1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine

1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine

The 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine was an uprising during the British mandate by Arabs in Palestine which lasted from 1936 to 1939. It should not be confused with the Arab Revolt of 1916–18.


An early manifestation of the National revolt was the Palestinian general strike which lasted from April-October 1936.

The dissent was influenced by the Qassamite rebelion following the killing of Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam in 1935 as well as the declaration by Hajj Mohammad Amin al-Husayni of 16th May 1930 as 'Palestine Day' and calling for a General Strike on this day, following the 1929 Buraq (Western Wall) Uprising.

The strike began in Nablus and soon other committees in Haifa, Jenin, Tulkarm and Jeruslaem were formed to join the protest. The demands of the strike were Independence for Jerusalem and a stop to removals of workers from the land. [A History of Palestinian Resistence, Daud Abdullah] .

While the strike was initially organised by workers and local committess, soon religeous leaders and families were involved to help co-ordination. This lead to the formation on 25 April 1936 of the Arab Higher Committee or HAC.


About one month after the general strike started, the leadership group declared a general non-payment of taxes in explicit opposition to Jewish immigration. In the countryside, armed insurrection started sporadically, becoming more organized with time. One particular target of the rebels was the spur line to Haifa of the Trans Arabian Pipeline (TAP) constructed only a few years earlier, this ran from Kirkuk to Sidon. This was repeatedly bombed at various points along its length. Other attacks were on railways (including trains), Jewish settlements, secluded Jewish neighborhoods in the mixed cities, and Jews, both individually and in groups.

The strike was called off in October 1936 and the violence abated for about a year while the Peel Commission deliberated and eventually recommended partition of Palestine. With the rejection of this proposal, the revolt resumed during the autumn of 1937, marked by the assassination of Commissioner Andrews in Nazareth. Violence continued throughout 1938 and eventually petered out in 1939. The decision of the French to crack down on Arab leaders in Damascus may have been a significant factor in stopping the conflict.


The British responded to the violence by greatly expanding their military forces and clamping down on Arab dissent. "Administrative detention" (imprisonment without charges or trial), curfews, and house demolitions were among British practices during this period. However, on the first day of the revolt, the UK had no response or action to the attacks. More than 120 Arabs were sentenced to death and about 40 hanged. The main Arab leaders were arrested or expelled. Amin al-Husayni fled from Palestine to escape arrest.

The "Haganah" (Hebrew for "defense"), a Jewish paramilitary organization, actively supported British efforts to quell the insurgency, which reached 10,000 Arab fighters at their peak during the summer and fall of 1938. Although the British administration didn't officially recognize the "Haganah", the British security forces cooperated with it by forming the Jewish Settlement Police, Jewish Auxiliary Forces and Special Night Squads. In 1931, an underground splinter group broke off from Haganah, calling itself the "Irgun" organization (or "Etzel") [ [http://www.etzel.org.il/english/ac02.htm Etzel - The Establishment of Irgun] .] The Irgun adopted a policy of retaliation against Arabs for attacks on Jews. [ [http://www.etzel.org.il/english/ac03.htm Etzel - Restraint and Retaliation] ]


Despite the assistance of 20,000 additional British troops and several thousand Haganah men, the uprising continued for over two years. By the time it concluded in March 1939, more than 5,000 Arabs, 400 Jews, and 200 Britons had been killed and at least 15,000 Arabs were wounded [http://web.archive.org/web/20051215061527/http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/9A489B74-6477-4E67-9C22-0F53A3CC9ADF.htm Aljazeera: The history of Palestinian revolts] ] .

The revolt did not achieve its goals, although it is "credited with signifying the birth of the Arab Palestinian identity."

Another outcome of the hostilities was the disengagement of the Jewish and Arab economies in Palestine, which were more or less intertwined until that time. For example, whereas the Jewish city of Tel Aviv relied on the nearby Arab seaport of Jaffa, hostilities dictated the construction of a separate Jewish-run seaport for Tel-Aviv. Historians later pointed to the uprising as a pivotal point at which the Jewish population in Palestine became independent and self-sustaining.

During the revolt, British authorities attempted to confiscate all weapons from the Arab population. This, and the destruction of the main Arab political leadership in the revolt, greatly hindered their military efforts in the 1948 Palestine war. [cite book
author = Benny Morris
title = Righteous Victims
publisher = Knopf
pages = p. 159
id = ISBN 0-679-421203



* Ted Swedenburg, "The Role of the Palestinian Peasantry in the Great Revolt (1936–1939)," reprinted in Hourani, Albert H., et al., "The Modern Middle East" (I.B. Tauris, 2004), pp. 467-503. ISBN 1-86064-963-7

ee also

*1938 Tiberias massacre
*Mandate for Palestine
*Peel Commission
*Army of Shadows, Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948
*Woodhead Commission
*White Paper of 1939

External Resources

* [http://www.zionism-israel.com/dic/Arab_Revolt.htm The Arab Revolt in Palestine] A Zionist point of view
* [http://www.newjerseysolidarity.org/resources/kanafani/kanafani4.htm The 1936–1939 Revolt in Palestine] A Palestinian point of view by Ghassan Kanafani.
* [http://www.historytoday.com/dm_linkinternal.aspx?amid=13243 The First Intifada: Rebellion in Palestine 1936 - 1939] A view from British historian Charles Townshend.

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