British Mandate Palestine ARAB REVOLT 1936-39

What happened during the Arab Revolt of 1936-39?

Jaffa Waterfront

Photo Jack Hazut

Jaffa Waterfront

In April 1936, riots broke out in Jaffa commencing a three-year period of violence and civil strife in Palestine that is known as the Arab Revolt. The Arab Higher Committee, headed by the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, led the campaign of terrorism against Jewish and British targets.

The Arabs began by proclaiming an Arab general strike and boycott of Jewish enterprises and products. They made demands on the British Mandate administration, principally:

The strike quickly led to a campaign of terror against Jewish people and lands. Seventeen Jews were killed the first day, with little action by the British to stop the rioters. Sparked by the Mufti's agitators, armed bands of Arab terrorists attacked Jewish villages and vehicles, as well as British Army and police forces. By August 1936, responding more to attacks on British assets than to the Jewish losses, the British began a military crack-down on the Arab terrorists.

The Arab strike ended in October 1936 and a temporary peace between Arabs and Jews prevailed for almost a year. Then, in September 1937, following the July report by the Peel Commission, the violent tactics resumed. Armed Arab terrorism, under the direction of the Higher Committee, was used to attack the Jews and to suppress Arab opponents. This campaign of violence continued through 1938 and then tapered off, ending in early 1939. The toll was terrible: Eighty Jews were murdered by terrorist acts during the labor strike, and a total of 415 Jewish deaths were recorded during the whole 1936-1939 Arab Revolt period.

What was the result? The British military suppressed the Arab terrorists, but the British government in effect rewarded them with the publication of the 1939 White Paper, a pro-Arab policy statement that effectively ended the British committment to the purpose of the Palestine Mandate.

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