While land theft was the wide agenda of the British Mandate in Palestine, it also stole livelihood of which had formed a part of the identity of thousands of Palestinians. Despite the gaping hole of the loss of land that shaped Palestinian national identity for the following decades, it became at the same time a renewed cause for resistance, which continued to galvanize revolutions and Intifadas from 1936 until today.
Palestinians entered the second decade of the last century exhausted by natural disasters and global crises. Locusts devoured farmland in 1915, and in 1927 a terrible earthquake shook the country. Two years later, Palestinians felt the effects of an economic collapse resulting from the Great Depression, which lasted for many years after.1
- 1. Nakhleh, Kamel Mahmoud. Filastin wa al-Intidab al-Britani [Palestine and the British Mandate]. Beirut: 1974, p. 27.
Land sale to Jews marked this era, legally and politically expedited by the British government to the point that it modified existing land laws to facilitate Jewish control over Palestinian land. Those included reforms to lands categorized as vacant, non-arable, and subject to expropriation, limiting Palestinian ownership of land and enabling British expropriation of large tracts of land belonging to peasants. Taking advantage of legal loopholes, the British deliberately sold land to Jewish companies and settlers, while Palestinians were unable to resist such systematic looting.1
- 1. Yassin, Abdul-Qader. Thawrat 1936 al-Wataniyeh al-Filastiniyya: Ma’ali Ahmad Ismat, Waqa’i al-Thawra [The Palestinian National Revolution: Ahmed Ismat, Proceedings of the Revolution]. Cairo: Markaz al-Mahrousa lil Nashr wa al-Khadamat al-Sahafiyya wa al-Ma’lumat, 2007, p. 181.
“The activities of these armed gangs included repeated attempts to paralyze transportation, cutting off telegraph and telephone lines, derailing trains, and trying to prevent the movement of traffic on public roads. This has caused great material damage, which has done massive harm to the economy of the country. Several attempts have been made to destroy the Haifa-Iraq oil pipeline and ignite the oil flowing from it. One of the strike’s important results was the closure of the Jaffa port effectively, although fortunately, the port of Haifa has so far been minimally affected.”1
- 1. Al-Asali, Bassam. Thawrat Shaykh Izzeddin al-Qassam [The Revolution of Sheikh Shaykh Izzeddin al-Qassam]. Beirut: al-Diwan, 1991, p. 157.