The Suppression of the Great Revolt and the Destruction of Everyday Life in Palestine
British Mandate
Great Revolt
Palestinian national movement
Palestinian nationalism
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Over the past quarter century, the deconstruction and obstruction of everyday life in the occupied Palestinian territories has become all too familiar. Since the Oslo era (1993–2000), the checkpoint has, in many ways, come to symbolize Israel’s willful obstruction of Palestinians’ most elementary of freedoms: the ability to move from place to place.1 Going to school, tending to agricultural areas, conducting business in an adjacent town, or visiting relatives and friends – the simplest activities of modern life and society – all become subject to the time distorting effects of unpredictable lines and the routine harassment and humiliation of security checks at the network of checkpoints that grew in the 1990s. In turn, Palestinian space has been fragmented and parcelized in dizzying fashion, with islands of supposed Palestinian control (“Area A” of the West Bank) decomposed into some 227 “enclaves” by the end of the Oslo years, 88 percent of which were less than two square kilometers in size, and all surrounded or divided from each other by Israeli jurisdictions and checkpoints.2 Drawing on Heidegger’s observation that the ability to self-consciously control the use of time is one of humanity’s defining characteristics, Amal Jamal suggests that the removal or muting of that capacity in the occupied Palestinian territories – what Jamal describes as subjection to “racialized time” – has been deliberately used to diminish Palestinian life and, in effect, call Palestinians’ humanity into question.3 Similarly, Sari Hanafi has argued that Israel is committing “spacio-cide,” annihilating Palestinian space through colonization, demolition and degradation of urban centers, constriction of zones of habitation, and territorial disaggregation and fragmentation.4 Within this harrowing ensemble, Palestinians live under endless and constantly changing restrictive conditions that enforce precarity and damage the social and economic bases of their collective life, while at the same time they periodically suffer from additional collective punishments, such as curfews and home demolitions, attacks by settlers, and military raids, searches, and campaigns.

The present fractured state of occupied Palestine bears more than a passing resemblance to the now distant era of the 1930s. Many of the military tactics Israel uses to control the Palestinians, and especially its fascination with collective punishment, date back to the British Mandate, and specifically to the suppression of the Palestinian insurgency from 1936–39, known as the Great Revolt.5 Aside from tactical repertoires for managing and repressing the Palestinians, important elements of the systems of military law which Israel has employed to rule over the Palestinian minority in the Jewish state (1948–66) and the population of the West Bank and Gaza (1967–present) also stem from the British counterinsurgency state built in the 1930s. In what follows I propose to tease out another dimension of the manifold legacy of the 1930s: that of the regularized destruction of the daily life of the colonized.

Everyday life, and its social and economic foundations, became a battleground during the Great Revolt. Recent scholarship in English has disclosed much about the collective punishments, dirty war tactics, and ambient brutality that characterized the counterinsurgency against the Great Revolt.6 This paper supplements our understanding of the counterinsurgency by highlighting its targeting of the everyday existence of the Palestinian population. The colonial state intruded upon all manner of daily activities, degrading Palestinians’ living conditions and turning the mundane into a site of contest and a pressure point through which to exercise power. The colonial regime converted schools and hotels into military bases, seized crops and livestock, and invaded, assaulted, and demolished homes, villages, and urban quarters. Quotidian and ritual activities like attending prayers or going to school were made contingent on docile behavior or random circumstance; even funerals were prohibited as potential “disturbances.” Villages were temporarily incarcerated and the movement of goods and persons was restricted and rendered dependent on compliance with state surveillance. The rebels were determined to build an alternative sovereignty and public realm that would incorporate the Palestinian population. To destroy that project and cow the population into submission, colonial authorities employed an array of collective punishments that targeted the body politic. The result was a sustained attack on the daily life of the colonized that operated through four registers: economic sanctions, the control of space, the loss of bodily autonomy, and movement controls. No less than its other legacies, this article contends that the 1930s counterinsurgency established a critical precedent for Israel’s subsequent approach to the Palestinians, one premised on the systematic disruption and degradation of everyday life as a means of curbing resistance and controlling the population.

Collective Punishment

When the Palestinian rebellion sprang to life in April 1936, the Mandatory power faced the greatest crisis since its founding – one from which it never fully recovered, and which largely set in motion the end of British rule over Palestine a dozen years later. The uprising was the conscious fruit of the revolutionary preacher ‘Izz al-Din al-Qassam and his followers, and of the anticolonial currents among youth, peasants, and wider society that were galvanized into action following al-Qassam’s failed bid to make revolution in 1935.7 Its strength flowed from its broad popular appeal and its creative organizational and institutional impulses, which provided a durable and formidable framework.

The government’s first line of defense in 1936 was the 1931 Palestine (Defense) Order in Council, an omnibus legislation that granted broadly dictatorial powers to the Palestine administration and empowered the high commissioner to make regulations by fiat in the name of “securing the public safety and the defense of Palestine.”8 The Order in Council not only allowed the government to bypass the regular court system (through military courts and other measures), but also authorized state seizure or destruction of immovable properties and confiscation of goods such as fuel, food, grain, or other items, without recompense or challenge. The Order in Council was invoked even before the uprising had become an Arab general strike and over the ensuing years the corpus of “emergency” and “defense” law grew rapidly, affording new levers to exert pressure on the everyday lives of Palestine’s Arab communities.

The Jerusalem government hoped to bring the revolt to a close through a diplomatic feint (a royal commission of inquiry) or by arresting key organizers – both of which were attempted in May 1936. Instead, the civil uprising grew into an insurgency that featured dozens of attacks per day by July, the majority directed at state forces. Armed rebel formations operated in both urban centers and the countryside, receiving support from the population and (surreptitiously) from the strike’s leadership organs.9 Faced with insurrection, the military was eager to press a counterinsurgent campaign and, throughout 1936, repeatedly sought sanction for iron fist tactics. It deemed rural society especially deserving of assault, and began to formulate an argument conflating the rural population tout court with insurgency. Yet despite its zeal, the military faced serious challenges, not least the absence of actionable intelligence on the rebels and their whereabouts.10 The rebels, meanwhile, knew the country and its rural milieux, and were experts at concealing themselves, going to ground in the presence of the army and the police. The military’s answer to these conundrums was a search regime that targeted Palestinian communities indiscriminately.11

The official rationale for searches was to locate insurgents, arms, and contraband. However, in its brutish fashion, the military was poorly equipped (and less interested) to determine liability for acts of rebellion, such as sniping on Jewish colonies, British patrols, or road and rail traffic, and content instead to dole out punishment to communities on the grounds of their proximity to such incidents. Searches often resembled punitive raids: houses and businesses were smashed up, goods and foodstuffs ruined, livestock killed, and villagers humiliated, beaten, and killed on occasion. The military’s commanding officer later explained that the destructiveness of searches was compensation for the instructions to keep collective fines modest. Moreover, as the military was incapable of landing a crushing blow on the insurgency, colonial forces aimed instead to cut it off from its bases of rural support by intimidating and brutalizing villagers in areas of rebel strength.12

From the beginning, the search regime was lethal. On 25 May 1936 at Kafr Kanna in the Galilee, British forces shot and killed an Arab woman. Other villagers were slain during searches in the subdistricts of Nablus, Ramallah, Ramla, Safad, Tulkarm, and no doubt elsewhere. In the Ramallah subdistrict, troops conducting sweeps in early July repeatedly fired on villagers, killing six and injuring four.13 When they were not lethal, searches remained destructive and terrifying. At al-Tira in the Ramla subdistrict, the police and military spoilt food, wrecked doors to homes, shops, and storehouses, and beat or assaulted some seventy residents. At Kuwaykat in the Galilee, search forces gathered the village’s men and youth, took them outside the village, forced them to run and jump on command, then beat and kicked them after making them sleep outdoors.14 By the end of June 1936, the regime’s first official month in action, 148 villages had been searched, and by late July the number had risen to 215 operations.15 Complaints surfaced across the country.16 Despite turning up little in the way of arms or men, the Royal Air Force (RAF) deemed subsequent searches “very successful,” and such operations continued throughout and after the strike.17

Far from being passive, as the literature that repeats common arguments found in military sources has represented,18 the Palestine administration regularly evolved new tactics aimed at quelling the rebellion. These tactics nibbled away at the time and financial health of the colonized or interfered with their rhythms of life. Curfews were one such device. Initially imposed in Jaffa, the uprising’s first urban flashpoint, curfews became regularized at night and common by day in Arab towns and villages. At their extreme they confined affected populations to their homes for twenty-two hours a day.19 The administration quickly updated the Collective Punishments Ordinance, allowing it to saddle villages accused of offenses such as property damage or stoning cars with “punitive police posts” whose costs were born by the village. By mid-June 1936 almost thirty such posts existed; the government sometimes threatened their imposition to try to induce village mukhtars to collaborate.20

A mainstay of the government’s approach was to use financial sanctions to dissuade support for the strike and punish its participants. Since the strike was not technically illegal, the administration opted to criminalize the financial support of those who, as the high commissioner put it, endeavored to “coerce the Government of Palestine,” and to seize their assets or place them under attachment. The grounds for imposing collective fines multiplied, and, by design, no proof tying a given locality to specific unlawful activity was necessary.21 Villages resisting police and military searches were assessed fines, as were, more arbitrarily, those merely proximate to roadside attacks or ambushes.22 ‘Isa al-Sifri, a Jaffa youth activist, counted 250 fines levied in 1936.23 Attempting to correct for previous practice, when fines imposed after the 1929 uprising went uncollected because they were too steep, High Commissioner Arthur Wauchope instructed that fines be modest in size and collected immediately.24 Fines were often taken in kind, which in villages meant the seizure of valuable livestock, damaging the long-term earning capacity and savings of affected families.25 Nablus, which was hit with one of the largest fines (five thousand Palestine pounds), resisted payment but had part of its fine taken in goods and sundries, even including pillows, soap, and sugar.26 By the strike’s end 21,272 Palestine pounds in charges had been assigned, yet less than half of this sum was collected by early 1937, which may have owed in part to resistance but also indicated many communities’ economic fragility, which only sharpened under the stringent conditions of the strike.27

The violence, destruction, and financial losses caused by searches and collective fines led to widespread Palestinian fear and sometimes unexpected responses. At times, rural populations – including those of Qabatiya in Jenin subdistrict and the ‘Arab al-Bawatin Bedouin encamped east of Bisan – fled ahead of searches and other operations.28 The Arab Higher Committee, the official coordinating body for the strike, considered incidents like these a response to the search regime and its “intimidation of women and children.”29 Collective fines, and fears for the honor and safety of women and children, were also a cause for temporary evacuations.30

Controlling Space

In June 1936, the government unveiled a new set of repressive powers, several of which struck at the autonomy and liberty of individuals. They authorized district commissioners to force open shops that had closed in observance of the strike – a provision that was unworkable – and, more efficaciously, to order detention without trial for one year in internment camps. Soldiers were given powers to arrest members of the public and, more degradingly, to compel them to perform corvée labor. The latter power was part of the military’s venture to reclaim urban spaces. In some cities, rebels had created semi-autonomous zones, erecting barricades to close off neighborhoods to state penetration and strewing nails on streets to impair British and Jewish mobility and to dissuade normal traffic. Arabs protested the corvée regulation as humiliating, but it was utilized to force Arab residents to clear away these obstructions and reopen the roadways.31

The June regulations also included home demolitions, to be conducted where government forces were fired upon and as an exemplary punishment when culprits could not be located. By Sifri’s count the new power was wielded in at least thirty villages, sometimes in conjunction with other punishments. At ‘Alma, outside Safad, state forces killed the village’s livestock before destroying a home that contained a seed repository. British forces destroyed homes across Palestine, from Khan Yunis in Gaza to Majd al-Kurum in the Galilee. Bedouin communities targeted with demolitions included the Wadi al-Hawarith, the Tarabayn (Beersheba), and the Tayaha (Naqab). Displaying the Orientalist models that often informed British thinking, RAF military intelligence heartily endorsed the tactic: “It is a quick and conclusive form of punishment and one that is understood by the Arab mind. The ruins of the house or houses stand as a lasting memorial of Government punishment.”32

The most extraordinary demolitions in 1936 came in June at Jaffa, where British forces razed much of the Old City to pave the way for military access roads. Sifri compared the events to an earthquake and estimated that over one thousand dwellings and ancillary buildings were destroyed, putting ten thousand people out on the street.33 A later researcher counted roughly 650 families whose homes were destroyed and another 1,150 families that temporarily or permanently evacuated – rendering approximately one-sixth of the Arab population of Jaffa temporarily or permanently homeless.34 Although the demolitions destroyed a critical rebel sanctuary, local partisans continued to battle security forces and attack Jewish settlements in the area.35

While Jaffa bore the brunt of the state’s increasingly militarized response to the strike, other cities also became sites of urban warfare. Palestine’s garrison grew during the strike from two battalions to twenty-two, and the army took over schools throughout the country for use as barracks and bases, further contributing to the militarization of urban space. As one ranking officer sarcastically put it, “Educational institutions provided a good deal of the required accommodation, much to the indignation of some people. Protests poured in, and the Arabs helpfully suggested that the troops should live in the open in order to harden them, instead of starving the intellectual development of their young by usurping their schools.”36 Nablus was surrounded with barbed wire and the army occupied the local shari‘a court and the Sports Union Club (where the local strike committee had its headquarters), mounting machine guns on the latter’s roof. The historic Jazzar mosque in ‘Akka was riddled with machine gun fire, and when the Arab Higher Committee objected, the military clarified that it had been aiming at the waqf building adjacent to the mosque, thereby underlining the disregard for local religious institutions and communal gathering places. The military wanted to lay siege to the Old City in Jerusalem, but was held off by the administration’s concerns and had to suffice with police checkpoints to effect searches and regulate foot traffic.37

The Failure of Counterinsurgency in 1936

Still, the military advocated more aggressive tactics and complained that its hands were being tied by the civil administration, which, in its view, was too concerned with Arab casualties and Arab public opinion.38 In June 1936, the military brass began calling for martial law, by which it meant the end of any restraints placed on its operations. Colonial Secretary William Ormsby-Gore and High Commissioner Wauchope rejected this idea, contending, in the main, that the Order in Council was adequate to the task of suppressing disorder; Wauchope also believed (not without reason) that left to their own devices the military would, by harming innocent people in large numbers, sow “bitter feeling” and make the restoration of order more difficult.39 In the opinion of the ranking military officer, R. E. C. Pierse, however, nothing short of crushing the peasantry altogether, particularly in the central hill country, was adequate to snuff out the stubborn rebellion.40 In reality, his determination to scourge and chasten peasants en masse was indicative of the military’s own failure, after long, hard months of combat and service, to uproot the insurgency. The resort to collective punishment as strategy betrayed the guerillas’ capacity to survive and build the uprising despite regularly being defeated on the battlefield. Short of achieving a military knockout, the state’s response was to try and disrupt rebel systems by punishments that struck indiscriminately at the public, impinging on and constraining daily life, and turning everyday locales like villages, schools, and town squares into part-time warzones.

During the first phase of the Great Revolt, colonial authorities established a template for suppressing the popular movement through collective punishments. The state used financial penalties and combined these with direct physical intimidation and violence. The former damaged people’s economic wellbeing, and in effect threatened the population with impoverishment and deprivation. The latter, along with the occupation of schools, clubs, and other public places, did injury to the everyday security people expect in their villages and urban spaces and amounted to the violation or denial of sanctuary. Home demolitions – a favorite tool and hallmark of the government’s counterinsurgency – struck at both economic livelihood and personal and collective security.41 The son of Jenin’s mayor named home demolitions, curfews, and fines – each of which tore at the fabric of everyday life and depleted communal livelihoods and resources – as “the most oppressive” government tactics employed during 1936.42 When these proved damaging but insufficient to subdue the revolt, the colonial authorities continued their search for a means to suppress the rebellion. During the revolt’s succeeding phases, tactics pioneered during the strike, such as movement controls and forced labor, would be further amplified and developed; utilized alongside new methods, such as temporary mass incarceration, the effect was devastating.

Entering a New Phase

During the Peel Commission interregnum in 1936–37, the rebels began new, albeit smaller, offensives against Jewish colonies, state security forces, and informants and loyalist Arabs. The government continued to levy collective fines and demolish homes, promulgated an even more despotic Order in Council, and renewed its dragnet of nationalist activists. It also widened the imposition of punitive police posts to include “areas where the inhabitants had failed to render all the assistance in their power to the police or other authority for the purpose of suppressing disturbances.” By the end of 1937, eighty punitive billets had been established, meaning that about one-tenth of Arab villages were directly under police supervision.43

The revolt was renewed at greater intensity after the Peel Commission’s call for partition sparked widespread outrage even among Palestinians more sympathetic to the government and Palestinian rebels assassinated Lewis Andrews, the acting district commissioner–Galilee, in September 1937. The government quickly established a military court system and the military undertook punitive operations and searches that the acting high commissioner labeled “drastic in the extreme.” The government outlawed the formal organs of the national movement, and deported Arab Higher Committee members to a prison camp in the Seychelles; others fled into exile. Arrest sweeps clogged prisons and filled internment camps, targeting nationalist activists, but also preachers, shaykhs, and all manner of notables; practically all of the northern notables were interned for some duration.44

While the administration suppressed the organs of the Palestinian national movement, the military resorted to greater displays of spectacular violence. Individuals were more frequently killed during searches, which were often more destructive than they had been in 1936. In February 1938, for example, troops searching Ijzim in the Haifa subdistrict literally bashed the brains out of a man breaking the search cordon, demolished two houses and destroyed the contents of fifty to sixty others, and hauled off seven hundred to eight hundred goats and sheep as a collective fine.45 British forces took entire flocks for fines, driving villagers to hunger, and smashed sewing machines and other tools of women’s lives in an effort to pry them away from the revolt.46 Home demolitions expanded, often entailing widespread destruction of the built environment in villages. At Baqa al-Gharbiyya near Tulkarm, proximate to where several soldiers were killed in summer 1938, between 53 and 93 homes were destroyed.47 In July 1938, vengeful soldiers reportedly burned down the entire Galilee hamlet of Kawkab Abu al-Hayja.48 Sha‘b, near ‘Akka, witnessed 120 of its approximately 300 homes demolished after a lieutenant was killed by a mine outside it. Jenin, then a modest town of three thousand or so inhabitants, had between 20 and 50 percent of its housing stock destroyed – leaving behind many hungry and homeless – after its acting district commissioner was assassinated in August 1938.49 As in 1936, the destruction and brutality of searches led some villagers to pull up stakes and evacuate, both before and after visits by the military and the police.50

Jeopardizing the basic livelihoods of rural populations was, like so many of the colonial regime’s counterinsurgent methods, a double-edged sword. In spring 1937, Wauchope warned that “so large a number of landless Arabs are near the border line of starvation” that he feared this could further destabilize Palestine’s security.51 The government did little to ameliorate these dire conditions, despite a sizeable budget surplus.52 As the specter of famine reappeared in 1938 and the wheat harvest for the year failed, those whom government had brutalized or consigned to deprivation were increasingly open to the rebel call to overthrow the hated colonial state.53 From fall 1937 to fall 1938, rebel power grew, forcing the government to retreat from all but a handful of cities and fortified military bases.

As the Palestinian revolt built toward a “security landslide” by summer 1938, the government struggled to hold its ground.54 It reoccupied villages in the Galilee and the central highlands, put the Special Night Squads – notorious units that placed irregular Jewish forces under British officers to carry out raids and extrajudicial executions – into action, and converted the Mandate judicial system into a hanging court for Arabs.55 None of these proved the silver bullet the colonial regime was looking for, but new tactics were soon devised that presented stark challenges to the daily existence of Arab communities in both the countryside and the towns. The first of these was regularized mass incarceration of villagers during searches.

Mass Detention

With the aid of Zionist intelligence, the practice of “caging a village” ultimately helped build a network of informants with knowledge of the rebel movement, thereby yielding the type of valuable intelligence that the government had long lacked. Mass detention of male populations during searches – in on-site or semipermanent cages – became commonplace and was often combined with forced labor and other forms of punishment. The scale of detentions and the broad sweep of the population they affected are one of the most dramatic and underexamined aspects of the 1930s counterinsurgency.56

The practice began in the north in July 1938, prompted by consistent local resistance to new police posts and a border fence. At al-Malakiyya, a fifty-by-fifty-meter cage was set up, to which the military brought some one thousand men from the surrounding Arab villages. The men were held for several days without food, drink, or protection from the elements, save what women of their villages could bring. The same month, a combing operation in part of the Triangle targeted males between the ages of sixteen and sixty for “questioning” at Tulkarm and the nearby prison camp at Nur al-Shams. Men from ‘Illar, ‘Atil, Qufin, al-Hanana, and ‘Ar‘ara were among the first picked up. They spent days exposed in outdoor pens without food before they were joined by their compatriots from ‘Anabta, Bal‘a, Dayr al-Ghusun, Kafr Ruman, and Shuwayka. High Commissioner MacMichael (who replaced Wauchope in March) estimated that some four thousand men were temporarily detained. The duration of their incarceration is unknown, but the scale of the undertaking was unprecedented.57

In subsequent rounds of mass detention, men were used as forced labor on local gun battery installations and for other purposes. Soldiers sometimes marked the bodies of detainees as if they were herd animals, painting the necks of men from certain villages so as to make their origins visually identifiable to their captors.58 Detention during searches was soon extended to urban populations as well. In August 1938, a twenty-four-hour curfew was imposed on Nablus, and amid ambient violence killing at least two, the entire city’s male population (boys included), numbering perhaps six thousand, were searched and processed in cage screenings at the local military base. Lydda, ‘Akka, Gaza, and Jaffa all faced such searches over the next months, with hundreds detained afterward.59

The military’s increasingly close cooperation with Zionism, especially the Haganah, also impacted the new search protocol. A detention pen was established at the colony of Karkur, near the Triangle, and used as a regular depot for mass detentions.60 The Haganah’s chief of Arab intelligence, Ezra Danin, supplied the army with informants who were used in “identification parades” that came to accompany searches. During these exercises, informants concealed in armored cars picked out rebels and their supporters as male villagers were made to file by. Zionist intelligence and counterrevolutionary Palestinians (who mobilized in 1938 into so-called peace bands) assisted in pinpointing which detainees might be turned into informants.61

The carceral search techniques generalized in the second half of 1938 created a shadow prison system, in which a large number of Palestinian males experienced confinement and forced labor, and where, as some Arab protestors noted, the formal regulations and legal apparatus governing incarceration did not apply. According to military statistics, between November 1938 and mid-April 1939, the military conducted an average of 40 to 70 searches per week and weekly detentions for interrogation sometimes ranged in the thousands, and did not dip below five hundred until March 1939.62 Irrespective of ties to insurgents, detainees were exploited for their labor, building roads, digging trenches, moving equipment, and performing other tasks. (The British military made light of these practices: In late 1938, General Officer Commanding Robert Haining breezily described that those rounded up in searches were sent to “a Concentration Camp for a spell,” and the military claimed that suspects were “detained locally for ten days or so and given a little road work or other exercise for the good of their souls.” 63)

The colonial state’s demand for forced labor was more insidious in the case of human shields, referred to colloquially as “minesweepers,” used to try to curb rebel assaults on the country’s transportation network. British soldiers placed Arab captives in an anterior position in a convoy or on a rail line, in a separate vehicle or strapped straight to the front of a military vehicle, so that in the case of a sniping attack or mine they would almost definitely become the first casualties. The military also used human shields on patrols in villages and during combat on some occasions, although it adamantly denied this.64 During the peak of the revolt, use of human shields became standard operating procedure in parts of the country and on the railroads. Men were kept on hand at military camps and bases for such use by fall 1938 in the north, and all convoys there travelled with human shields. Residents of the ‘Akka, Haifa, and Safad areas protested searches, detentions, and human shielding (comparing the latter to torture) to no avail.65

To be clear, mass detentions in the form of cage searches supplemented the existing prison system and the concentration camps created since 1936. The extensive use of temporary mass incarceration might help explain the discrepancy between Arab estimates of forty to fifty thousand detained during the revolt and the radically lower government figures, such as its claim that only 3,628 persons were held (in all facilities) at the close of 1938.66 The Arab total approaches three-quarters of the entire rural breadwinning population of peasants and sharecroppers counted in the 1931 census, a staggering figure that compares with the (equally staggering) contemporary rate of male detentions in the occupied territories.67 Even if the Arab estimates are high, rural life was clearly punctuated by considerable and traumatic disruptions in many parts of the country, and many men were subjected to confinement, forced labor, and possibly torture, beatings, or other mistreatment.

Controlling Movement

The counterinsurgency’s second critical tactical innovation was the imposition of a regime of movement controls in late 1938. Already common in 1936, curfews were used more frequently and extensively by 1938. Residents analogized them to “imprisonment” and sometimes alleged that they caused hunger and even starvation of infants and children.68 By fall 1938, the British administration placed Nablus, Nazareth, Haifa, Jenin, and the Old City of Jerusalem under a standing order evening curfew, which also applied to “all roads and tracks throughout Palestine outside municipal and built up areas.”69 Daytime curfews severely restricting movement were used as punishments for rebel activities.70 The limitations on free movement altered or abridged common social practices and religious rites. Curfews interfered with or barred prayer at mosque, and funerals were sometimes prohibited or even halted while in progress for fear of triggering anti-government disorder.71

The Arab public’s ability to conduct its daily affairs declined dramatically with the application of movement controls in November 1938 that threatened everyday commerce and food security writ large. Motorized traffic on any road was prohibited without a military-issued permit, the granting of which was dependent on obtaining an identification card. The identification card system was intended to improve the government’s ability to track and surveil the population, and the rebels rightly saw it as a grave development for the revolutionary project. They responded by calling a three-day general strike before the movement controls came into force and announced a ban on obtaining travel permits and identification papers. The ban on cooperating with the movement control regime was well observed but put the insurgency into a devil’s bind of damaging the public interest, which it could not afford to maintain indefinitely.72

The pass law system, in effect, imposed siege warfare on the whole of the Arab public and, as the high commissioner bloodlessly observed, menaced it with “ruin and starvation.”73 Arab traffic ground to a halt and then shifted to non-motorized forms: donkeys, camels, horses, animal-drawn carriages and carts, and bicycles. The high commissioner derisively commented: “A change of this kind [using pack animals rather than cars] is not difficult for the Palestinian Arab; it merely means that the clock is put back twenty years.” Yet the pass laws had larger, if uneven, economic ramifications. Trade, agriculture, and industry underwent “almost complete dislocation,” shriveling beyond their already emaciated condition. Prices rose and the poor in some locations (like Haifa) were unable to afford food, while in others (like Jerusalem) the majority had “barely enough to eat.” In the Southern District, the administration dourly judged that winter would pass “with difficulty, but without starvation.”74

Boycott of the pass system caused strains in the rebel camp and one band captain described it as “nothing but a calamity to the Arabs.” Merchants engaged in price gouging and bought from Jewish peers while the public suffered shortages in vegetables and foodstuffs. The onset of the citrus season caused another problem, as the rebel ban put the whole year’s crop in jeopardy. To remedy the situation, rebel authorities proclaimed exemptions for the citrus trade, permitting individuals involved to acquire IDs and travel permits. Seizing on these frictions, the military denied permits to citrus merchants and workers until the general population submitted to the system. The rebels buckled and cancelled the boycott in mid-December, after roughly six weeks. A rush of applications for ID cards and travel permits followed.75

The Arabs’ travails continued, however, as did military measures that sacrificed Arab economic activity in the name of state security. In January 1939, the military cancelled all travel documents issued to Arabs and effectively banned interurban motor transport for Arabs on the pretext that taxis had been used in offensive operations by insurgents. Most reapplications for permits were refused, with the only categorical exemption granted to citrus-related business. Merchants and landowners outside that sector were hit hard. Arab transport returned to a state similar to that under the pass laws boycott. Making matters worse, military orders in February 1939 further closed down commercial traffic as punishment for sabotage.76 Adding to these disruptions, the military authorities imposed “very frequent 24-hour curfews” after urban assassinations or attempts in early 1939.77 Meanwhile, identification papers were issued during all searches, rendering the male population more visible and more easily tracked. As of March 1939, ninety thousand identity cards had been issued to adult Arab men.78

The transit boycott was probably the last great show of strength by the rebels. The dilemma posed by the pass laws was insuperable, and capitulation to them greatly advanced surveillance and penetration of Arab society while tarnishing the rebellion’s credibility. Disarray and dysfunction within the rebel movement, propelled by both internal and external pressures, only increased afterward.79 Meanwhile, military commanders continued to promulgate harsh orders on matters great and small, with a January 1939 directive in the north declaring that persons with hands in their pockets in public would be handled as suspects exemplifying the extreme lengths to which regulation of the population was pushed.80 Battered by the ever more pitiless counterinsurgency and its growing impact on livelihoods and everyday life, the Arab public was left to put its hopes, fruitlessly as it turned out, in the diplomatic process that led to roundtable talks and the White Paper of 1939.81


In his memoirs, district commissioner–Galilee Alec Kirkbride expresses ambivalence about the idea that the Great Revolt was broken militarily. Where the battlefield continuously drew young Arab men to perish in the name of national glory, he posits that the constriction of “everyday life,” in particular the movement controls implemented in fall 1938, ultimately proved most effective in choking off rebel activity.82 In place of raw military might, movement restrictions brought the counterinsurgency into every Arab home, impinging on the most elementary aspects of everyday life. It was through such channels that the rebellion was, after a prolonged campaign of attrition, rendered unsustainable.

Throughout the Arab rebellion the terrain of everyday life was elemental to the contest for control of the country and its fate. As rebel partisans and sympathizers strove to reclaim Palestine’s urban and rural geography from the colonial state and to build an autonomous public arena and indigenous self-governing institutions, the government fought back by increasing the costs associated with the rebellion. It did so unabashedly, not only through punitive military raids, but through tactics that struck at the interests of the general public, eroding its liberties, violating and militarizing urban and rural space, and coercively altering its patterns of life and social practice.

The first effective vehicles for this stratagem took the form of financial penalties, curfews, and house demolitions. The last suited the military’s desire for spectacular punishment and illustrated the state’s need to control space. The contest over space led to its militarization, both as military forces literally turned schools into barracks and as they injected violence into everyday spaces in order to abolish rebel strongholds and zones. In the process, places of sanctuary diminished and where still intact, the threat of state violence remained latent. During the revolt’s second phase the colonial state’s interventions into daily life were deeper and progressively more integral to the prosecution of the counterinsurgency. The security forces hoped that greater applications of force, the infliction of larger economic losses, and more drastic damage to the built environment would break the rebel movement. Meanwhile, routines of work, school, worship, and travel periodically disrupted in 1936 were more dramatically altered by intensified curfews, new practices of mass incarceration and forced labor, and the revocation of free movement. Normalcy was abolished as the colonial state and the military took their campaign of collective punishments ever further, constricting and diminishing the life of the colonized and ruthlessly exploiting the damage they did to the substance and fabric of people’s lives. The retooled British counterinsurgency brought economic instability and physical insecurity, shaking the socioeconomic foundations of society and cracking the institutional bases of the revolutionary movement. The onslaught of collective punishments destroyed the daily life of Arab Palestinians, forcing sacrifice and suffering onto households far and wide and making the quest for freedom and self-determination ever more costly and untenable. As it remains today in the occupied Palestinian territories and elsewhere, the viability of everyday life was a bellwether in 1930s Palestine for the capacity to develop and maintain a resilient popular movement, and without the ability to shelter it, the Great Revolt was soon in tatters.

Many seeds of the present regime in the Palestinian territories are evident in components of the 1930s counterinsurgency. To be sure, the British did not commit spacio-cide – at least not in the sense of seeking to uproot the Palestinians by reducing the livability and physical integration of their villages, towns, and cities. Yet the calibrated, intentional degradation of the built environment as a method of exercising coercion does trace back to the 1930s. Similarly, the British profoundly impacted the daily temporality, rhythms, and movement of colonized Palestinians, laying the groundwork for “racialized time.” Yet where the latter connotes the deliberate squandering of colonial subjects’ time and thereby degrading their humanity, the counterinsurgents of the Great Revolt were more concerned (with their curfews and movement controls) to restrict Palestinian liberties in order to contain an unruly population. As in other domains, Israel has continued to reengineer and supplement the tactics and tools it inherited from the 1930s. Although Israel’s borrowings are at times strikingly direct, the deeper “lesson” that its leaders and institutions have taken from that era has to do with the utility of the everyday as a sphere for intervention and site of continuous tactical development. Echoing Kirkbride’s evaluation, the targeting of everyday life, and the suffering and disorientation so entailed, has become a powerful method – and model – guiding Israel’s never-ending counterinsurgency.



1 Hannah Arendt called freedom of movement the most fundamental of all civil rights; Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (New York: Penguin, 1963), 32.

2 Sara Roy, “Decline and Disfigurement: The Palestinian Economy after Oslo,” in The New Intifada: Resisting Israel’s Apartheid, ed. Roane Carey (New York: Verso, 2001), 94.

3 Amal Jamal, “On the Troubles of Racialized Time,” in Racism in Israel, ed. Yehouda Shenhav and Yossi Yoni (Jerusalem: Van Leer Institute and Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2008) [Hebrew], cited in ed. Elia Zureik, “Colonialism, Surveillance, and Population Control: Israel/Palestine,” in Surveillance and Control in Israel/Palestine: Population, Territory, and Power, ed. Elia Zureik, David Lyon and Yasmeen Abu-Laban (London: Routledge, 2011), 17–18.

4 Sari Hanafi, “Explaining Spacio-cide in the Palestinian Territory: Colonization, Separation, and the State of Exception,” Current Sociology 61, no. 2 (2013): 190–205. Hanafi stresses that the point of spacio-cide is to promote the voluntary “transfer” of Palestinians out of the territories.

5 Laleh Khalili, “The Location of Palestine in Global Counterinsurgencies,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 42, no. 3 (August 2010): 413–33.

6 See: Jacob Norris, “Repression and Rebellion: Britain’s Response to the Arab Revolt in Palestine of 1936–39,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 36, no. 1 (March 2008): 25–45; the abundant works of Matthew Hughes, for example “The Banality of Brutality: British Armed Forces and the Repression of the Arab Revolt in Palestine, 1936–39,” English Historical Review 74, no. 507 (April 2009): 313–54; and Khalili, “Location of Palestine.”

7 Charles Anderson, “From Petition to Confrontation: The Palestinian National Movement and the Rise of Mass Politics, 1929–1939” (PhD diss., New York University, 2013); Charles Anderson, “State Formation from Below and the Great Revolt in Palestine,” Journal of Palestine Studies 47, no. 1 (Autumn 2017): 39–55. See also Weldon Matthews, Confronting an Empire, Constructing a Nation: Arab Nationalists and Popular Politics in Mandate Palestine (London: I.B. Tauris, 2006); Abdul-Wahhab Kayyali, Palestine: A Modern History (London: Croom Helm, 1978); and Ghassan Kanafani, Thawrat 1936–1939 fi Filastin: khalfiyyat wa-tafasil wa-tahlil (n.p., n.d. [PFLP, 1972]).

8 Palestine (Defense) Order in Council, 1931, the National Archives of the UK (TNA), Colonial Office (CO) 733/239/5. Prepared after the rebellion of 1929, the Order in Council was the government’s answer to growing Palestinian resistance in the 1930s.

9 Anderson, “From Petition,” chapter 7; High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 2 July 1936, secret, TNA Foreign Office (FO) 371/20034. See also Kayyali, Palestine, chapter 7.

10 See Anderson, “From Petition,” chapter 7.

11 On the search regime, see Matthew Kraig Kelly, The Crime of Nationalism: Britain, Palestine, and Nation-Building on the Fringe of Empire (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2017), chapters 2–4.

12 Report by the Air Officer Commanding (AOC), 34, 45, enclosure to: AOC to Air Secretary, 15 October 1936, TNA CO 733/317/1. Such coarse methods drew on Britain’s recent experiences in India’s Northwest Frontier Province and evolving notions of fighting “small wars,” that is, war against non-state actors. See Matthew Hughes, “From Law and Order to Pacification: Britain’s Suppression of the 1936–39 Arab Revolt in Palestine,” Journal of Palestine Studies 39, no. 2 (Winter 2010), 7; and Laleh Khalili, Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013), 19–21.

13 High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 25 May 1936, #268, TNA FO 371/20033; RAF (Jeru.), 3 June 1936, monthly summary of intelligence (May), TNA FO 371/20030; ‘Isa al-Sifri, Filastin al-‘Arabiyya bayna al-intidab wa al-sahyuniyya [Arab Palestine between the Mandate and Zionism] (Jaffa: Maktabat Filastin al-jadida, 1937), vol. 2, 87. Memo by High Commissioner on General Officer Commanding (GOC)’s report, p. 4, enclosure to High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 28 November 1936, TNA CO 733/317/1.

14 Najib, 5 June 1936, Central Zionist Archive (CZA) S/25-3875; Arab Bureau information, 10 June 1936, CZA S/25-22231; Sifri, Filastin al-‘Arabiyya, vol. 2, 86. During the first month of searches the Arab Higher Committee cited similar abuses in the villages of al-Dhib, Kafr Misr, Nabi Samwil, Bayt Iksa, al-Tayyiba, Qaqun, and Dhinnaba. Arab Higher Committee to High Commissioner and League of Nations, 20 June 1936, TNA FO 371/20023.

15 RAF (Jeru.), 1 July 1936, 31 July 1936, weekly summaries of intelligence, TNA FO 371/20030. Conflicting tallies indicate that some villages were likely searched more than once.

16 Kelly, Crime, 41.

17 Compare RAF (Jeru.), 7 August 1936, weekly summary of intelligence, and Gen Staff (WO), Palestine summary #2 (through 6 October 1936), TNA FO 371/20030.

18 For example, Michael J. Cohen, “Sir Arthur Wauchope, the Army, and the Rebellion in Palestine, 1936” Middle Eastern Studies 19, no. 1 (January 1973): 397–404.

19 Report to the League of Nations on the Administration of Palestine and Transjordan, 1936, 9; ‘Izzat Darwaza, Hawla al-haraka al-‘Arabiyya al-haditha: tarikh wa mudhakkirat wa ta‘liqat [On the Modern Movement: History, Memoirs, and Commentary] (Beirut: al-Maktaba al-‘asiriyya, 1950), vol. 3, 129; Wasif F. Abboushi, “The Road to Rebellion: Arab Palestine in the 1930s,” Journal of Palestine Studies 6, no. 3 (Spring 1977): 36–37.

20 High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 4 May 1936, #181, TNA CO 733/310/1; Official communiqué 37/36, 5 May 1936, Israel State Archive (ISA) (2) 566-6m; High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 17 June 1936, #385, TNA CO 733/310/3; Arab Bureau information, 17 June 1936, CZA S/25-22231.

21 High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 7 June 1936, #335, 10 June 1936, #348, and Colonial Secretary to High Commissioner, 11 June 1936, #255, TNA CO 733/311/3.

22 Fawzi al-Qawuqji, Filastin fi mudhakkirat al-Qawuqji, prepared by Khayriyya Qasimiyya (Beirut: PLO Research Center and Dar al-Quds, 1975), vol. 2, 21.

23 Sifri, Filastin al’Arabiyya, vol. 2, 91.

24 Report of the Palestine Royal Commission [the Peel Commission], Cmd 5479 (London: HMSO, 1937), 194; Chief Secretary to District Commissioners, 25 July 1936, Haganah Archive (HA) 8/40.

25 Report to the League of Nations, 1936, 10.

26 Akram Zu‘aytir, Yawmiyat Akram Zu‘aytir: al-haraka al-wataniyya al-Filastiniyya, 1935–1939 [The Diaries of Akram Zu‘aytir: The Palestinian National Movement, 1935–1939] (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1980), 171, 181, 184.

27 Peel Commission report, 194.

28 Sifri, Filastin al-‘Arabiyya, vol. 2, 87.

29 Arab Higher Committee to High Commissioner and League of Nations, 20 June 1936, TNA FO 371/20023.

30 Report, 1 July 1936, HA 8/39.

31 Report to the League of Nations, 1936, 10; Arab Higher Committee to High Commissioner and League of Nations, 20 June 1936, TNA FO 371/20023; Bahjat Abu Gharbiya, Fi khidam al-nidal: mudhakkirat Bahjat Abu Gharbiyya (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1993), 72–73. The use of this power did not stop military officers from concluding that forced labor was not readily enough employed. See H. J. Simson, British Rule in Palestine and the Arab Rebellion of 1936–1937 (Salisbury, NC: Documentary Publications, 1937), 241.

32 High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 7 June 1936, #335, TNA CO 733/311/3; Sifri, Filastin al-‘Arabiyya, vol. 2, 89–91; HC to Colonial Undersecretary (Parkinson), 16 October 1936, TNA CO 733/316/11; RAF (Jeru.), 4 September 1936, weekly summary of intelligence, TNA FO 371/20030.

33 Sifri, Filastin al-‘Arabiyya, vol. 2, 97–98.

34 Kamil Mahmud Khilla, Filastin wa al-intidab al-Britani, 1922–1939 [Palestine and the British mandate, 1922–1939] (Beirut: PLO Research Center, 1974), 407–8. Jaffa’s Arab population, according to census records, was 47,600 in 1931 (Survey of Palestine, vol. 1, 151).

35 Report from “the source,” 2 July 1936, HA 8/39; Najib, 25 July 1936, CZA S/25-3875.

36 Ylana Miller, Government and Society in Rural Palestine, 1920–1948 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985), 116; Simson, British Rule, 263.

37 Arab Bureau information, 10 June 1936, CZA S/25-22231; Zu‘aytir, Yawmiyat, 123; Colonial Undersecretary (Williams) to Foreign Secretary (Eden), 17 August 1936, covering letter to an Arab Women’s Committee petition, TNA FO 371/20023; Arab Higher Committee to High Commissioner and League of Nations, 20 June 1936, and covering memo by the Foreign Office, n.d., TNA FO 371/20023; Memorandum by Chief Secretary on AOC’s report, n.d., enclosure to High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 13 November 1936, TNA CO 733/317/1; Abu Gharbiyya, Fi khidam al-nidal, 72.

38 Report by the General Officer Commanding (n.d.), part I (n.p.), enclosure to: General Officer Commanding to Undersecretary of War, 30.10.36, TNA CO 733/317/1. See also Simson, British Rule, chapters 12–19.

39 Report by the AOC, 45–46, TNA CO 733/317/1; High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 2 June 1936, #320, Colonial Secretary to High Commissioner, 3 June 1936, #242, TNA CO 733/311/3; High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 22 August 1936, CP 225 (36), TNA CAB/24/263/55. Quote from the last. Part of what was deduced in London about the demand for martial law was that it meant the wholesale destruction of villages: Minutes, J. C. Sterndale Bennett to L. Oliphant, 14 August 1936, TNA FO 371/20023.

40 Memo by the AOC, 20 August 1936, CP 225 (36), TNA CAB/24/263/55. AOC Pierse argued that “since the ultimate vote for peace or war lies now with the fellaheen, their subjection must be the primary object.” Pierse was replaced as commanding officer by GOC J. G. Dill in September.

41 Defending the use of home demolitions for exemplary purposes, the High Commissioner plainly argued in June that because the rebel bands were so difficult to pursue, the only means left at government disposal to try to stem the further deterioration of state control was to take action against communities aiding rebels, or from which they originated. High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 10 June 1936, #348, TNA CO 733/311/3.

42 Abboushi, “Road to Rebellion,” 36.

43 Anderson, “From Petition,” chapter 8; High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 27 March 1937, CP 109 (37), TNA FO 371/20805; Report to the League of Nations, 1937, 11–12, 14.

44 Anderson, “From Petition,” 858–60; Extract of Cabinet conclusions, 29 September 1937, TNA CO 733/332/11; Officer Administering the Government (Battershill) to Shuckburgh (CO), 21 November 1937, CP 286 (37), TNA CO 733/332/12; A. S. Kirkbride, A Crackle of Thorns: Experiences in the Middle East (London: John Murray, 1956), 100.

45 Frances E. Newton, Searchlight on Palestine: Fair-Play or Terrorist Methods? (London: Arab Centre, 1938), excerpted in Walid Khalidi, From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem until 1948 (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1971), 361–64.

46 Norris, “Repression and Rebellion,” 33–34; Bishop to Archbishop of Canterbury, 26 February 1938, MECA, JEM 61-3. Adding insult to injury, villagers were sometimes offered the option of buying livestock back from the state if they could afford to do so.

47 High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 19 July 1938, #358 and 20 July 1938, #365, TNA CO 733/366/4; Report to the League of Nations, 1938, 12; Zu‘aytir, Yawmiyat, 415–18.

48 Norris, “Repression and Rebellion,” 36.

49 Cannon Charles Bridgeman to Bishop, 29 August 1938, MECA, JEM 61-3; Anderson, “From Petition,” 1073–75.

50 Survey, 30 December 1937–21 January 1938, CZA S/25-22437; Bishop to Archbishop of Canterbury, 26 February 1938, MECA, JEM 61-3; Zu‘aytir, Yawmiyat, 354, 522; Arab Women’s Committee to High Commissioner, 25 July 1938, TNA CO 733/368/9.

51 High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 27 April 1937, enclosure to CP 127 (37), TNA CO 733/332/11.

52 Report to the League of Nations, 1937, 30.

53 High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 5 September 1938, TNA CO 733/368/9; High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 17 September 1938, TNA CO 733/366/4; Conversation with M.Q. in Nablus, 3 June 1938, and Political information on Arab activities: survey, 6 July 1938, 17, 20, CZA S/25-22191.

54 X (Tegart) to Lytton, 22 April 1939, MECA, Tegart papers 4-4.

55 Tegart, memo: “Present Situation,” 3 May 1938, and Tegart, no heading, 10 May 1938, MECA, Tegart papers 2-3; Matthew Hughes, “Terror in Galilee: British-Jewish Collaboration and the Special Night Squads in Palestine during the Arab Revolt, 1938–39,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 43, no. 4 (2015): 590–610; Zu‘aytir, Yawmiyat, 412. Regarding the courts, for example, three Arabs from Kafr Qasim were executed for property crimes (the arson of a Jewish flour mill) and four others were sentenced to death for attempted arson in July 1938.

56 Several accounts cite the misleading official statistic of nine thousand prisoners held in 1939. Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate (New York: Henry Holt, 2000), 417; Norris, “Repression and Rebellion,” 40. The phrase “caging a village” is cited in Shira Robinson, Citizen Strangers: Palestinians and the Birth of Israel’s Liberal Settler State (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013), 227 n37.

57 High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 5 September 1938, with enclosure, Arab Women’s Committee to High Commissioner, 25 July 1938, TNA CO 733/368/9; RAF (Jeru.), 10 August 1938, resume of operations (July), TNA Air 5/1248; Zu‘aytir, Yawmiyat, 415–18.

58 Anderson, “From Petition,” 1055–56.

59 Zu‘aytir, Yawmiyat, 431, 509; RAF (Jeru.), 17 September 1938, resume of operations (August), TNA Air 5/1248; Isbir Munayyir, al-Lidd fi ‘ahday al-intidab wa-l-ihtilal (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1997), 27; Narrative dispatch #11, High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 3 December 1938, 73–75, TNA CO 935/21.

60 HMS Repulse, reports of proceedings, 26 July 1938 and 27 August 1938, TNA CO 733/366/4; Zu‘aytir, Yawmiyat, 456–57.

61 Hillel Cohen, Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917–1948 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 153, 156; Ian Black and Benny Morris, Israel’s Secret Wars: A History of Israel’s Intelligence Services (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991), 15; Sir Gawain Bell, Shadows on the Sand: The Memoirs of Sir Gawain Bell (London: Hurst, 1983), 94. On the peace bands see Cohen, Army of Shadows, and Anderson, “From Petition,” chapter 10.

62 See weekly reports from the General Officer Commanding or GHQ in Palestine to the War Office at TNA CO 733/379/3 and FO 371/23243.

63 GHQ, extract from D.O. no. G.S.I. 27/1, 25 November 1938, TNA CO 733/379/3; GOC Haining, “Hostile Propaganda in Palestine,” 1 December 1938, 8–9, TNA FO 371/21869; ‘Abdullah al-Jazzar (mufti of ‘Akka), et al. to Secretary of the League of Nations, 22 September 1938, enclosure to High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 4 November 1938, TNA CO 733/368/10. One Jewish Agency report notes that 50-60 people were taken from “each village” for forced labor (Information on Arab activity, 17 November 1938, CZA S/25-22191).

64 Al-Jazzar, et al. to League of Nations, 22 September 1938, TNA CO 733/368/10; HMS Malaya, Reports of proceedings, 28 August 1938, 2 September 1938, and 15 September 1938 (appendix II), TNA CO 733/366/4; Thomas Ricks, ed., Turbulent Times in Palestine: The Diaries of Khalil Totah, 1886–1955 (Jerusalem and Ramallah: Institute for Palestine Studies and PASSIA, 2009), 231; Edward Keith-Roach, Pasha of Jerusalem: Memoirs of a District Commissioner under the British Mandate (New York: Radcliffe Press, 1994), 196.

65 On protests in the north, see citations in Anderson, “From Petition,” 1067. For a detailed examination of human shielding during the Great Revolt, see Anderson, “When Palestinians Became Human Shields” (forthcoming).

66 Subhi Yasin, al-Thawra al-‘Arabiyya al-kubra (Cairo: Dar al-huna li-l-taba‘a, 1959), 36; Darwaza, Hawla al-haraka, 201; Abu Gharbiyya, Fi khidam al-nidal, 117; Report to the League of Nations, 1938, 115. The administration claimed that only 2,463 Arabs were detained under the Defense Regulations during 1938 (Report to the League of Nations, 1938, 114). This number rose to 5,679 in 1939 (Khalidi, From Haven to Conquest, appendix IV, 847).

67 Census of Palestine 1931, prepared by E. Mills (Jerusalem: Government of Palestine, 1933), vol. 1, 289–90. Census figures cited here (67,175) do not include rural laborers who were heads of households (totaling 26,495). Recent estimates suggest that up to 40 percent of Palestinian males in the occupied territories have been detained since 1967. Rashid Khalidi, “Israel: A Carceral State,” Journal of Palestine Studies 43, no. 4 (Summer 2014), 5–6.

68 Protest from the patriotic organizations of Safad to the High Commissioner, 16 July 1938, and Letter from Safad, 19 July 1938, by Sa‘d al-Din [‘Id Sulayman], in Watha’iq al-haraka al-wataniyya al-Filastiniyya, 1918–1939: min awraq Akram Zu‘aytir [Documents of the Palestinian National Movement, 1918–1939: From the Papers of Akram Zu‘aytir] ed. Bayan Nuwayhid al-Hut, (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1984), 483–85; The situation in the Old City of Jerusalem, 23 October 1938, and Army action in the Old City on 21–24 October 1938, CZA S/25-22191.

69 High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 9 September 1938, #557, TNA CO 733/366/4. Exemption from the permit system was made for the Jewish areas of Tel Aviv and its adjacent citrus plain (the Sharon): “Report on Military Control in Palestine,” 34, TNA WO 191/89.

70 Announcement of Southern military commander, 16 November 1938, in Watha’iq al-haraka, 515.

71 Al-Jazzar et al. to League of Nations, 22 September 1938; Abdallah Mukhless et al. to Colonial Secretary, 21 October 1938, enclosure to High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 23 November 1938, TNA CO 733/368/10; Letter from Safad, 19 July 1938, in Watha’iq al-haraka, 484–85; Haifa diary 1938–39, 27 February 1939, Bodleian Library, Oxford (BLO), Scrivenor papers, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 377.

72 “Report on Military Control in Palestine, 1938–39,” April 1939, 29–37, TNA WO 191/89; Zu‘aytir, Yawmiyat, 508–9; High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 30 October 1938, #763, TNA CO 733/366/4.

73 Narrative dispatch #11, High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 3 December 1938, 76, TNA CO 935/21.

74 Narrative dispatch #12, High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 29 December 1938, 83, TNA CO 935/21; Reports from District Commissioners for November (1938), TNA CO 733/372/18.

75 Abu ‘Adnan to Abu Mansur, 17 November 1938, Sanur cache, CZA S/25-22591 (quote); Narrative dispatch #12, High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 29 December 1938, 81, 90, TNA CO 935/21; Zu‘aytir, Yawmiyat, 539; District Commissioner-Southern to Chief Secretary, 4 January 1939, report for December, 2, TNA CO 733/372/18.

76 Narrative dispatch #1, High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 27 February 1939, 7, 12, and Narrative dispatch #2, 24 March 1939, 18–19, TNA CO 935/22.

77 Narrative dispatch #1, High Commissioner to Colonial Secretary, 27 February 1939, 7, TNA CO 935/22.

78 “Report on Military Control in Palestine,” 31, TNA WO 191/89.

79 Anderson, “State Formation,” 47–48.

80 General Bernard Montgomery (later of World War II fame) privately explained this order as a means to excuse shooting or killing persons “acting suspiciously.” Haifa diary 1937–38, June 1939 (record of prior conversation w/ Montgomery), BLO, Scrivenor papers, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 377.

81 See Anderson, “From Petition,” chapter 10.

82 Kirkbride, Crackle, 106.

Author biography: 

Charles W. Anderson is assistant professor of history at Western Washington University.