The road to the 1936 revolt

The road to the 1936 revolt

The road to the 1936 revolt
Armed struggle in the 1936 revolt
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The 1936 Great Arab Revolt peaked in the same year that it began, but its origins lie in the years before this date. A series of events served as harbingers of the Revolt, paving the way for its eventual outbreak. These events, despite their scattered incidence and varying levels of influence, contributed to reaching the confrontation point with the British Mandate and the Zionist movement on April 15 1936.

The Balfour Declaration represented the first chapter in the Palestinian struggle with the Zionist movement. Balfour’s visit to Palestine and the trip of a Jewish delegation in search of Zionist aspirations in the country led to the mobilization of Arab groups and the formation of Islamic-Christian associations to resist colonialism. This would result in a series of conferences that reached an agreement to demand the complete independence of Palestine and the rejection of both the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate.1

  • 1. Nijim, Ibrahim, Amin Aqel, and Omar Abu al-Nasr, ed. Walid Khalidi. Jihad Filastin al-‘Arabiyya [Palestine’s Arab Jihad]. Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2009, p. 167.
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Jewish immigration to Palestine had reached its peak in the 1920s. This matter was not lost on Palestinians, who sensed what the authorities of the British Mandate were planning in relation to the Jews, the first signs of which was through the execution and privatization of major projects. This led to clashes and confrontations with British forces, and the rise of some groups that would target brokers.1

Illegal Immigration (I)

In response to the Mandate’s policies of supporting the Zionist presence in Palestine, Palestinians escalated their attacks against Zionists and the different Zionist projects. Jewish immigrants flooded such projects and took over the resources and jobs from Palestinian laborers. The attacks would reach their peak between the years 1920 and 1921, resulting in the death of 30 Jews.1

In an attempt to bridge the political gap in the Palestinian context, Palestinians held a series of conferences which focused on the importance of national unity and Palestinian independence in the face of Zionist encroachment. This can be considered the start of the formal expression of Palestinian national identity.

  • 1. Nijim. Palestine’s Arab Jihad, p. 171.

Despite the intermittent stagnation of resistance before the Revolt, the years that preceded it witnessed mobilization in the direction of self-organization. There was a proliferation of associations, institutions, and scout groups, in addition to a large formation of women’s institutions and groups, including Ri’ayat al-Tifil al-Yaffawiya in Jaffa, and al-Nahda al-Nisa’iya in Ramallah. These were two among a number of other branches of women’s associations.1

  • 1. ‘Alqam, Nabil. Tarikh al-Haraka al-Wataniyya al-Filastiniyya wa Dawr al-Mar’a Fiha [History of the Palestinian National Movement and the role of women in it]. Al-Bira: Markaz Dirasat al-Turath wa al-Mujtama’, 2005, p. 81.

The ripples of the 1929 Buraq Uprising served as the most important factor in pushing the Palestinians toward revolt some seventeen years later, setting the parameters of their confrontation with the Zionists in the coming years. On August 15 1929, the Jews reached al-Buraq (the present-day Western Wall) carrying Zionist flags and singing their Zionist national anthem, the Hatikva, or “the Hope,” asserting the day as the anniversary of the destruction of Solomon’s temple. It coincided with the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammed’s birth. These events led to violent confrontations in Jerusalem between the Palestinians and Jews1, and later extended to other Palestinian cities, heralding the start of the Buraq Revolution. It ended with a massive wave of arrests enacted by the authorities of the British Mandate against Palestinian youth in Safad, where 25 were sentenced to death. With pressure on the British High Commissioner, Britain was forced to lower the sentence to three executions—against Muhammad Jamjoum, Fouad Hijazi, and Atta al-Zeer, who later became symbols for the Palestinian struggle and a part of the Buraq Uprising until this day.2

  • 1. Zuaiter, Akram. Mudhaqarat Akram Zuaiter: Bawakir al-Nidal [Akram Zuaiter’s Memoirs: The Harbingers of Struggle]. Beirut: al-Mu'assasa al-Arabiyya lil Dirasat wa al-Nashr, 1994.
  • 2. Al-Hout, Bayan Nuwayhad. Al-Qiyadat wa al-Mu’assasat al-Siyasiyya fi Filastin 1917-1948 [Leaders and Political Institutions in Palestine 1917-1948]. Dar al-Huda, 1986.

The participation in the Buraq Uprising was not limited to men; Palestinian women sometimes participated in attacking British and Jewish military locations, as well as collecting donations and distributing them among the families of martyrs. Out of the 120 Palestinian martyrs in the Uprising, nine of them were women, most of them from villages: Aisha Abu Hasan from Attara, Izziya Muhammad Ali Salama from Qalunya, Jamila Muhammad Ahmad Alaz’ar from Sur Bahir, Nashaweek Hasan from Beit Safafa, Halima Yousef al-Ghandour and Mariam Ali Abu Mahmoud from Jaffa, Fatima Muhammad Ali Haj Muhammad from Bayt Daras, and two other women whose names remain unknown.1

  • 1. 'Alqam. History of the Palestinian National Movement, p. 85.

Moreover, in the year 1929, the annual Women’s Conference was held with the participation of 300 Palestinian women.1 They endorsed the resolutions of the Palestinian conferences, and decided to submit a memorandum to the High Commissioner, which included, inter alia, a rejection of the Balfour Declaration, a demand to prevent immigration to Palestine, the removal of Attorney General Norman Bentwich, and the repeal of the Collective Punishment Ordinance. The women also organized a protest of 80 cars that roamed Jerusalem in silence and passed in front of the consulates, reaching the High Commissioner and meeting him, where Matel Mughannam explained to him the demands of the women in English, followed by Tarab Abed al-Hadi in Arabic.2

  • 1. Nijim. Palestine’s Arab Jihad, p. 174.
  • 2. ’Alqam. History of the Palestinian National Movement, p. 86.
Palestinian Women Delegation

After two years, the executive committee of the Arab women’s conference sent a telegram signed by Waheeda al-Khalidi and Matel Mughannam and dated July 22 1931, to the British authorities and the League of Nations, protesting the International Buraq Committee’s report. The women also participated in a protest called for by Baheeja al-Nabulsi on August 25 1931, in support of the youth protests from the prior two days.1

  • 1. 'Alqam. History of the Palestinian National Movement, p. 87.

This visit to the High Commissioner, coupled with the women’s protests and other efforts by women’s organizations and unions in Palestine, are only one way in which confrontation with the Mandate and Zionism played out.

The tactical and provocative role played by these conferences and protests was linked to resistance actions on the ground. It was a form of women’s incorporation in political work, propagating a national discourse which places women at the center of events and makes them unique participants and mobilizers.

In the meantime, with the escalation of economic and material suppression, Palestinians had reached a point of no return, concluding that armed engagement and military confrontation with the English was vital to sinking the Zionist project and reclaiming Arab rights. Various clandestine armed groups were beginning to form and emerge in the 1920s, with the absence of a unified political infrastructure capable of directing the struggle against colonialism.

Related Biography
Revolutionaries and Activists

Izzeddin al-Qassam

1882, Jabla, Syria
20 November 1935, Ya'bad, Palestine

The Qassam Revolution was one manifestation of these armed groups. It was founded by the Shaykh Izzeddin al-Qassam in Palestine in the year 1921, as a product of his belief that the military option is the only solution to defeating the Zionist movement and British colonialism. Al-Qassam partook in mass action and popular work, including the different campaigns to boycott Zionist products. He also performed a number of military operations against Jews. Their revolution can be considered the final test for the 1936 revolt, and which ended with the martyrdom of Izzeddin al-Qassam and a number of his comrades in the fields of Ya'bad .1

In 1930, Izzeddin al-Qassam founded a military organization that opposed the Zionists and the British under the name of al-Kaf al-Aswad, or “The Black Hand.”2 By 1935 the number of its trained members ranged between 200-800 fighters.3 This organization targeted Jews in the Northern regions4, and it was said that they sought to clean out informants and spies. High levels of secrecy characterized their work, consisting of groups where only a quarter knew one another, while others in it did not know the rest of the groups at all.5 Women also took part in al-Kaf al-Aswad, especially in Jerusalem, where the active women worked to send threatening letters to the police. A number of women were arrested, tried in military courts, and sent to prison. One of them was Munira al-Khalidi, who was sent to prison in 1937.6

  • 1. Al-Mawsu’a al-Filastiniyya, p. 1948.
  • 2. Yaari, Ehud. Strike Terror: the Story of Fatah. Sabra Books, 1970, p. 41
  • 3. Segev, Tom. One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate. Macmillan, 2001, p. 360.
  • 4. Kedourie, Elie and Sylvia G. Haim. Zionism and Arabism in Palestine and Israel. Taylor & Francis, 1982, p. 63.
  • 5. ‘Arrar, Abdul Aziz. “Al-Qada al-Fallahun fi Ma’ma’an al-Thawra al-Filastiniyya 1936-1939 [Peasant Leaders in the Heat of the Palestinian Revolution 1936-1939]” Dunia al-Watan, 2011.
  • 6. Abdo, Janan. “Nariman Khurshayd wa Tanzim Zahratul Uqhuwan [Nariman Khurshayd and the Zahratul Uqhuwan Organization]” Jadaliyya, 2015.
Related Biography
Revolutionaries and Activists

Izzeddin al-Qassam

1882, Jabla, Syria
20 November 1935, Ya'bad, Palestine

Al-Kaf al-Aswad carried out attacks against Jewish targets between 1930 and 1935, assassinating a secret informant of the English named Ahmad Nayef.1 After Nayef’s assassination, the people of Haifa refused to pray on his soul and bury him in the cemetery.2

Regardless of the truth of this organization's founders and establishment, it undoubtedly contributed to the outbreak of the Great Revolt, alongside other organizations and groups, causing great harm to British and Zionist forces over years of upheaval and resistance.

  • 1. 'Arrar, "Peasant Leaders"
  • 2. Zuaiter. "Akram Zuaiter's Memoirs," p. 148.