of the revolt itself. The second section demonstrates precisely why the revolt was a peasant-based nationalist uprising, and examines the rebel bands' attempts to bring about social change. The third and fourth sections each examine the ways in which mainstream Israeli historiography has both denied the revolt Palestinian nationalism and drawn moral significance from the Yishuv's response to the rebellion.(6)
On April 15 1936 Palestinian bandits killed two Jews during a robbery of a bus.(7) In response, on April 17 the dissident Nationalist Haganah (the forerunner to the IZL) murdered two Palestinians near the Jewish settlement of Petah-Tiqvah. During the funeral procession of one of the two slain Jews, which was held in Tel Aviv, Jewish mobs beat up several Palestinians passing by. Two days later ethnic animosities increased as Jaffa Palestinians, thinking that innocent Arabs had been murdered in Tel Aviv, attacked the surrounding Jewish neighbourhoods killing nine and wounding approximately ten Jews. The British imposed a curfew and declared a state of emergency throughout the country. On April 20, Palestinians of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nablus, and Tulkarm launched strikes and riots against both the Jews and the British. Within days, these activities had spread throughout all major Palestinian urban centres as well as Palestinian neighbourhoods of mixed Jewish-Arab cities. Local National Committees composed mainly of urban radicals arose in each town to organise the ongoing strikes. By 23 April, an entire network of local committees was established throughout Palestine. It was under the wave of this nationalist sentiment that the Arab Higher Committee (AHC) was formed on 25 April to coordinate political affairs. Under the leadership of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, who was appointed as its president, the AHC consisted also of the heads of the Palestinians' six major political parties: the Palestine Arab Party, the National Defence Party, Istiqlal (Independence), the Reform Party, the Youth Congress, and finally, the National Bloc Party. Its first major decision was to reiterate to the British the Palestinians' three fundamental national demands: that the Palestinians be given their independence, and that the British put a stop to both Zionist emigration and purchase of Arab lands. The widespread general strike lasted for six months from April to October 10 1936. It entailed both violent and non-violent activities ranging from non-payment of taxes, boycotts of Jewish commodities, and labour strikes, to more violent acts such as rioting, arson attacks, sabotage, and killings of Jews, the British, and Palestinian collaborators.(8)
Momentum of this insurgency quickly shifted in May 1936 to the rural areas of Palestine, as armed peasants formed bands and took up the struggle against British military forces. By June they operated throughout most of the countryside attacking both the British and Jewish settlements located in remote areas. In late August 1936, the Syrian commander, Fawji al-Qawuqji, entered Palestine with 200 hundred experienced Iraqi, Syrian, and Jordanian volunteer fighters. He appointed himself Commander in Chief of the revolt, but was only nominally recognised as such by the bands themselves. In fact, while the peasant bands generally coordinated their activities with each other, they operated without centralised leadership from either the AHC or Qawuqji's command structure.(9)
In October 1936, the general strike was called off by the urban leadership as much of urban Palestine had become financially exhausted and socially burdened by the activities of the previous six months.(10) Consequently, a truce was agreed to by both British and Arab forces with the expectation that the British would determine new political solutions for the governing of the country. As a result, in November 1936 the British government commenced its Royal Commission of Inquiry (the Peel Commission) to investigate the reasons for the uprising and make recommendations for political reform. The Palestinians, on the other hand, used the truce period to recover from the burdens of the strike and to prepare for further military confrontation.(11) After its six month investigation into the uprising, the Peel Commission's report was published on July 7 1937 along with an official government statement endorsing its recommendations. Essentially, it recommended the partition of Palestine and the construction of a Jewish state. The Jewish state was to encompass most of the Galilee, the Jezreel Valley, and the central and northern coastal shore (in total, just less than one-fifth of the Palestine Mandate).(12) The Arab areas, which included much of today's West Bank, the Negev, the Gaza Strip, and the southern coastal plain, were to be united with Jordan and granted independence. The Jerusalem-Bethlehem enclave and other areas were to be kept under a new mandate. In addition to partition, the Peel Commission recommended an "exchange of population." 225,000 Arab inhabitants of the proposed Jewish state were to be relocated from Jewish areas, either by agreement and compensation, or "in the last resort" by British force.(13) (1,250 Jews were also to be relocated from Arab areas).
Outraged by these recommendations, the Arab forces launched a full-scale rebellion which began with the 26 September 1937 assassination of the British district commissioner of the Galilee. The AHC and the National Committees were declared illegal. Many of their leaders, including the Mufti, as well as other urban notables and nationalists, were either imprisoned, deported from Palestine, or were forced to flee to Syria and Lebanon. From there, many continued to play an important part in coordinating rebel activities, forming, for example, the Central Committee of the Jihad in Palestine, which recruited volunteers from Syria and raised money to purchase arms and other military supplies.(14)
Rebellion peaked in the latter half of 1938 when Arab forces took over much of the countryside and most Palestinian cities and urban neighborhoods. In this period, the revolt's lower-class peasant character quickly rose to the fore. Rebel commanders imposed dress codes worn generally by Muslim peasants upon urban Arabs. They froze debts, outlawed rents, and banned the use of electricity. In addition, they extorted large sums of money from well-to-do urban people and, after the flight of many wealthy Palestinians, the rebels auctioned off their remaining moveable property at dramatically undervalued prices.(15)
According to one Palestinian source, at the time of the revolt's greatest success the number of rebels was between nine and ten thousand men. Three thousand of these operated on a full-time basis, while 6,000 other peasant rebels and 1,000 urban fighters fought on a part-time basis and could be mobilised when necessary.(16) These figures are most likely accurate as they coincide with the figures of British intelligence.(17)
The revolt ended in 1939 in part because of British military superiority, which entailed RAF control of the air, mechanised units, and greater numbers of troops.(18) In addition to fielding 25,000 British soldiers, by September 1939 the Mandate authorities had trained and recruited approximately 20,000 Jews as supernumerary police and settlement guards, or had placed them under their commando Special Night Squad (SNS) units.(19) British superior firepower was added to by severe and at times savage counter-insurgency measures used throughout the second stage of the revolt. Pro-rebel villages were often heavily fined and punished by the uprooting of swathes of orange groves and vineyards.(20) Hundreds of houses were demolished.(21) Over a hundred Arabs were hanged, some for minor security offences such as the possession of firearms and ammunition.(22) Occasionally, relatives of rebels were tied to the front of locomotives in order to deter rebel sabotage attempts against British transport.(23) Alongside harsh counter-insurgency measures, the British were able to exploit many of the rebels' shortcomings, failures, and mistakes. They were able to take advantage of the rebels' factional splits and lack of unity, their extortion, threats, and brutalities against some villagers and well-to-do urban residents, and their murderous reign of terror against Palestinian opposition groups and collaborators. As a consequence of these excesses, the British formed the Arab peace bands which fought alongside British forces.(24)
Yet the most significant factor in the demise of the revolt was the substantial British diplomatic reversal towards the Palestinians.(25) According to the government's White Paper, which was published on May 17 1939, the British declared its opposition to partition as well as the creation of a Jewish state. Furthermore, they announced their intentions to cap Jewish immigration at a rate of 75,000 a year for five years, to prohibit most land sales to the Jews, and finally, to implement gradual steps towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within ten years.(26) Officially, the AHC and rebel commanders opposed these reversals because the British did not fully concede the Arabs' demands, and also because they did not allow for a general amnesty for the rebels or permit the Mufti's return from exile.(27) However, the White Paper was not conditional upon Arab agreement, and its acceptance by the bulk of the civilian population eliminated much of the rebellion's raison d'être.(28) The last major rebel commander was captured in July 1939, and by the outbreak of the Second World War in September the revolt was over.(29) According to the Palestinian historian, Walid Khalidi, the revolt created just under 20,000 Arab casualties with 5,032 dead and 14,760 wounded.(30)
The key reasons behind the British concessions were threefold. First, with the likelihood of a global war ever more probable given the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, the British sought to ensure good relations with the Arab world as a whole.(31) These relations had been damaged in recent years by the brutal crushing of the revolt itself, Britain's refusal to grant any degree of Palestinian autonomy, and by its sponsorship of Jewish immigration to Palestine in general. The fear that the Arab states might side with the Axis powers, leading inevitably to the loss of British military bases and vital oil reserves, was obviously a critical concern for British leaders.(32) Additionally, although by the beginning of 1939 the revolt was already in decline, as British forces had successfully pacified vital areas of the region, British leaders wanted to eliminate any chance of its resurgence.(33) To cite one important example, Harold MacMichael, the High Commissioner for Palestine, argued in early 1939 for major restrictions on Jewish immigration, on the basis that it would be better than "to attempt to overrule the Arabs and thereby run the certain risk of grave disorder in Palestine, and the Near and the Middle East, for an equal or longer period."(34) This general awareness on the part of the British leadership indicates that it recognised the rebels as being formidable opponents. Finally, with war looming in Europe, the British did not want to leave additional military forces in Palestine.(35)
The most significant study of the thawra to date is Yehoshua Porath's The Palestinian Arab National Movement. From Riots to Rebellion.(36) Its importance rests upon Porath's detailed and scholarly reading of the documentary material. Indeed, utilising Jewish, Palestinian, and British archival documentation, Porath's study makes particularly extensive use of the files of the Palestine Government and the various British home departments, Haganah intelligence, the Jewish Agency's Arab Bureau, and the critical communiqués written by the commanders of the rebel bands themselves.(37) According to his interpretation, the Palestinian revolt was primarily undertaken by lower-class Muslim peasants.(38) Yet, despite the title of his work, Porath argues that the revolt, ultimately, was not a true nationalist uprising because the Palestinian rebels could not unite under one national or class-based program for social change: "The rebels and their leaders," states Porath, "were not united as much as the Palestinian Arab Muslim population was still divided by family and regional loyalties, which neither nationalism nor any class loyalty could then overcome, and because many of them put their personal interests first and those of the population at large last. Therefore they felt free to exploit not only the richer townsmen, but also the peasants who should have been their compatriots."(39) Given there was no national ideology which guided the rebels' actions, continues Porath, at least for the first phase of the revolt the rebels mainly adhered to the positions of their urban leaders:
The rebels did not articulate any ideology of their own. In their communiqués they generally accepted the political positions of the national leaders.(40) They did not try, and perhaps they were still not able, to express social demands of their own even in an inarticulate way... Being devoid of any social ideology, the rebels did not attempt, when they reached the peak of their power in Summer 1938, to bring about any change in the social structure of those large rural parts of the country which were then under their control.(41)
On the whole, however, Porath's analysis is problematic. The rebel bands did have a social ideology, and they did attempt to implement a comprehensive program for national change at the height of their power. This program threatened urban notable dominance over Palestinian society.(42) In order to fully comprehend this nationalist program, one must understand the predicament of the peasantry which constituted 75% of the total Arab population of Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s.(43)
By 1930, 30% of the entire Palestinian peasantry had become landless, and this situation was only to deteriorate further in the years prior to the revolt. Many of the peasants who still owned land (indeed about 75-80% of them) did not own enough to meet basic subsistence requirements. As a consequence, some peasants were forced into renting additional lands in order to expand their agricultural output. Poorer peasants, however (in fact, about half the male rural workforce), made up the shortfall by partaking in seasonal casual labour in the cities. In general, they were employed in basic manual labour such as construction, the paving of roads, harvesting, packing, and so on. Other, less fortunate Arabs, on the other hand, were forced to emigrate permanently to the expanding urban areas where many found work as basic low paid labourers.(44)
Palestinian landlessness was a consequence of two interrelated factors: land sales to the Zionist movement, and peasant indebtedness to the urban Arab notable classes. According to British Mandate figures (which were based upon transactions recorded in the official land registers, and do not take into account the many unrecorded private land sale transactions), 1,420,205 dunams of land (a dunam is a quarter of an acre) had been purchased by Jews by the year 1939.(45) From the late nineteenth century to roughly the end of the first three decades of the twentieth, Jewish land purchasing organisations-the Palestine Jewish Colonisation Association, the Palestine Land Development Company, the JNF, and others-bought primarily large, uncultivated, and minimally inhabited tracts of Arab land, mainly from wealthy non-Palestinian absentee landowners. At this stage, therefore, evictions of Palestinian farmers were generally low in number.(46)
By the late twenties, however, purchase of these large tracts of uncultivated and semi-cultivated lands owned by non-Palestinians was difficult. By the early thirties, land sales were increasingly sought from smaller and local Palestinian landowners. Land of this type was mainly either tenanted or was inhabited by owner-occupants. According to the Department of Statistics of the Jewish Agency (which has figures for only one half of the lands purchased by Jews between 1878 to March 1936), 52.6% of the land was purchased from large absentee landowners, 24.6% from large Palestinian landowners, and 9.4% from smaller Palestinian peasant landowners. However, according to the same set of statistics, from 1928 onwards the land bought by Jews from both types of local landowners was increasing faster than the total bought from absentee landowners. Of the 92,432 dunams of land that were purchased between 1928 and 1932, 42,038 dunams were bought from absentee landowners, while 50,394 were purchased from local landowners. More importantly, at that same time there was a substantial increase in the land purchased from smaller Palestinian owner-occupants. In fact, it rose from 3,260 dunams of land purchased between 1923-1927, to 16,940 dunams bought between 1928 and 1932. This increasing trend of purchasing owner-occupied or tenanted lands, therefore, led to an increase in the level of peasant landlessness.(47)
As a consequence of reforms of the Ottoman Land Code 1858, Arab notable families from both within and outside Palestine acquired vast tracts of Palestinian land. This was essentially a result of two factors. First, the Turkish authorities decided to put up for sale their disused and uninhabited state lands.(48) Second, many Palestinian peasants simply registered their lands in the names of their notable patrons. This was mainly a result of indebtedness to the notables, to evade payment of registration fees and taxes to the Turkish government, or to avoid being conscripted into the Ottoman army.(49) With the influx of Jews into Palestine many Arab landowners simply sold their estates to the Zionists to cash in on the opportunity. Some landowners raised rents on their properties specifically to force tenants off the land, and thereby avoid making compensation payments.(50) Such practices continued well into the early thirties, with the large landowning families associated with the powerful Nashashibi clan being the most identifiable figures in such activities.(51) Often lands purchased for only a few pence per dunam were sold to the Zionists in the twenties and thirties at a price average of 11,500 Palestine pounds (equivalent to the pound sterling).(52) According to official government figures, between 1931 and 1935 the Jewish National Home increased from 175,000 Jews to 400,000; that is, from 17% of the total population of Palestine to 31%.(53) (These official figures, it should be noted, do not take into account the many thousands of Jews who arrived illegally).(54) This population increase exacerbated the need for further land purchases. As a consequence of this, and the type of lands available for purchase, more and more Palestinian Arabs were displaced from their lands. Indeed, "by the mid-1930s," states Swedenburg, "the government was routinely forced to call out large numbers of police in order to evict sharecroppers from sold properties as, more and more frequently, peasants resisted dispossession through violent means."(55)
The second key factor resulting in landlessness was peasant indebtedness. Small Palestinian landowners sold their properties usually not for profit but to release themselves from debt. In most cases, indebted peasants owed money to their urban notable patrons who imposed extremely high rates of interest. In fact, interest charged at a rate of 30% per annum was detected in some instances.(56) Mandate rural property taxes also weighed heavily upon the Palestinian peasantry. As Swedenburg explains, the government's rural property taxes were calculated on the basis of a "fixed percentage" of the "net productivity of the soil (that is, minus the cost of production)." Consequently, Jewish agriculturalists paid lower rates of tax because their forms of agriculture were labour intensive and therefore incurred greater labour costs. Agricultural taxation, therefore, "fell disproportionately on poor Palestinian fellahin [peasants] whose contributions helped to finance industrial and agricultural development in the Jewish sector, and to pay Britain's expenses in defending the Jewish 'national home'."(57) A further contributing factor to peasant indebtedness was the fact that the Palestine economy went into recession between the late 1920s and 1932.(58) As successive crop failures hit between 1929 and 1936, the prices of what was produced had to compete with agricultural imports made cheaper by the international economic meltdown.(59) As a consequence of these factors, by 1936 the average annual debt of a Palestinian peasant family was between 25 and 35 pounds, which in most cases exceeded their average annual income of 27 pounds.(60) Those unable to pay back their loans were forced into either selling their lands directly to the Zionists, or handing their titles over to their usurers.(61)
On the major political level, it had become abundantly clear by the 1930s that the urban notable classes led Palestinian Arab political affairs ineffectively. They had not been capable of stopping Zionist settlement and land purchases, and they had taken no real steps towards achieving independence from British rule. As a consequence of these two factors in particular, and the rise of Arab nationalist awareness throughout the Middle East in general, the 1930s in Palestine saw the development of radical urban nationalist organisations.(62) Specifically, this entailed the establishment of the Young Men's Muslim Association, the Arab Youth Conferences, the Arab Boy Scouts, and most significant of all, the Istiqlal (Independence) Party. All of these organisations, but particularly the Istiqlal, addressed the socio-economic needs of the urban poor and the Palestinian peasantry.(63) At the same time, with the development of casual labour in urban areas, the peasantry was becoming far more politicised. Educated young teachers who returned to the villages from towns frequently disseminated nationalist sentiments among the peasantry.(64) In addition, nationalist poetry and songs often criticising the urban notable leadership spread throughout the countryside. Similarly, magazines and newspapers, which also often criticised the urban leadership, were regularly read aloud at coffee houses and other Arab meeting places.(65)
It is true that during the revolt the rebel bands did suffer from a lack of internal discipline, and that this deficiency led to both the brutal and often murderous extortion of funds from villages, and the assassination of Palestinians for reasons based on tribal vendettas and previous clan-based grievances.(66) In addition, it is also true that as a consequence of these excesses, the rebels were unable to maintain broad-based rural support, and that these excesses were the main reasons for the rise of the counter-revolt peace bands. (Significantly, although these bands reflected the interests of rural landlords and notables, they were, nonetheless, composed primarily of disgruntled and aggrieved peasants).(67) On the whole, however, the revolt genuinely attempted to redress the predicament of the Palestinian peasant. A number of the rebels' actions undertaken at the height of their power clearly indicate a strong peasant-based nationalist awareness that sought to reverse traditional notable dominance over Palestinian society. Indeed, as Swedenburg states, this was a "revenge of the countryside which prompted thousands of wealthy Palestinians to abandon their homes for other Arab countries."(68)
To begin with, the rebel commanders imposed on all male city-folk the replacement of the fez (the round hat usually worn by middle and upper-class urban males), with the peasant headcloth, the kufiya. Palestinian lawyers appearing before British courts were a particular target of this demand. This measure not only helped rebel fighters blend in with the urban population, it, more significantly, symbolised the new rural hegemony displacing former urban notable dominance. In addition to this, both Muslim and Christian urban women were ordered to wear the veil-a further rural trait. Imposing the kufiya and the veil were essentially symbolic attempts to eliminate urbanite culture that was thought to have been corrupted by British imperialist and Zionist influences. Similarly, rebel leaders issued demands against the use of electric power in part because it was produced by an Anglo-Jewish company, but also because it was another attempt to transform the cities into large villages.(69)
On September 1 1938 a joint rebel command declaration was made. In essence, it reflected an unequivocal attempt by the rebels to implement widespread and comprehensive social reforms. Rebel leaders froze all peasant debts to urban notables. Debt collectors and land owners were ordered not to visit villages. Those who did were threatened with death. Rebel commanders abolished rents on urban apartments, thereby connecting peasant grievances with those of the urban poor. They also warned tenants not to rent from the British or Jews. Great wealth was extracted from the urban rich as financial contributions to the uprising, and even more substantial payments were extorted from Jaffa merchants and large orange growers who were thought to be supporters of the Nashashibi political leadership.(70)
In fact, many prominent members of the Nashashibi clan and their allies became targets for rebel assassination. This was not just because Nashashibis were personally implicated in land sales to the Jews, it was also because they had been supportive of partition in mid-1937, and were the main figures behind the establishment of the peace bands later in the revolt.(71) The terror campaign against the Nashashibi faction was stepped up in the closing months of 1938 and in the Winter of 1939, when the rebels' opponents began to stage their counter-revolt. Many Nashashibis and their allies were assassinated while many of their subordinate shaykhs and notables were harassed, publicly humiliated, and flogged.(72) Indeed, so significant was the terror that the figure of approximately 500 Palestinians killed was only slightly less than the number of urban Jews killed during this period of the revolt.(73) Although some of the rebels did kill other Palestinians out of their own personal or clan-based bloodfeuds under the guise of the nationalist cause, much of the terror campaign was, nonetheless, directed at genuine traitors to the Palestinian peasantry. Indeed, as Porath himself was forced to acknowledge given the frequency of such instances, "from the outset this campaign of [anti-Nashashibi] terror was accompanied by the systematic murder of people who did not please the rebels: sellers of land to the Jews, loyal [Palestinian] Police officers, policemen and detectives, informers, holders of moderate political views."(74) On that basis, therefore, the terror campaign entailed a real attempt to take revenge upon those Palestinians who had aggrieved rural peasants in the past, and against those who sought to undermine or reverse the gains achieved by the rebels.(75)
On the whole, therefore, it is clear that the rebels did have a social ideology, and that their attempts to impose a peasant-based program for national change threatened urban notable dominance over Palestinian society. This interpretation, which is put forward by Swedenburg, Kimmerling, and Migdal,(76) has not only undercut Porath's critical study of the rebellion, but has also significantly undermined mainstream Israeli historical writing in general. Although Porath's study is the most significant of all histories of the revolt, essentially because of its scholarly and extensive reading of the documentary material, it is, ultimately, merely reflective of mainstream Israeli historiography. In essence, mainstream Israeli historical writing has consistently denied the revolt its national character.
To begin with, arguing from a Marxist perspective, Yehuda Bauer has concluded that in the second phase of the revolt the peasant rebellion "was too much tied to a backward tradition, and was able to create neither a united command or administration nor a meaningful system of political and ideological concepts. Only these might perhaps have overcome the sectarian tendencies of the Arab fellah, lacking as he did in any developed national consciousness."(77) In fact, led by only a few genuine "nationalist" leaders, the revolt was mainly dominated by "brigands and landlords," who developed proto-fascist and pro-Nazi political sentiments and sympathies, at the behest of their main leader, the Mufti.(78) The revolt, Bauer continues, was "guided" primarily "by religious and feudal concepts." Consequently, although it was initially led "by an alliance between landowners, clerics, the middle class and intellectuals, and even part of a small working class," it soon "became for all practical purposes an arm of the international fascist movement."(79)
A less extreme study, but one which equally denies the revolt its national character, is Yuval Arnon-Ohanna's study of the institutionalisation and organisation of the armed peasant bands. The bands, he argues, could not be organised into one army or led under one rule essentially because they reflected the backwardness of traditional Palestinian society: "The Palestinian Arab bands were a micro-reflection of the society from which they sprang. This society, structured in lineages (hamulas) which were habitually keen rivals, bequeathed to the bands its own difficulties in establishing a widely accepted leadership."(80) "The failure," he states, of both local Palestinian and foreign Arab leaders "to endow the bands with a well-defined and properly organised structure," was a consequence of "the nature of the society within which the bands were created." By replicating "the mentality and way of life" of the "Arab village," Arnon-Ohanna argues, the armed bands were not capable of devising any meaningful nationalist program for change; rather, "the absence of cooperation and mutual responsibility, the deep-seated divisiveness of a society based on patriarchal lines and hamulas, the ancient inter-village and inter-hamula wrangles over stretches of land and water sources, over blood feuds, family honor and marital problems-these were simply transferred to the bands movement."(81)
Anita Shapira's important study of the development of the Zionist movement in Palestine, on the other hand, does acknowledge that the revolt "was a nationalist uprising." In fact, she claims that "the Arab community's depth of involvement and the readiness on the part of broad segments of the lower classes to make economic sacrifices and even to sacrifice their own lives, if necessary, were unprecedented."(82) Despite this recognition, however, she then proceeds to demonstrate that the revolt was not a genuine nationalist and anti-colonial uprising, but more of a series of terrorist attacks directed primarily against Jews:
The tactics utilised by the organisers of the revolt were those of terror: ambushes that injured the weak and defenceless. There were relatively few attacks against the British army. Instead, passersby or workers in the fields were assaulted; hand grenades were tossed from a moving train in Tel Aviv or at the entrance to a movie theater in Jerusalem. There was an incident involving two Jewish nurses who came to care for Arabs at the hospital in Jaffa and were murdered by Arab terrorists. There was also the case of a worker in the field who was asked by an Arab acquaintance for a drink of water; when he turned to fulfill the request, he was shot and killed. There was a terrorist outburst in the Jewish quarter in Safed, resulting in the murder of a father and his three children. Incidents like these strengthened the image of the Arab as a bloodthirsty desert savage, who does not shrink from the most brutal of acts and lacks all moral inhibitions.(83)
However, the reality is that although Jewish settlements were significant targets for rebel attacks, they were of secondary importance to British military targets.(84) In 1938, the year when rebel strength was at its greatest, less than a quarter of all major rebel attacks were carried out against Jews and their property.(85) Like Bauer, Shapira also undermines the national character of the revolt by linking it with the international fascist movement: "There was also genuine cooperation," she states, "between the Arab rebels in Palestine and the Italian government. It would appear that Italy directed funds to the Arab Higher Committee, and thus assisted in fanning the flames of the revolt. Swastikas appeared in Arab towns in Palestine, and shops decorated their show windows with portraits of Hitler."(86)
These accusations of ideological links with fascism, however, should be dismissed as Israeli exaggeration. Whereas no evidence exists of any Nazi arms or money reaching Palestine,(87) it is true that substantial Italian funds helped support the revolt. British and Jewish intelligence were both of the opinion that Italian money went to the AHC and the rebel bands.(88) In addition, in September 1940 the Italian Foreign Minister, Count Ciano, told the German ambassador in Rome "that for years he had maintained constant relations with the Grand Mufti, of which his secret fund could tell a tale. The return on this gift of millions had not been exactly great."(89) However, according also to British intelligence, the Mufti and other leaders sought financial assistance for the uprising from the Comintern. Although they were unsuccessful in achieving this, it does indicate that little or no meaningful ideological connection existed between the Palestinian national movement and international fascism. Mutual anti-British sentiments were probably the major factors linking the two.(90) Similarly, any sympathies the local population may have had towards Nazi anti-Semitism, reflects a total lack of understanding of that type of ideological hatred given Nazism placed Arabs on the same scale as Jews in their racial hierarchy.
The most extreme example of an Israeli historian denying the revolt its national character is Shai Lachman's examination of both Izz al-Din al-Qassam's clandestine organisation prior to the uprising, the Black Hand, and the activities of the Qassamites during the revolt period. Much like Shapira, Lachman's writings depict the rebel bands as having been packed with terrorists. "In the Summer of 1938," he states, "at the height of the revolt, absolute anarchy descended upon the Arab community, expressing itself in a total collapse of civilian authority and public services, in the takeover of large areas and several towns by lawless rebels, and in an unprecedented campaign of terror and violence."(91) In essence, Lachman exaggerates the terror campaign directed against the Nashashibis and other traitors and enemies: "There was no limit to the violence used by the Mufti and his followers in their endeavour to take revenge on their opponents and eliminate their strongholds throughout the country. Prominent opposition leaders were a permanent target for assassins' bullets. Their families and possessions were left defenceless, and dozens of their supporters, in towns and villages, fell victim to acts of terror, extortion and intimidation." Additionally, Lachman relates that "a systematic campaign of murder was conducted against people accused of 'disloyalty to the Arab cause:' informers, loyal Arab policemen, and civil servants and moderates suspected of supporting partition. Many of these 'traitors' were murdered in broad daylight."(92) What is significant about this, Lachman argues, is that "many murders were arbitrary" and were "executed without rhyme or reason."(93) On that basis, therefore, rather than effectively challenging British rule, the revolt largely turned in on itself and degenerated into a mass of terror and internal killings. In fact, what is strongly portrayed in Lachman's writings is the erroneous notion that most of the peasant band leaders were more terrorist in nature than they were genuine nationalist fighters.
According to his reconstruction, "the elite of the armed bands movement" were the Qassamites.(94) In the early thirties, Lachman states, the popular religious preacher Izz al-Din al-Qassam established the Black Hand, "the first Arab terrorist movement in Palestine."(95) The Black Hand, he continues, "was of an extremist-religious character and in some ways resembled a dervish order; its members grew their beards wild, called themselves 'shaykhs,' and upon initiation to the secret society, took a stringent religious oath before al-Qassam to guard closely its secrets and to devote their lives to the war against the Jews."(96) Indeed, in the years prior to the revolt, continues Lachman, the Black Hand operated essentially "to kill Jews" and to "terrorise the Jewish population."(97) Lachman emphasises the fact that following Qassam's fall in battle in November 1935, the remnants of the Black Hand continued their anti-Jewish and anti-British hostilities,(98) and incited many villagers to action soon after the beginning of the general strike. Indeed, Qassamites became "zealous organisers and key commanders of bands."(99) More significantly, according to Lachman's interpretation, they were the main perpetrators of the terrorist campaigns against "moderate Arabs" desirous of peace, against political leaders considered not militant enough, against Palestinians involved in land sales, and against Christian Arabs suspected of treason or supporting secession to the new Jewish state.(100) After the truce period, it was the Qassamites who assassinated Lewis Andrews and thereby reignited the new stage of fighting.(101) In this period, Lachman argues, the "Qassamites and their allies played a prominent role in spreading terror in the northern regions. Dozens of Arabs of Haifa and Galilee were murdered by them during the years 1938-39, while many others fell victim to violent attacks and extortion practiced in the name of this terrorist organisation."(102)
According to Lachman's figures, 131 Qassamites "held key positions in both the local and general command of the revolt."(103) Although fundamentally committed to both the anti-Zionist and anti-British struggles, Lachman asserts that their terrorist activities were not only widespread and generally indiscriminate, but led ultimately to the demise of the revolt: "Their campaign of terror and the indiscriminate murders they committed contributed heavily to the rebellion's disintegration from within, and caused the accumulation of a terrible blood-debt in the Arab community, a phenomenon which had serious future consequences for the strength and coherence of the Palestinian Arab national movement."(104)
Porath, on the other hand, presents a significantly different depiction of the Qassamites. Although it is true that Qassamites did hold key positions within the rebel command structure, according to Porath's more measured examination of rebel band leaders, only 25 occupied high positions within the hierarchy.(105) More significantly, rather than being terrorists who often killed Palestinians and Jews indiscriminately, none of the Qassamites, Porath relates, had criminal records before entering the revolt, and most acquired a reputation among other rebels as "devout and righteous fighters."(106) It is unlikely that such a view of the Qassamites would have been held had the Qassamites genuinely been engaged in frequent acts of indiscriminate murder of other Arabs, and were, therefore, principally responsible for the demise of the revolt as a whole.
Having surveyed mainstream Israeli historiography of the rebellion, it is clear that Swedenburg is absolutely accurate in asserting that it has denied the revolt its national character. Specifically, he is accurate in arguing that mainstream Israeli historiography has transformed the revolt from a genuine anti-colonial nationalist rebellion, into an incoherent uprising in which anti-Jewish terrorism featured prominently and which ultimately deteriorated because of its internal divisions, lack of discipline, and assassinations. The key problem with Swedenburg's analysis, however, is that he has largely ignored the ways in which mainstream Israeli historians have made moral capital from the Yishuv's response to the rebellion. More specifically, Swedenburg has largely overlooked their depiction of havlaga, the Yishuv's official response to the revolt, as well as its outgrowth, the principle of 'purity of arms.'
Meaning, literally, self-restraint, havlaga was the policy adopted by the Zionist institutions and the bulk of the Jewish community shortly after the eruption of hostilities in April 1936. In essence, havlaga was the conscious decision to defend oneself against Arab attack, but also to resist the temptation to retaliate in kind or initiate Jewish attacks. More specifically, havlaga was the decision to refrain from the urge to respond to Arab terror against Jewish civilians with Jewish terror.(107) The reasons behind the adoption of havlaga were essentially political and pragmatic. First, the Jewish leadership wanted to avoid transforming the revolt into an ethnic conflict between Jews and Arabs. Second, by avoiding retaliation, the Zionist leadership could prevent the probable British abandonment of their sponsorship of the Jewish national home, as well as pressure them into crushing the rebellion more forcefully, and request further demands from that sponsorship. Indeed, in response to the AHC's three fundamental national demands, the Jews demanded from the British an increase in protection from Arab attack, the continuation of the construction of the Jewish national home, and the continuation of further Jewish immigration without any restrictions.(108) The benefits of havlaga were significant. Immigration was not stopped but was increased to include a new six month labour program. New settlements, dubbed the 'stockade and watchtower' settlements, were permitted to be established in places of high risk deep inside Arab dominated geographical areas. And most significantly, thousands of Jews (many of them members of the Haganah) were recruited as supernumerary police and settlement guards, and as members of the counter-insurgent units of the SNS.(109)
Although mainstream Israeli historiography has generally acknowledged these political and pragmatic considerations, most analysts have interpreted the adoption of the policy of havlaga, in the wake of frequent Arab killings of Jewish civilians, as the product also of a higher Jewish morality. Zvi Elpeleg, for example, described it as "one of the extraordinary manifestations of the Jewish spirit to be seen in Palestine."(110) Moreover, havlaga, argues Elpeleg, was a consequence primarily of "moral motives rooted in Jewish tradition and the spirit of the Zionist movement."(111) Similarly, Yehuda Bauer claimed that havlaga gave the Yishuv a "spirit of purity," and "a feeling of moral superiority over its enemies."(112) More recently, Tom Segev has argued havlaga was a consequence primarily of the fact that most Zionist leaders wanted to see "themselves as moral people fighting the forces of evil," and that they were, in fact, "committed to the values of European humanism."(113)
Ben-Gurion was the key figure behind the formulation of the policy of restraint. According to one of Shabtai Teveth's biographies of the Zionist leader, although he urged the implementation of havlaga, in part, so as to maintain British support for the Yishuv, it was Ben-Gurion's "view of the Arab above all as a man [that] remained his guiding principle in appealing for self-restraint and limiting the Yishuv to self-defence."(114) According to Teveth, therefore, havlaga's origins lay primarily in Ben-Gurion's humanitarianism.
The most articulate example of this moralising has come from Anita Shapira. At the time of the revolt, the Hebrew press consistently represented the Arab rebels as criminals and thugs. Terminology and phrases such as "highway robbers," "treacherous murderers," and "barbarian, savage, shedders of blood," were often used to describe the rebels.(115) In contrast to this imagery, Shapira explains, the Hebrew press constructed "the moral paragon of the Jew, who does not attack the innocent."(116) Essentially, Shapira's own analysis of havlaga is an extension of this proposition. Havlaga, she argues, "was primarily a spontaneous response of a people desirous of peace, recoiling from bloodshed and wishing to avoid it."(117) Similarly, in another passage, she claims that the "Jewish community" was "deeply averse to bloodshed," and that havlaga "served as proof of Jewish superiority over the Arabs not by might nor by power but by the strength of morality."(118) Moreover, havlaga was a product of long-term Jewish cultural traits; it was, Shapira states, "a rationalisation and politicisation of the age-old Jewish repugnance for the spilling of innocent blood."(119)
Throughout the revolt period, IZL, the right-wing revisionist and dissident military organisation, operated on the fringe of Zionist society. Numbering only a few hundred fighters at any one time, it rejected the policy of restraint and advocated the principle of retaliation.(120) This took the form of terrorist attacks against Palestinian civilians. Although they often killed Palestinian passersby in Jewish neighbourhoods,(121) IZL's more planned and coordinated attacks entailed the placing of bombs in crowded urban Arab areas. To cite just some examples, in the mixed Jewish-Arab cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, and Haifa, young Sephardi Jews were used specifically to communicate with Palestinian crowds while bombs were placed in markets.(122) On August 26 1938 an IZL bomb explosion in Jaffa killed 33 Palestinians. A series of bombs were exploded throughout the country on February 27 1939 killing 38 Palestinians and wounding 44.(123) According to Shapira's analysis, this type of activity "did not provide a sense of satisfaction for vengeance taken" among the majority of Zionist Jews, "but even awakened feelings of shame and disgust." This revulsion, she argues, was the critical difference indicating a higher Jewish morality as personified in havlaga, and Arab barbarism expressed through anti-Jewish terrorism:
There was no issue in which the lack of symmetry in respect to Jewish-Arab relations was so pronounced as the issue of self-restraint. In Arab eyes, every Jew, by dint of being a Jew, was regarded as an enemy; right from the outset, the struggle had been viewed as total. From the Jewish perspective, an intellectual, psychological, and political effort was made to maintain a differentiated image of the Arab. It is thus not surprising that while terrorists were praised on the Arab side as national heroes, and no moderates spoke out against acts of murder and brutality, similar outrages by the Jewish side met with shock and profound misgivings among the Jews.(124)
The essential problem with mainstream Israeli historiography's understanding of havlaga as a product of a higher Jewish morality is that it is fundamentally contradictory. In all reality, there was little difference between the widespread killings of the innocent by IZL, and the activities of the elite units of the Yishuv's defence forces. The practical application of havlaga to Yishuv defence was, in essence, defending Jewish settlements against Arab attacks and resisting the desire to pursue them beyond the settlement's perimeter. However, as Shapira herself acknowledged, havlaga "underwent various modifications and changes" throughout the duration of the revolt.(125) Haganah guards, dissatisfied with being restricted to behind the settlement perimeter, were recruited into mobile counter-insurgent units dubbed Fosh (field squads). Established in 1937, Fosh's mobile patrols consisted of several hundred fighters and fell just short of operating on a country-wide basis. Fosh initiated military activities away from Jewish settlements to usually either in, or on the outskirts of Arab areas.(126)
According to Shapira's analysis, despite the changes to self-restraint, Fosh fighters adhered to the morality of havlaga because this ethical code was embodied in a new guiding principle-that of "purity of arms."(127) Essentially, this was the principle of avoiding harming the innocent. Fosh fighters, Shapira argues, consistently sought to avoid injuring Palestinian civilians: "When a raid was organised on a prominent building in an Arab village... efforts were undertaken to evacuate residents from structures marked for demolition, as a warning or in reprisal for attacks against Jews in the same area."(128) More specifically, ethical issues, she points out, often arose within Fosh deliberations such as whether to use a rifle or a grenade in populated areas. This, she explains, was because "a grenade injures indiscriminately, while the rifle strike is more accurate. The awareness of these fine distinctions," she continues, "indicated that the accepted norm demanded caution in the use of weapons and that a violation was associated with a recognition that there had been a deviation from that norm."(129)
On the whole, however, Shapira's line of argument on purity of arms (which is the most detailed of all mainstream Israeli historiography), is entirely erroneous. Non-discriminate killing of both the enemy and innocent was used consistently and routinely by the Fosh. In fact, murder of the innocent was used by the Fosh as a mechanism for collective punishment and to deter Arab attacks against Jewish settlements.(130) Indeed, as the more measured analysis by Uri Ben-Eliezer on Jewish militarism in Palestine makes quite clear, Fosh "murder was considered legitimate as long as it served the national purpose."(131) "The Fosh's organised violence," he states, "was neither reactive, spontaneous, nor emotional and not necessarily revengeful, as in violence caused by uncontrolled passions."(132) Rather, Ben-Eliezer argues that it was essentially a calculated practice. Indeed, in Fosh, he continues, "the will to operate efficiently and perfectly took precedence over any form of purity of arms. We see in Fosh the tendency to gloss over military practices with verbiage expressing self-righteous skepticism and anguished doubts, but never to let moralistic handwriting interfere with the mode of action or compromise its effectiveness."(133) Eliezer cites the following typical example of Fosh activity. One evening a Fosh squad came upon an Arab band. The Jewish commanders gave the order to open fire but none of their younger and inexperienced fighters marshalled the courage to do so. The Arab band successfully retreated but as a consequence of their subordinates' inability to come to terms with killing, the squad's commanders murdered two Arab civilians seen harvesting the fields of a nearby Jewish moshav. The recruits were made to inspect the bodies from a close distance. Both the murders and the inspection took place in order to inculcate the young Fosh fighters with the importance of killing. No distinction between enemy and civilian targets was made, and there was no conception of any ethical restrictions guiding their conduct.(134)
Many Fosh fighters were recruited into Charles Orde Wingate's Special Night Squads. Established in mid-1938, the SNS operated much like the Fosh proper, in that they moved mainly at night and used commando tactics.(135) Wingate was a British officer of Scottish background. Although a part of the British armed forces, Wingate's SNS operated with a good deal of autonomy.(136) An overzealous Christian, Wingate was dedicated to the Zionist cause out of religious ideals.(137) He was also extremely brutal. Noted for merciless raids and looting of Arab villages, Wingate's operations were acknowledged for often employing murder as a mechanism for collective punishment. In response to the killing of Chaim Sturman (a Jewish fighter from within the SNS, and one of Wingate's personal friends), Wingate gave the order to execute any Arab found within the nearby vicinity. On another occasion, in an attempt to determine the identity of some Arab murderers, Wingate assembled all of the inhabitants of a village and executed every tenth one. These incidents were typical of the activities of the SNS. Rather than being repulsed by Wingate's methods, participation in his raids was considered a great privilege and honor among Fosh fighters.(138)
The Fosh was disbanded in April 1939 and the SNS in May, essentially because the British sought to curb the strength of the Jewish forces.(139) Most of their best men and leaders joined the Special Operations unit (SO), which was established on June 5 1939 and saw through the remaining months of the revolt.(140) According to Ben-Eliezer, "one reason for its formulation was to channel the thirst for revenge into a formal framework within which it could be controlled."(141) Indeed, like the Fosh and the SNS before it, the murder of Palestinian civilians was used routinely by the SO. On one SO revenge operation, a band of young fighters, under the command of Shlomo Shamir and Yigal Allon, shot up a house in the village of Libiya killing and wounding civilian men, women, and children. On a separate occasion, as a consequence of the killing of a Jewish civilian, one of the SO squads set off to Balad ash-Shaykh, the village from where the Arab perpetrators were thought to have come. Unable to locate the village, the SO fighters did not want to return without having achieved some retribution; they therefore shot the nearest Arab civilian they could find. Responding to the same anti-Jewish attack, a separate squad of SO fighters, who did find Balad ash-Shaykh, dragged five Arab villagers from their homes and lined them up and shot them.(142) As a consequence of these and other similar SO operations, the Jewish political leadership pressured the Haganah National Command to outlaw attacks against the innocent. But no SO fighters who were tried for murder by the Haganah judicial system were ever punished, and SO men did not feel bound by Haganah directives against harming civilian Arabs.(143) One SO fighter summed up the unit's attitude towards the Haganah restrictions in the following way:
Whoever gave us the orders for these operations was a great Zionist. We were instructed not to harm children, not to harm women, not, not, and not. It got to the point were if you managed to carry out the operation it was by some accident that enabled you to withstand all those nots. On the other hand, there was one action in which Yigal Paikovich [Allon] and David Shaltiel took part. They went up to a cabin, threw in their grenades and got out of there. Inside there were women and children. I wondered what would happen. Nothing happened. Someone said 'pooh' and that was the end of it.(144)
In essence, there was no moral paragon of the Jew when it came to the activities of the elite units of the mainstream Jewish defence forces. These units consistently and routinely used murder of the innocent for political purposes. They were not restrained by the principle of purity of arms, and they were not guided by a higher Jewish morality. No difference existed between their revenge attacks and the bombings of the IZL, as both used terrorism to deter and avenge Arab attacks on Jews. More generally, mainstream Israeli historians have portrayed the Yishuv as a whole as being highly ethical. This is essentially because they have misunderstood and misrepresented the realities of havlaga.
It is reasonable to assume that, in their analysis of the thawra and the Jewish community's response to it, mainstream Israeli historians have reflected underlying and deeply held cultural values of Israeli society more generally. By transforming the revolt from a genuine nationalist uprising that achieved much of its goals, into an internally chaotic movement which comprised of rebels motivated more by anti-Jewish hatred and lust for money, mainstream Israeli historians have reflected ordinary Israelis' need to deny Palestinians their claims to nationhood and a right to the land of Palestine.
Additionally, these historians have more than likely reflected ordinary Israelis' need to view their past in a highly positive light. Whereas Palestinian rebels frequently engaged in acts of terrorism against Jewish civilians, the Jewish leadership as well as most ordinary Jews of the time were appalled by IZL's recourse to anti-Palestinian terrorism. Elite Jewish fighters fought bravely to protect their community, and because of the principle of purity of arms they maintained the highest ethical standards when confronting their brutal enemies. In contrast to the image of the Palestinian rebel terrorist, therefore, elite Haganah defenders have become highly effective and moral Jewish freedom fighters.
1. Cited in Anita Shapira, Land and Power. The Zionist Resort to Force, 1881-1948 (New York: Oxford University Press; translated by William Temper, 1992), p. 227.
2. Cited in ibid., p. 236. The precise date of this letter is unknown, but Shapira states that it was written in response to anti-Palestinian IZL terrorist attacks in 1938.
3. Ted Swedenburg, Memories of Revolt. The 1936-1939 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), p. 13.
4. ibid., pp. 12-15.
5. ibid., p. 14.
6. I regard Baruch Kimmerling and Joel S. Migdal, Palestinians. The Making of a People (New York: Free Press, 1993), and Uri Ben-Eliezer, The Making of Israeli Militarism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), as being outside the mainstream of Israeli history. So too is Benny Morris' analysis of the revolt in his Righteous Victims. A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 (New York: Vintage Books, 2001).
7. Philip Mattar, The Mufti of Jerusalem. Al-Hajj Amin al-Husayni and the Palestinian National Movement (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), p. 68. The bandits were most likely followers of the recently killed Izz al-Din al-Qassam. Shaykh Qassam was born in Syria and was forced to flee to Palestine in 1920 after fighting against French occupation forces. A popular religious reformer, Qassam successfully established a militant and clandestine organisation, entitled the Black Hand, which operated between the mid-20s to the mid-30s from around where Qassam preached in the Haifa region. For the most part, the organisation prepared for eventual battle against the British and Zionist forces, while occasionally attacking Jewish and British citizens. According to both Jewish intelligence reports and an Arab contemporary account, the number of recruits to the organisation in 1935 was approximately 200. In November 1935, Qassam led a small group of militants to the Gilboa mountain area in open rebellion against British occupation. Qassam fell in battle on November 21 1935. See Yehoshua Porath, The Palestinian Arab National Movement. From Riots to Rebellion, Volume Two, 1929-1939 (London: Frank Cass and Co., 1977), pp. 132-139 and 162-163 for details.
8. Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, pp. 162-195.
9. ibid., pp. 178-195.
10. ibid., p. 217.
11. ibid., p. 217 and pp. 232-234.
12. Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 139.
13. Cited in ibid.
14. Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, pp. 233-243.
"There is not a single Arab who has not been hurt by the entry of Jews into Palestine; there is not a single Arab who does not see himself as part of the Arab race.... In his eyes, Palestine is an independent unit. Previously it had had an Arab face, and now it is changing."
- Moshe Shertok in a speech to the Mapai Central Committee, 9 June 1936.(1)
"Terror brings advantages to the Arabs; but [Jewish] terror will destroy Zionism and the Jewish community in Palestine."
- David Ben-Gurion, letter to the Ihud Olami (union of Zionist-Socialist parties within the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organisation).(2)
15. Ted Swedenburg, 'The Role of the Palestinian Peasantry in the Great Revolt (1936-1939),' in Edmund Burke III and Ira M. Lapidus (eds), Islam, Politics, and Social Movements (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 169-203; also Memories, pp. xx-xxi. Kimmerling and Migdal, Palestinians, pp. 96-123.
16. The figures are from the Palestinian writer Subhi Yasin, The Great Arab Revolt in Palestine, 1936-1939 (Cairo; in Arabic, 1959), and are cited by Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, p. 247.
17. Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, p. 247.
18. Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 150.
19. Kimmerling and Migdal, Palestinians, p. 121, and Swedenburg, Memories, p. 214, note 23.
20. Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 150.
21. ibid., p. 159.
22. Swedenburg, Memories, p. 40.
23. Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 150.
24. Swedenburg, Memories, p. xxi.
26. Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, p. 288.
27. ibid., pp. 291-292.
28. Swedenburg, Memories, p. xxi.
29. Swedenburg, 'Role,' p. 194.
30. Walid Khalidi (ed.), From Haven to Conquest. Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem Until 1948 (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1971), pp. 848-849.
31. Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, p. 290.
32. Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 155.
33. Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, p. 290.
34. Cited in ibid.
35. Swedenburg, Memories, p. xxii.
36. See note 7 for the full citation.
37. ibid., pp. xi-xii.
38. ibid., p. 301.
39. bid., p. 269.
40. Porath's use of the term 'national' in this context is erroneous. Given Porath's above statement, his use of the term here refers to the urban political leadership responsible for 'national' affairs.
41. ibid., p. 265.
42. Swedenburg, 'Role,' p. 170, and Kimmerling and Migdal, Palestinians, p. 97.
43. Swedenburg, 'Role,' p. 169.
44. ibid., pp. 181-182.
45. Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, p. 82. The Jewish Agency's figures, on the other hand, account for the sale of 1,305,000 dunams. This figure is also problematic as it does not include purchases made by Jewish individuals and companies which the Jewish Agency had no control over. Clearly, given both of these sets of figures are imprecise they should be regarded only as guides.
46. ibid., pp. 81-82.
47. ibid., pp. 83-84.
48. ibid., p. 81.
49. Swedenburg, 'Role,' pp. 173-174.
50. ibid., p. 185.
51. ibid., p. 181.
52. Zvi Elpeleg, 'The 1936-1939 Disturbances: Riot or Rebellion?,' The Wiener Library Bulletin, vol. xxxi, nos 45-46 (1978), pp. 40-51 (p. 41).
53. Swedenburg, 'Role,' p. 184.
54. Zvi Elpeleg, The Grand Mufti. Haj Amin al-Hussaini, Founder of the Palestinian National Movement (London: Frank Cass and Co.; translated by David Harvey, 1993), p. 36.
55. Swedenburg, 'Role,' p. 185. According to Porath's estimates, although no precise figure can be calculated owing to unreliable Jewish and Mandate records, the total figure for Palestinian families displaced by Zionist land purchases from the 1880s to 1936 numbers somewhere in the range of "several thousand." Palestinian Arab National Movement, pp. 87-90 and 297.
56. Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, p. 86.
57. Swedenburg, 'Role,' p. 182.
58. ibid., p. 184.
59. ibid., p. 188.
60. ibid., p. 185.
61. Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, p. 86.
62. Swedenburg, 'Role,' pp. 185-186.
63. ibid., p. 186.
64. ibid., pp. 186-187, and Kimmerling and Migdal, Palestinians, p. 103.
65. Swedenburg, 'Role,' p. 187.
66. ibid., p. 193, and Kimmerling and Migdal, Palestinians, pp. 115-116. See Kimmerling and Migdal for specific examples of tribal vendetta killings.
67. Swedenburg, 'Role,' p. 193.
68. ibid. Approximately 30,000 Arabs fled Palestine between 1936-39. Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 153.
69. Swedenburg, 'Role,' pp. 192-193, and Kimmerling and Migdal, Palestinians, pp. 112-117.
70. Swedenburg, 'Role,' p. 193, and Kimmerling and Migdal, Palestinians, pp. 112-117.
71. Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, pp. 250-256.
72. ibid., p. 250.
73. Kimmerling and Migdal, Palestinians, p. 117.
74. Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, p. 250.
75. Swedenburg, 'Role,' p. 196.
76. Kimmerling and Migdal's chapter on the revolt is reproduced without revisions in a new and updated version of their book: Baruch Kimmerling and Joel S. Migdal, The Palestinian People. A History (London: Harvard University Press, 2003), pp. 102-131.
77. Yehuda Bauer, 'The Arab Revolt of 1936,' New Outlook, vol. 9, nos 6-7 (1966), pp. 49-57 and 21-28 (p. 24).
78. ibid., p. 56.
79. ibid., p. 24.
80. Yuval Arnon-Ohanna, 'The Bands in the Palestinian Arab Revolt, 1936-1939: Structure and Organization,' Asian and African Studies, vol. 15, no. 2 (1981), pp. 229-247 (p. 229).
81. ibid., p. 247.
82. Shapira, Land and Power, p. 220.
83. ibid., p. 229.
84. Swedenburg, Memories, p. 16, and Kimmerling and Migdal, Palestinians, p. 111.
85. Kimmerling and Migdal, Palestinians, p. 111.
86. Shapira, Land and Power, p. 231.
87. Swedenburg, Memories, p. 214, note 25.
88. Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, p. 188.
89. Cited in ibid.
90. Swedenburg, Memories, p. 214, note 25.
91. Shai Lachman, 'Arab Rebellion and Terrorism in Palestine 1929-39: The Case of Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam and his Movement,' in Elie Kedourie and Sylvia Haim (eds), Zionism and Arabism in Palestine and Israel (London: Frank Cass and Co., 1982), pp. 52-99 (p. 82).
92. ibid., p. 83. Inverted commas are his.
94. ibid., p. 87.
95. ibid., p. 86.
96. ibid., p. 64.
97. ibid., p. 63. For a more accurate depiction of the Black Hand see note 7 above.
98. ibid., p. 78.
99. ibid., pp. 78-79.
100. ibid., p. 80.
101. ibid., p. 81.
102. ibid., p. 85.
103. ibid., pp. 83-85.
104. ibid., pp. 87-88.
105. Compare Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, pp. 260-265 and 388-403, to Lachman 'Arab Rebellion,' pp. 83-85.
106. Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement, p. 183.
107. Shapira, Land and Power, pp. 234-235.
108. ibid., p. 234.
109. ibid., p. 237.
110. Elpeleg, '1936-1939 Disturbances,' p. 45. Elpeleg's description of havlaga is a quotation from Christopher Sykes, Cross Roads to Israel (London: New English Library, 1965).
111. Elpeleg, '1936-1939 Disturbances,' p. 45.
112. Bauer, 'Arab Revolt of 1936,' p. 22. In the interest of precision, it should be noted that Swedenburg has acknowledged the way both Elpeleg and Bauer have drawn moral significance from havlaga. However, Swedenburg has essentially ignored the real importance havlaga has had in mainstream Israeli historiography. Indeed, his one paragraph analysis of the policy is a mere acknowledgment. See Memories, pp. 14-15.
113. Tom Segev, One Palestine Complete. Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate (London: Abacus, 2000) pp. 383-384.
114. Shabtai Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs. From Peace to War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), p. 175. Emphasis is mine.
115. Cited in Shapira, Land and Power, p. 238. Take, for example, the following 1936 editorial comments made by Moshe Beilinson, the general editor of the Mapai Hebrew daily, Davar: "Only in one area have the attackers shown their strength: murder from ambush, murder of individuals who are completely innocent and without sin, the murder of women and children."
117. ibid., p. 235.
118. ibid., p. 238.
119. ibid., p. 235.
120. Edward Luttwak and Dan Horowitz, The Israeli Army (London: Allen Lane, 1975), p. 18.
121. Shapira, Land and Power, p. 236.
122. Swedenburg, Memories, p. 42.
123. ibid., p. 217, note 5. For further examples see Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 147.
124. Shapira, Land and Power, p. 236.
125. ibid., p. 249.
126. Ben-Eliezer, Making of Israeli Militarism, pp. 24-25.
127. Shapira, Land and Power, p. 252.
130. Ben-Eliezer, Making of Israeli Militarism, p. 27.
131. ibid., p. 26.
132. ibid., p. 25.
133. ibid., p. 27.
134. ibid., p. 26.
135. Shapira, Land and Power, pp. 250-251.
136. Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 148.
137. Shapira, Land and Power, p. 251.
138. Ben-Eliezer, Making of Israeli Militarism, pp. 26-27.
139. ibid., p. 27.
140. ibid., p. 34.
142. ibid., pp. 34-35.
143. ibid., p. 35.
144. Cited in ibid. This was stated by Haim Laskov, a future IDF Chief-of-Staff.