Saturday, July 13, 2024
Saturday, July 13, 2024
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The 1936-1939 Great Revolt in Palestine – Arabs, Jews, and Britons in the Holy Land’s Forgotten First ‘Intifada’

Oren Kessler
Military History Now, Feb. 19, 2023

“The revolt to end Zionism had instead crushed the Arabs themselves, leaving them crippled in facing the Jews’ own drive for statehood a decade on. It was the closest the Palestinians would ever come to victory; they have never quite recovered.”

A CERTAIN grim but familiar pattern typifies reports from the Holy Land. Palestinians, despairing over their thwarted national hopes, wage acts of protest, boycott, sabotage, and violence. All around them Jewish settlements inexorably expand. Islamic hardliners sabotage peace talks, executing suspected collaborators and moderates. Occupation forces launch an aggressive crackdown, demolishing homes, erecting a separation wall, and drawing censure for rights abuses. The world power with the greatest clout over the warring sides pushes a partition plan, even while seeming to doubt its viability. Jewish factions are split: One is ready to give up part of the Land of Israel for peace; another demands the entire ancient patrimony, by force of arms if needed. Further bloodletting appears inevitable.

These could be this morning’s news alerts. Or headlines from the Second Intifada of the early 2000s, the earlier First Intifada, or any number of clashes over the three-quarters of a century since the Jewish state’s creation in 1948. Instead it is an earlier story — of Palestine’s first Arab rebellion, a seminal, three-year uprising a decade before Israel’s birth that cast the mold for the Jewish-Arab encounter ever since. About 500 Jews were killed and some 1,000 wounded. British troops and police suffered around 250 fatalities in their ranks. But the price exacted upon the Arabs themselves was heavier still, and not just in terms of body count.

The Great Revolt of 1936 to 1939 was the crucible in which Palestinian identity coalesced. It united rival families, urban and rural, rich and poor in a single struggle against a common foe: the Jewish national enterprise — Zionism — and its midwife the British Empire. A six-month general strike, one of the longest anywhere in modern history, roused Arabs and Muslims worldwide to the Palestine cause … [To read the full article, click here]
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