Wall Politics: Zionist and Palestinian Strategies in Jerusalem, 1928

Benedetto Croce noted that all history has "the character of 'contemporary history,' because, however remote in time events there recounted may seem to be, the history in reality refers to present needs and present situations wherein those events vibrate."'

Exactly 50 years ago, late in September 1928, an "incident" occurred at the Western Wall of the Holy Sanctuary in Jerusalem which set in motion a sequence of violent events that clearly "vibrate," as Croce put it, in political situations and judgments today. The Western or "Wailing" Wall controversy, which became a public issue in 1928, triggered the intercommunal violence that in 1929 claimed 800 casualties and marked the shift of the political process in Palestine into the irreconcilably violent phase which continues today.

Recent discussions of the "present needs" of a Middle East peace settlement offer little to dispute Croce's observation. Those which reject the possibility and/or acceptability of a democratic, secular state in all of Palestine often refer back to the intercommunal violence of the Mandate era as proof of the unworkability of a common solution, in which Palestinian Arabs and Jews live amongst each other and constitutionally guarantee to each other certain communal rights. Several treatments which espouse the Zionist solution with or without expansion of the 1967 borders give a markedly monocular view of the incidents and pronouncements which occurred in Jerusalem when Zionists and Palestinian Arabs first clashed openly over control of "the Wall."


Mary Ellen Lundsten is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota.

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Benedetto Croce noted that all history has "the character of 'contemporary history,' because, however remote in time events there recounted may seem to be, the history in reality refers to present needs and present situations wherein those events vibrate."' [1]

Exactly 50 years ago, late in September 1928, an "incident" occurred at the Western Wall of the Holy Sanctuary in Jerusalem which set in motion a sequence of violent events that clearly "vibrate," as Croce put it, in political situations and judgments today. The Western or "Wailing" Wall controversy, which became a public issue in 1928, triggered the intercommunal violence that in 1929 claimed 800 casualties [2] and marked the shift of the political process in Palestine into the irreconcilably violent phase which continues today.

Recent discussions of the "present needs" of a Middle East peace settlement offer little to dispute Croce's observation. Those which reject the possibility and/or acceptability of a democratic, secular state in all of Palestine often refer back to the intercommunal violence of the Mandate era as proof of the unworkability of a common solution, in which Palestinian Arabs and Jews live amongst each other and constitutionally guarantee to each other certain communal rights. Several treatments which espouse the Zionist solution with or without expansion of the 1967 borders give a markedly monocular view of the incidents and pronouncements which occurred in Jerusalem when Zionists and Palestinian Arabs first clashed openly over control of "the Wall."

As a prologue to his romanticized account of Irgun terror, J. Bowyer Bell indulged first in a blatantly distorted version of the actual outbreak of violence in 1929 and proceeded to justify the Irgun by implying that fanatic Arab leaders had initiated the "abstruse wrangle" over Jewish control of the wall ex nihilo and had joined with like-minded British officials to incite ignorant Muslim mobs into anti-Jewish violence. [3] Similar views of the Palestinian Muslim leaders, and in particular of Haj Amin al-Husseini, are repeated in Zionist sources such as Meron Benvenisti's Jerusalem: The Torn City [4] and in entries of the Encylopedia Judaica, which are also reprinted in Israeli tourist books.

These accounts by no means represent a scholarly consensus on the Wall incident, nor are they based on the best available historical evidence. After scrutinizing centuries of travellers' notations and consulting Colonial Office files (for the earliest years of the British occupation), A.L. Tibawi has painstakingly analysed the issue from what he acknowledges is "the Arab Muslim" point of view. [5]

More recently, Ibrahim Dakkak, under the auspices of the Arab Thought Forum in Jerusalem, noted the ways in which Israeli measures adopted since toward the annexation of Jerusalem-taking control over the Wall and establishing fixtures for public worship, expropriating 116 dunums of Arab property near the Wall, stationing Israeli soldiers at the Wall, expelling 10,000 Arab residents from their homes in the city, and destroying the homes of the entire Mughrabi quarter next to the Wall-fulfil the earlier attempts of Zionist leaders to expand their control of Jerusalem's Old City. [6] Echoing these earlier efforts in a manner especially alarming to Muslims are the frequent incidents since 1967 in which militant youths and exuberant generals have tried to establish by prescription the Jewish right to group worship inside the Haram al-Sharif and to conduct archaeological digs which endanger ancient Islamic buildings-all at a time when the Israeli Military Government had established censorship over the sermons given in al-Aqsa Mosque. Legal ruling by Israeli courts have been equivocal on the issue of rights which can be exercised inside the Haram. [7]

"Wall politics" seem to be very much a part of the current antagonism between occupier and occupied. And it is not surprising that, as Croce would remind us, the interpretations which the various historians give to the incidents of fifty years ago are closely tied to the solutions which they recommend for the larger political problems, which include the disposition of Jerusalem and the nature of the entity (ies) to be constituted as the solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Israeli retention of at least the Wall and plaza is put forth as a minimum requisite by Zionists whose solution to the wider conflict takes as minimal the 1949 borders "with minor rectifications." And a Jerusalem restored to its fundamentally Arab characteristics is envisaged by those who retain the hope for a democratic secular state liberated from Zionist control.

Thus, to Arab and Israeli political leaders as well as policy-makers elsewhere who seek sponsorship of a peace settlement, the "battle for the Wall" and the manner in which it has been waged are inescapable issues of "contemporary history." The political stakes underlying the Wall issue in 1928-29 were discussed at the time by the Arab and Zionist presses, both of which saw in the struggle a microcosm of the wider contest over Palestine's future. [8]

Related to the broader aspect of the issue are the judgments which the younger members of both communities will make about the leaders of their grandparents' generation. Among the Palestinian youth the verdict has partially been given that the traditional nationalists who led the political battle of the Mandate era were clearly unprepared to face the sophisticated ''power politics" of the Zionist-imperial alliance which was deciding the fate of their country. More recently, the dependence of that traditional Arab elite on their imperial overlords and, by derivation, on their Zionist conquerors, has been emphasized.

During the first decade of the British Mandate over Palestine the majority of the Palestinian leaders, including Haj Amin al-Husseini, refused to legitimize the Mandate system and especially the Balfour Pledge which had been interwoven into that system. But, by accepting official positions, they had to work within the constraints of a British-Zionist bargaining setting. And they had to develop strategies and devise negotiating tactics on a complex of political and social "games" for which their previous experiences had ill equipped them. Furthermore, by retaining the paternal mode of leadership and sharing their imperial protector's desire for public order, they denied themselves the militance of mass action which began in the next decade to transform "the game" itself.

To Palestinian young people, who have difficulty obtaining access to their own history, it is especially important to provide a more comprehensive treatment of the hostilities engendered by the "Wall incident." Such a view must include the activities conducted by both sides on the Wall issue.

Incidents like the Wall dispute are of general interest to theorists who, by studying a variety of conflict settings, hope to explain the dynamic process by which a specific incident triggers violent confrontation between two communities living amongst each other. To explore such dynamics systematically requires investigating the values and factional structure of the contending communities, the relationship between the communities and the external authority that has operative control over them, and the strategies employed by leaders of the opposing communities. [9]

The bargaining strategies and factional influence that are deducible from a formal theory of social conflict are clearly discernible in the events connected with the Western Wall controversy. Incidents drawing the Wall issue directly into the Arab-Zionist political struggle arose immediately after the Balfour Declaration was issued to Lord Rothschild. But it was not until that claims on the Wall came to pose an open test of the Arab and Zionist leaders' strategies.

The process of community interaction triggered by the Wall dispute is treated in the sections of this article according to three phases of bargaining activity: (1) The generally discreet lobbying on the issue by Zionist officials, and the Arab blocking strategy which was largely successful, during the initial decade of the controversy; (2) The expansion of the issue in the fall of 1928 into a cause célèbre among Zionist militants, who were countered by Muslim officials defending the status quo; and (3) The intensification of the Wall issue into a mass confrontation which Zionist militants used to test Britain's overall adherence to the Balfour Policy. The last section will conclude the article with some observations on the contrasting strategies pursued by Zionist and Arab leaders.


Within months after the Balfour Declaration was negotiated with Britain, the Zionist Organization sent an executive commission to Jerusalem to arrange the new political status of Jews in Palestine. From Jerusalem, during May of 1918, Weizmann wrote to Balfour lamenting the "miserable dirty cottages and derelict buildings" near the ancient temple site and promising that Jews would make liberal compensation for "the handing over of the Wailing Wall" which was "in the hands of some doubtful Moghreb religious community." The efforts first of Jerusalem's military governor and then of the Zionist Commission were firmly rebuked by Kamal al-Husseini, then serving as Mufti of Jerusalem. [10] Then, according to an official memorandum summarizing these offers, "a Jew of prominence approached certain of the Muslims interested with a pecuniary offer. Muslim opinion thereupon became seriously agitated and instructions were received from the Foreign Office that the matter should not be pursued for the time being." [11]

All of the leading Arab political groups soon joined officially to protest any change in the status of the Holy Places as well as to demand immediate fulfilment of Arab independence in Palestine. Zionist political concern for the Wall issue was kept alive by members of Vladimir Jabotinsky's Jewish battalions, who staged public marches to the Wall in defiance of a British order to the contrary and provoked street fighting with Arab passers-by. Finally the British Military Government conducted a court martial against the militant settlers and ordered their units disbanded. [12]

For the next few years, as British civilian rule was being established over Palestine, Jabotinsky worked within the framework of official Zionist agencies, first in the Zionist Commission and then the London Zionist Executive. He was less interested in religious affairs than in securing maximum Zionist political objectives, including the establishment of a regular Jewish army in Palestine, and Zionist colonization of Trans-Jordan.

During these years it was the "moderate" Zionist leadership rather than Jabotinsky who stimulated hopes in the international Jewish community that Jewish religious sites in Jerusalem could be rebuilt. The Jewish National Fund issued stamps in booklets portraying Jewish symbols at the Wall and signifying the relationship between Jewish jurisdiction over the "Holy Places" and Zionist land acquisition throughout Palestine. [13] In New York during the first year of British civilian rule in Jerusalem, a newspaper publicizing the Zionist programme reproduced a tourist card on which Theodor Herzl was positioned next to the Dome of the Rock, over which the Zionist flag was flying. [14]

In Jerusalem during 1920 the Zionist Executive began complaining to the Palestine Military Administration about repairs that the Muslims were making on the Wall to eliminate water leakage into adjacent buildings. The Zionist Executive argued that the motive behind such repair activity was to annoy Jews who chose to exercise their customary right to pray at the Wall. To prevent further disturbance, the Zionists argued, maintenance responsibilities and the attendant rights of possession should be transferred from Muslim to Jewish officals. [15] The Zionist leaders soon received assurances from the British Chief of Staff and Inspector of Antiquities that the Muslim repairs would be put under their own supervision, that the lower and middle courses of stone would be repaired by the Government itself, that all repair activity would be stopped between mid-day on Friday and the end of the Sabbath. Dr. Eder then wrote back to the Military Governor on behalf of the Zionist Commission asking that all repairs be postponed at least four months until a Mandate-sponsored "Holy Places Commission" could determine jurisdiction over the Wall. [16]

The Wall issue was raised again in the spring of 1921 in London. Sir Alfred Mond, then Minister of Health in the British Cabinet (and as one of London's wealthiest Jews, a source of funding for many of the Zionists' large-scale capital projects in Palestine) addressed the Palestine Foundation Fund with an appeal for a new "edifice" to be erected "where Solomon's ancient temple once stood." The speech was reported in the Daily Telegraph and was reiterated in a Parliamentary note. With the help of his official friends, Under-Secretary of State William Ormsby-Gore and High Commissioner Herbert Samuel, Mond's reference to the temple site was later dismissed as "figurative" speech. [17]

In May of 1921 clashes between Arabs and Jews throughout Palestine required the Zionist leadership to face new political challenges. As a result of the violence, questions about possible contradictions within Britain's Mandate policy were being raised by the Haycraft Commission and the British parliamentary opposition as well as a few skeptics in the Permanent Mandates Commission.

Accordingly the Zionist Executive resorted to an incrementalist strategy while continuing to rely upon a "dirty tricks" fund supplied by the Palestine Zionist Executive and "Jimmy" (Rothschild), who in turn was a confidant of "Billy" Ormsby-Gore and Jabotinsky. After this fund was first authorized by Weizmann it was used, among other purposes, to undermine the Supreme Muslim Council, to try to divide Muslims from Christians in the association led by the Arab Executive Committee, to discredit Haj Amin al-Husseini, to help secure resource concessions for Zionist activists such as Pinhas (Pyotr) Rutenberg, and to equip and train the militant "Hagana" units [18] which Jabotinsky, Rutenberg, [19] Weizmann, and Rothschild all actively promoted from the earliest days of the British occupation. [20]

Jabotinsky and Ussishkin dissented from the "gradualist" tactics approved by the Zionist Executive after 1922. Jabotinsky shifted his focus to Central and Eastern Europe, where he began organizing his own "Revisionist" political network.

In Palestine during the years of Jabotinsky's absence, Zionist efforts to improve the Jewish position at the Western Wall were given relatively little publicity. Although incidents similar to those which had earlier inflamed Muslim opinion recurred, the connection between these incidents and Zionist political goals was rarely emphasized in Zionist circles. As Jewish employment floundered and immigration declined, economic concerns preoccupied the movement. But Jabotinsky's followers were involved in a few incidents which kept the issue alive.

In December of 1925, Jewish religious officials attempted to use benches and seats during their worship at the Wall, but they acquiesced when the Palestine Government upheld Muslim objections. Next the disbanded Jewish Battalion decided to move the Zionist flag from London to the main synagogue in Jerusalem where, they announced, it would be kept until it could be taken again to the Wall. [21]

Late in 1926, after one of the Mughrabi residents had cleared weeds from the interstices of the Wall's stones, the Zionists objected. They argued that since the Government Antiquities Department had already taken charge of the sections of stone within the boundaries of the Wall where they wor- shipped, the entire length should be put under Government charge as well. [22]

On several occasions police were called in to investigate Zionist charges that the Mughrabi residents were stoning and assaulting Jewish worshippers. The police investigations showed that on one occasion a stone had been thrown by a child from within one of the Mughrabi houses. On another it was learned that pigeons nesting in the crevices had dislodged fragments of stone. Not long after these reports were filed, the Hagana claimed credit for the bombing of an Arab home near the Wall; Hagana leaders cited Arab harrassment as the justification for the bombing. [23]

Partly because of the Zionists' "piecemeal" tactics, in which the Wall issue had been treated as a matter of confessional rights, it was the Muslim religious office rather than the Palestine Arab Executive which was brought into the conflict as spokesman for Arab rights. The Supreme Muslim Council, headed by the very young Haj Amin al-Husseini, formed the main opposition to Zionist initiatives at the Western Wall. The Council's strategy in the face of Zionist moves during the early years of the Mandate was a three-fold "mixed" defence (or what conflict theorists would term a "maximin") strategy necessitated by British political ties to Zionism.

As a first step, the Council planned measures to reinvigorate the Muslim presence in Jerusalem and thereby refute Zionist charges that the Muslims had little regard for their Holy Places. From 1923 the Council sponsored a series of appeals to Muslims throughout Africa and Asia to help finance, among other projects, the structural repairs they had begun in the Haram area. They also hoped to establish a new Muslim university which would reemphasize Jerusalem as a centre for Muslim scholarship.

As a second component of their strategy, Muslim officials registered protests with the Government of Palestine whenever they discovered Jewish officials introducing prohibited devotional items into prayers at the Western Wall. A telegram sent by Muslims to Jamal al-Husseini, the Council's Secre- tary, on July 15, 1922 had asked him to keep the Muslim leadership alert to the defense of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Haram area. [24] The Supreme Muslim Council's annual report for the year 1922-23 thereupon recalled that the Buraq site was property of the Al Gouth Abu Madian waqf (religious endowment) and that Muslim indulgence of individual Jewish needs during prayer had been used as a pretext for false claims to jurisdiction. The report optimistically laid the issue to rest by noting that the Council had "finally regained its rights, and the Government ordered [the Jews] to discontinue their transgressions." [25] But during the period 1922-28 at least thirteen additional complaints against Jewish trespassing were forwarded to the Government of Palestine by the mutawalli of the Abu Madian waqf and by Haj Amin al-Husseini. [26]

For a third strategic element, Muslim leaders joined the Arab Executive in repeatedly objecting to the legal control that Attorney General Norman Bentwich exercised over Arab property and civil rights. From the beginning of the Mandate Bentwich's ardent Zionist beliefs had been a source of alarm to the Arabs. Increasingly an embarrassment to British administrators as well, [27] Bentwich's role in drafting land legislation, procedures for political prisoners, and execution of collective punishments continued nonetheless. After the Expropriation of Land Ordinance was decreed by Bentwich's office in 1924 and the Karm al-Sheikh property near the Holy Places was subsequently taken by the Government, Muslim Council members expected the Zionists to seek expropriation of the Wall pavement and the Abu Madian property and to cite as precedent the Karm al-Sheikh case. [28]

Until the fall of 1928, with Jabotinsky "in exile" and the Zionist leadership preoccupied by economic adversities, the blocking strategy of the Supreme Muslim Council had been relatively effective, just as the same strategy, used by the Arab Executive to obstruct British-sponsored legislative councils, had denied legitimacy to the Mandate. But, beginning in September 1928, new Zionist initiatives appeared. And, in the altered structural circumstances created by Jabotinsky's apparent split from the Zionist leadership, a more sophisticated "two-track" strategy unfolded. Incremental gains could be won by the Zionist Organization against a background of open agitation by the Revisionist militants now actively reconstituted in Palestine.


By 1928 Jabotinsky had created a sizable and politically disciplined Revisionist following in Europe and had expanded the training of his uniformed Brit Trumpeldor (BETAR) units which were sent to Palestine for military and pioneer service. By committing the mass membership of these movements to certain emotionally appealing issues, in which success was equated with the survival of the Jewish community itself, Jabotinsky hoped to demonstrate the potency of uncompromising Jewish nationalism. No topic was more appropriate for these purposes than rights at the Wall. This issue gave him an opportunity to mobilize new support [29] among the increasingly restless youths of Eastern Europe who were at once bored by the subtleties of synthetic Zionism and unmoved by Jewish Communist advocacy of social revolution.

Anticipating Yom Kippur observances for 1928, the militant Hebrew press in Jerusalem renewed the Zionists' earlier demands for a revision of the status quo at the Western Wall. The journalists opened their campaign by arguing that, since the area in front of the Wall was too small to allow Jews to worship in a large group, the Jewish National Fund should enlarge the space by purchasing the adjacent property and tearing down the Muslim houses which were located there. [30]

For the Yom Kippur service itself, Jewish officials decided to introduce additional religious vessels. More conspicuously, a large screen was attached to the pavement, [31] to separate male and female worshippers, as was the custom in synagogues. But plans for the service were prematurely exposed when, as a result of the jealousy between two minor Jewish functionaries, word of the innovations was leaked to Muslim and Palestine Government officials. The mutawalli of the Abu Madian waqf immediately complained to Keith-Roach, the British Deputy District Commissioner for Jerusalem, who himself investigated the Wall area on the eve of the service. He ruled that the items were indeed infringements of the status quo that Britain had pledged to uphold in the area and he instructed the Jewish beadle to remove them before the following morning.

When he learned on the following day that notwithstanding his order the screen was still in use, Keith-Roach decided to dispatch a policeman who would ensure its removal. No Jewish policemen were available for the task since they had been excused from duty on the Holy Day by request of the Chief Rabbis. Instead a British police officer was sent. When he failed to persuade the Jewish worshippers to remove the screen, he undertook the job himself with the help of additional police officers.

That the British officers had forcefully subdued some of the Jews who obstructed them led the Palestine Zionist Executive to issue formal protests immediately after the Yom Kippur incident. After a meeting between Zionist leaders and British officials (including Bentwich), Zionist Executive President Frederick Kisch noted in his diary that the responsible authorities "had treated a part of the religious furniture of the Wailing Wall as if it were a kiosk in a municipal garden." [32] Arguing later that the Zionist Executive's own staff should have been called upon to deal with the problem on Yom Kippur, Zionist publications began to demand that Deputy District Commissioner Keith-Roach be fired and that the police officers be disciplined. [33]

During the next month the Zionist Organization, along with Jabotinsky's staff at Doar Hayom, conducted a vigorous press campaign interpreting the Yom Kippur incident as a deliberate violation of Jewish religious observance and an "offence to Jewish humanity." In a letter to The Near East and India, Israel Cohen argued that since the screen had been used ten days earlier without Muslim objection, a precedent had been set for its continued use. Cohen went on to ask, "If Jews cannot be guaranteed unrestricted rights of public worship... in their own National Home, of what value is the Palestine Mandate? " [34]

The major Zionist protagonists on the Wall issue, however, were those promoting Jabotinsky's version of the Jewish nationalist programme.

Revisionist leaders had long appreciated the persuasiveness of mass demonstrations and had urged that the Arab masses be denied the type of education that would encourage them to organize the same political activities. [35] They had also sensed that Britain's renewal in 1928 of discussions about a legislative council constituted, in Jabotinsky's words, a ''menace" to Zionism because the new interest of several Arab leaders in such a prospect would give them common ground with "their exalted British promptors." [36]

Seeing the Wall as a test of Britain's willingness to satisfy other Zionist demands, the Revisionist leaders embarked upon a campaign mobilizing their own followers to demand outright transfer of the Wall even while risking the retaliation that such a campaign would provoke from the Arab masses. And so, of the two more probable outcomes that would result from dramatization of the Wall dispute, either outcome would enhance Zionist political goals. A bloodless Zionist victory on the Wall issue would bring to the Zionist movement greater support-especially from those needing visible symbols of the Jewish renaissance in Jerusalem. And, even if tensions over the Wall were ultimately to trigger anti-Jewish attacks, the Yishuv would have intensified sympathy from the outside world while the Arabs would be faulted and then divided by recriminations among themselves. In either process Jabotinsky's "vigilante," with the vital financial support of several wealthy English and American Zionists, would contribute the dynamic element for Zionist bargaining.

During October 1928, the columns of Doar Hayom and the agenda of Revisionist meetings were seized with the Wall question. Jabotinsky and his followers now argued that the Wall was of dubious significance to the Muslims, who should therefore not be allowed to impede Jewish ownership by historically-based legal arguments. Several of the activists passed on rumours that the Muslim officials now planned to suppress even individual Jewish prayers by building a mosque or a minaret on the Wall and constructing a gate that would bar Jews from visiting the Wall. Then, at a meeting of the Va'ad Le'umi on October 17, Menahem Ussishkin demanded that "bold action be taken" to stop all Muslim repair operations in the Wall area. Within a few days thousands of supporters in London and Paris attracted publicity through protest fasts. At the Wall itself, exchanges of insults between Arabs and Jews sparked at least one violent clash that, in the ensuing legal skirmishes, heightened resentment in both communities.

Just as the Muslims had predicted, Va'ad Le'umi representative Jacob Thon now officially urged the Palestine Government to treat the Karm al-Sheikh expropriation as a precedent for taking the Abu Madian property which, Thon argued, contained only the "hovels" of the poor and thereby lacked sacred significance to Muslims. The Va'ad (as well as the Zionist Executive) petitioned the Permanent Mandates Commission to approve such an expropriation. [37]

From various locales in the diaspora, top Zionist officials began to warn the British Colonial Office about the difficulties they faced in controlling the situation. In Geneva on October 30, Victor Jacobson (the Zionist Organization's chief lobbyist at the League of Nations) worried aloud to Eric Drummond that unless the problem were resolved, "moderate Jews" would probably be unable to control Jabotinsky's armed and now highly agitated ex-soldiers. On the following day a letter arrived at the Colonial Office from Weizmann, who was in New York enlisting support for the Jewish Agency that Britain had endorsed as a means of broadening Jewish participation in Zionist colonizing projects. Weizmann complained that his work in America was being hindered by Jewish dissatisfaction over the Palestine Government's handling of the Wall dispute. Reiterating Jacobson's message, Weizmann went on to mention the "provocative" rumour about the Arabs "building or proposing to build a Mosque on the Wailing Wall," the mere suggestion of which the Zionists considered "a desecration of the only Holy Place to which the Jews can lay claim." Altogether, according to Weizmann, the issue was "growing into an affair of the first magnitude.... " [38] Weizmann's own remarks the next day, to 700 New York Zionists gathered at the Hotel Astor, repeatedly denounced "Arab agitators" for disturbing relations between Jews and Arabs over the Wall issue and for fomenting anti-Jewish attacks. After his speech a resolution was unanimously adopted to reproach British officials for interfering at the Wall during Yom Kippur. [39]

Zionist official strategy next proceeded on two levels, each rendered more effective because of the stridency of Jabotinsky's group. Without abandoning hope of the significant political victory that outright acquisition of the Wall would entail, especially for Jewish Agency fund-raising among the devout Orthodox and non-Zionist sectors of the Jewish community, Zionist leaders nonetheless valued the incremental gains that could be made by striking a conciliatory posture in public while privately taking every opportunity to revise their legal status at the Wall.

In London, Chief Rabbi Hertz advised Colonial Secretary Leopold Amery that expropriation was no longer what the Jews were demanding. They would rather reach agreement on a "friendly exchange of Waqf almshouses" at a "price wholly incommensurate with the value of these dilapidated hovels." At the same time Zionist Executive Secretary Leonard Stein assured the British Government that the Zionist Executive raised no question about the ownership of the Wall itself. [40]

From the Zionist Executive in Jerusalem Kisch acceded to the Palestine Government's request-which he had refused one month earlier - to soften the tone of Zionist pronouncements on the Wall question. He issued a carefully restricted statement recognizing "the inviolability of the Muslim Holy Places," [41] that phrasing being consistent with the Zionist argument that the Abu Madian property had no sacred significance. The Va'ad Le'umi at the same time wrote a letter to the "Arab nation" assuring that "no Jew has ever thought of encroaching upon the Muslims' rights to their own Holy Places" [42] (italics added). From an anonymous Zionist source in Palestine a proposal to take the property near the Wall from the Muslims in exchange for land elsewhere was forwarded to the Colonial Office through London friends. [43]

But pressures to take outright possession of the Wall were maintained by the militant Zionists, who viewed themselves as the last defenders of Jewish rights. Jabotinsky and his followers continued to build their newspaper's circulation by publicizing what were said to be Muslim slurs against Jewish national pride. This campaign went forward against the pleas of Jewish intellectuals from both liberal and Communist factions. In a dramatic appeal to Jabotinsky to let the issue recede, the writer Ben-Avi warned "...you prepare the way for killing Jews. You will be responsible for Jews' deaths and will be judged." [44]

In the Arab community the Yom Kippur incident focused new attention on the Supreme Muslim Council as the body responsible not only for Muslim religious affairs but for defending the political rights that were implicitly at stake in the Wall question. Like the Zionists, the Muslims' immediate response was to organize public worshippers into protest activities. A week after the Yom Kippur incident, hundreds of Muslims who had gathered for prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque were encouraged to sign petitions alerting the Government that Jewish leaders were "attempting by equivocation" to claim possession of the Western Wall. The petitions asked the Government to "remove" from the pavement every article used by the Jews. [45]

In the more deliberative atmosphere of the following week, Supreme Muslim Council President Amin al-Husseini explained in a letter to the High Commissioner the religious significance which Muslims attached to the Buraq enclosure in the Wall; al-Husseini accordingly asked the Government to reject the Zionists' demand that only Jewish officers be allowed to police the area. [46] On October 8, al-Husseini wrote another memorandum to reaffirm the Muslims' special reverence for the Buraq and al-Aqsa Mosque. In this letter al-Husseini cited previous attempts by Jewish leaders to expand their rights. He then requested an official British statement to spell out the rights of the two religious communities according to long-accepted practice. [47]

What was interpreted as the Muslim officials' tactical response to the Yom Kippur incident came a week later. Arguing that they must be able to observe Jewish activities at the Western Wall more closely and thereby prevent undesirable precedents from being established without their know- ledge, Supreme Muslim Council officials proceeded with the first phase of their long-planned remodeling programme. By renovating his quarters in the Shari'a Court and by lowering the Wall on the outside balcony, al-Husseini would have a clear view of the pavement below. A new gateway giving neighbouring Muslims direct access to the Haram was to be built as well.

Some of the traditionalist sheikhs and a few political militants, however, drew attention to the long-term pattern of Jewish activities at the Wall and saw in that pattern an insidious and expansionary design which threatened Muslim rights at the al-Aqsa Mosque (which shares the same wall as it becomes the south side of the Haram) as well as the Buraq enclosure inside the Wall. But it was specifically the possibility of Zionist success in promoting British expropriation of the waqf property adjacent to the Wall that these religious notables stressed. A special "Committee to Defend the Noble Buraq" was formed to block Jewish acquisition. In its declaration of October 25, the Committee emphasized its view of the strategy by which Jewish militants had provoked incidents at the Wall. The committee stood by one of the Mughrabi residents who, they reported, was the target of abusive remarks as he passed near the Wall and was sentenced to six months imprisonment for assaulting those who had insulted him. [48] Later the committee prepared a pamphlet quoting the speeches and publications of Zionist leaders, such as Lord Melchett, Norman Bentwich, and Israel Zangwill-whose use of ancient Hebrew terms for the Haram area and whose references to future possession of the Temple enclosure seemed, to the Muslims, to connote political designs. [49]

Although the Wall issue had created new pressures among Muslim Arabs for a more militant posture on all political questions, the strategy pursued by the Supreme Muslim Council was largely one of minimizing losses rather than maximizing gains. The Zionist leaders, in stating their desire to change the status quo at the Holy Places, enjoyed official credibility-not only because of their political influence in London or their financial partnership with Britain in Palestine but also because Colonial Office bureaucrats, despite growing misgivings, felt British honour had been committed in the Balfour obligation. [50] The Arab leaders found themselves in the reverse bargaining position. To remain in official capacity under the Palestine Government and to maintain that the Arab community was orderly enough to warrant self-government, Arab officials had to pursue a cautious and highly defensive strategy on any of the political issues that confronted them. In these circumstances the militant, mass-oriented splinter which was so helpful to the Zionist cause could only bring defeat to the Arab (including Muslim) officials. And so, in the late 1920's, Muslim leader Amin al-Husseini had to rely upon British legal recognition of Muslim property rights around the Wall.

Late in October 1928, al-Husseini met with the Acting High Commissioner to convey the Supreme Muslim Council's guarantee that traditional Jewish observances at the Wall could continue without disturbance. After reviewing the Zionists' earlier allusions to the Temple area and their more recent demands for government expropriation of the Abu Madian waqf al-Husseini noted that certain Muslim groups were now asking him to build a mosque on the pavement, thereby pre-empting any Jewish construction plans. Assured by Luke that the Palestine Government would not allow the Abu Madian waqf to be expropriated, al-Husseini agreed to calm the Arabic press and to moderate resolutions on the Wall issue at the coming Muslim General Assembly. [51]

On November 1, Jerusalem was the site of the Assembly that drew Muslims from all over the Fertile Crescent and Egypt. Certain speakers at the conference blamed the Holy Places controversy on British imperial policy and forewarned of a Muslim rising against any European powers attempting to encroach upon the Haram al-Sharif. Although many explicitly anti -British statements were heard during the general discussion, the resolutions that were actually passed under al-Husseini's stewardship referred more moderately to the "growing agitation of Muslims" and the assembly's determination to hold the Government responsible for maintaining order at the Holy Places. [52]

Following the conference, the Supreme Muslim Council continued with its planned remodeling programme. Later in November, additional symbols of Muslim control were reinstituted. One house of the Abu Madian foundation was converted into a zawiya (religious hospice) and a mu'azzin was authorized to renew traditional prayer calls.

Within a few weeks a British White Paper appeared, its phrasing directly reflecting that of Stein's Parliamentary question. The White Paper defended the Palestine Government's action on Yom Kippur as a faithful discharge of the status quo policy required by Mandate Article 13. Further statements expressed the Government's hope that Jewish and Muslim officials could agree upon a protocol "regulating the conduct of the services at the Wall without prejudice to the legal rights of the Muslim owners and in such a way as to satisfy normal liturgical requirements and decencies in matters of public worship." [53]

To the Muslims the terms of the White Paper denoted activities consider- ably beyond those that had been allowed by religious authorities in past centuries. Nonetheless al-Husseini declared to Deputy District Commissioner Keith-Roach that he would be satisfied with the Government's policy if it would strictly uphold ownership rights as established prior to the Mandate. The Mufti commended the Government for the "care and insight and justice without partiality which has clearly and plainly dispelled any doubts under which widespread and false propaganda has attempted to conceal and hide the status quo." [54]

Thus, by December of 1928, the Muslim position on the Western Wall controversy depended on British officials to maintain the status quo despite the latter's predisposition toward a negotiated modus vivendi in which Zionist rights would be enlarged. And the Muslim leadership, in traditional fashion, dealt with the issue in religious and legal terms rather than reaching the more clearly political questions which were entailed in the rights of the Mughrabi residents, whose homes and centuries-old family ties to that part of Jerusalem would be lost if they were forced to evacuate as Zionist proposals implied.

At the same time, leaders of the Zionist Organization had several types of factional pressures to add into their bargaining equation. At times they treated the aggressive demands of Jabotinsky's group as legitimate pressures to which their own lobbying efforts must respond. And, at other times, they could deny any intent to infringe on Muslim rights by advancing the minimally political views of the liberal intellectuals, i.e., that individual Jews choosing to exercise their rights of access should be allowed to do so without annoyance. Alternating between these two postures, the Zionist Executive continued to explore entrepreneurial and legal devices by which the Yishuv could acquire new property rights at the Holy Places.


During the first half of 1929, as competition on the Wall issue intensified, the Zionists again took the offensive by trying to curtail the Muslims' right to repair their own facilities near the Wall. Simultaneously Zionist leaders sought to eliminate the restraints on Jewish group worship at the Wall that Muslim officials had upheld over the centuries. By citing harrassment and requesting Britain's good offices for a negotiated settlement, the Zionist leaders still hoped to acquire the Abu Madian waqf.

In response to these initiatives, Muslim leaders in the following months relied on the status quo pledge of the White Paper and accordingly justified the Muslim position on the basis of historical practice. When the Government requested that all renovation activities at the Wall be suspended until the relative legal rights of the two communities could be examined by British Law Officers, [55] al-Husseini acceded to the request. Subsequently he pledged to abide by whatever findings the Law Officers would report.

The Law Officers had to delay their report for three months while the Zionists fruitlessly searched for documentary evidence of Jewish rights at the Wall. [56] The report that was finally forwarded to Jerusalem restricted Muslim activities to those which would not interfere with Jewish worshippers "during customary times of prayer." Thus limited, Muslim refurbishing activities were allowed to resume. Muslim officials were not informed of the report's recommendation to grant jurisdiction on the Wall dispute to the Palestine courts administered by Attorney-General Bentwich. [57]

In early August, 1929, Muslim reconstruction activities drew verbal fire from Zionist representatives attending the 16th Zionist Congress at Zurich. [58] At the same time, in Jerusalem, the temporary members of the Palestine Zionist Executive joined the Chief Rabbis in publicly demanding possession of the Wall. Even the more moderate Hebrew press in Jerusalem uttered anew the "symbolic" references to rebuilding the ancient Temple. [59]

By mid-August thousands of Jabotinsky's followers in the Betar and Maccabee organizations had vowed to shed blood if necessary to regain the Wall. [60] These groups assembled for a demonstration at the Wall on the holy day Tisha b'Av. When they raised the Zionist flag at the Wall while singing the Zionist national anthem and proclaiming the Wall to be solely Jewish, they were unmistakably courting Arab retaliation. [61] During the next week Jabotinsky's "defence" squads and Arab workers clashed in violent incidents too numerous to be recounted here. And so on August 23 erupted a week of rioting in which hundreds of people were killed and hundreds more injured in both communities.

Trying to maintain control over Muslim activists without capitulating to Zionist pressures, al-Husseini was trapped into a legalist position in which his best hope was to minimize the erosion of Muslim rights in the Wall area. This ''no-win" position resulted partly from his failure to include in the Muslim strategy the broader set of issues-including Arab rights to property and protection of livelihood - which the Wall dispute reflected. That these broader, socio-economic rather than strictly religious, aspects were a major cause of the August 1929 violence was evident not only in investigatory reports but in the nature of each violent incident leading up to the rioting of August 23.

Refusing to encourage mass rebellion, al-Husseini instead affirmed his trust in the Government. But his reassurances had only temporarily calmed the fearful Muslim crowds, who gathered on August 23 for Friday prayers and eventually succumbed to the pleading of self-appointed Arab demagogues and to provocations by the Revisionist squads stationed at scattered points in and near Jerusalem's Old City. And, although British intelligence reports on the Mufti's activities confirmed his repeated efforts to maintain public order, [62] he was ultimately forced to defend himself against formal charges from the Zionist Executive that he had incited anti-Jewish attacks. Documentary evidence for these charges consisted mainly of an anonymous letter which was shown later to have been forged by a "non-Arab" writer.

As soon as they learned of the violence that had engulfed Palestine, Zionist leaders in London renewed their demands that the Wall be expropriated. [63] In Jerusalem, responding to the deeply shaken Jewish community, the Palestine Government issued "instructions" which implicitly interpreted the status quo at the Wall. Certain portable appurtenances explicitly associated with worship-i.e. Jewish public prayer rather than individual visits and devotions - were to be allowed at all times. Additional items were to be permitted for Sabbath, Sabbath eve and Holy Day services. Although screens and benches were explicitly prohibited, the restriction of public access to the Wall area during worship hours established the area indisputably as a Jewish sanctuary at those times. When Muslim and Christian Arab leaders repeatedly and angrily protested against such changes, they were told that the instructions were only temporary, intended merely to "maintain order at the holy places pending final determination of rights" [64] by an ad-hoc commission authorized under the Council of the League of Nations. Eighteen months later the fact that order had been maintained at the Wall led British officials to credit the instructions as the source of success. It was largely on such a recommendation that the ad-hoc commission then established the "temporary" provisions as the basis for regulating activity at the Wall throughout the future years of the Mandate.

Almost immediately after the "temporary regulations" were issued in early October 1929, Jewish officials introduced into their ceremony at the Wall the long-prohibited practice of blowing the Shofar. Muslim officials vehemently objected to this innovation, which, they argued, was intended to equate religious observances at the Wall with those normally conducted in synagogues.

Although the Zionists' incremental gains would prove significant in the distant future, they were nonetheless deprecated by Zionist leaders while new claims were justified. Shortly after Jewish worship rights at the Wall were confirmed in the "temporary regulations," Chief Rabbis Kook and Meir wrote to Chancellor:

We deem it our duty to express to your Excellency our strong protests and deep indignation at this violation of our religious sentiments and to declare most insistently that we do not accept this order, or all other orders and new arrangements in connection with services at the Wall, as a normal state of affairs, and that we shall by no means henceforward agree to it. [65]

The Chief Rabbis wrote again a week later to condemn the Government's decision prohibiting use of the Shofar at the Wall.

Such an insult to our religious sentiments and traditions, such an interference in our own internal religious affairs can only be equaled by the persecutions of Jews in the Dark Ages.... Our enemies who have brought upon us the bloody confusion of the last few weeks, which have stirred the people of Israel and the civilized world as a whole, are apparently ready to continue their acts of terror and are bringing pressure to bear upon the Government to help them and comply with their wishes. The feeling that we have nobody to rely upon save our Heavenly Father, the desire to prevent any further disturbances and collisions in the country at all costs, move us this time to accept this insulting order....


The Chief Rabbinnate of Palestine Jews, the Jewish Yishuv, and the people of Israel as a whole will never reconcile themselves to this assault on their religious sentiments and traditions. [66]


Beginning in the autumn of 1929 with the Shofar incident and culminating sixteen months later in their outrage at the MacDonald letter, [67] Muslim and Arab leaders were obliged to reassess their strategy not only on the Wall question but on the more vital matter of political representation in Pales- tine. By the time of his interview with High Commissioner Chancellor on October 8, 1929, Haj Amin al-Husseini was admitting the failure of the Muslims' legalistic tactics and defensive strategy. According to Chancellor's notes on that meeting, al-Husseini had drawn the following bitter conclusions from the Western Wall experience:

...the Muslims were losing their rights because they had only asked for what was bare justice. The Jews were asking for five times more than what they could hope to receive, and they, the Muslims, now saw that if they had followed the same tactics it would have been much better. They were suffering by reason of the tolerance they had displayed in the past. [68]

On the Western Wall issue, as on the supposedly resolved matter of Jewish colonization in Trans-Jordan, the Zionist Executive continued to claim for the Yishuv the full range of privileges that were demanded for it by Jabotinsky's faction. But by adopting the more accommodating language associated with groups like Brit Shalom and upon occasion denouncing the chauvinism and vigilante methods of Jabotinsky's group, Zionist Organization leaders were able to advance significantly toward their political objectives.

The Western Wall issue illustrates the dynamics not only of the Arab- Zionist confrontation as it emerged earlier in the century but also of the learning process which occurs in any conflict as opposing sides devise and test their strategies. On a wide range of issues connected with their overall political problem, Palestinians indicate today that they have learned from past failures of strategy.

On the question of rights in the Old City, Arab residents of Jerusalem convey a political consciousness far stronger and more comprehensive than was evident fifty years ago. Although overall strategy has remained essentially defensive, especially under the difficulties which military occupation entails, there are new emphases which contrast markedly with the Palestinian strategy reviewed in this article. In conjunction with the Arab Thought Forum, for example, Ibrahim Dakkak's report views the treatment of Arab rights in Jerusalem as a test of the ability to reach a total settlement for the Palestine question. Arab rights to control their Holy Places are treated as an inextricable part of the political question. The rights of Arab residents to housing and social services are emphasized in an economic and social programme which parallels political demands. And, rather than religious or municipal bodies it is the centralized structure of the PLO, recognized as "the sole legitimate representative of all the Palestinian people," demanding "self-determination and the return of all refugees to their land," which is cited as the appropriate bargaining agent for Jerusalem's Arab residents.

The PLO may itself have learned several of the structural lessons which are illustrated by Zionist strategy and success in "Wall politics" - namely, that the factional differences which are decried as evidence of disunity in a defensive strategy may, as was the case with the Zionists, be coordinated in conjunction with an offensive strategy to enhance bargaining opportunities. That the success of the latter in turn depends on a favourable alignment with support in the international control system is also exemplified in the Wall dispute. Already enjoying the role of partner in Britain's imperial policy, Zionist strategy was well calculated to feed the hopes of British administrators who, though obligated by British domestic politics and imperial interests to uphold the Balfour policy, nonetheless tried to convince themselves that they were "balancing" Arab rights and Zionist demands.

The agility of the Zionist leaders in dealing with such administrators was attested in mid-October of 1929, after a full year of the Zionists' "two- track" pressures to obtain the Wall. High Commissioner Chancellor indignantly noted in his file:

I had a telegram from the Muslim-Christian Association of Jaffa in which it is stated that the Buraq is the sole property of the Muslims. Of course it is. Everybody except some of the extreme Zionist Jews recognize that that is so.... [69]

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Mary Ellen Lundsten is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota.

1 Rather than "all history" Croce actually said "the practical requirements which underlie every historical judgment give to all history the character of contemporary history...." For the issues reflected upon in this article, the streamlined version is more quotable and no less faithful to Croce's meaning. Benedetto Croce, History as the Story of Liberty, (London: Union, 1941), p. 19.

2 These figures represent minimum estimates, especially for the Arab casualties which were acknowledged by British officials to be underreported. According to the Shaw Commission Report, 133 Jews and 116 Arabs were known to have been killed, while 339 Jews and 232 Arabs were seriously injured. Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers, "Report of the Commission on the Palestine Disturbances of August, 1929," Cmd. 3530. His Majesty's Stationery Office, (London: 1930).

3 "The Wailing Wall incident engendered rumour and wilful provocation within the Arab community.... There was little doubt among Jews that various Arab nationalist leaders, in particular Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem and chairman of the Arab National Committee [sic], were the source of the rumours and that the British intended to tolerate the situation.... All during the winter of 1928-29 the Arabs had been inflamed by rumours, passionate speeches given in the mosques, and a growing conviction that the Jews were determined to destroy their holy places and that Al daula maana-'the government is with us.' " Bell has compounded his earlier errors on the August 17, 1929 incident by mistaking the nature of Haj Amin al-Husseini's position (President of the Supreme Muslim Council) and also by confusing the latter's identity with that of his cousin, Musa Kazem al-Husseini (President of the Arab Executive Committee). J. Bowyer Bell, Terror out of Zion: The Violent and Deadly Shock Troops of Israeli Independence, 1929-1949, (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1977), pp. 1-2.

4 Meron Benvenisti, Jerusalem: The Torn City, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1976), pp. 64-66.

5 A. L. Tibawi, "Jerusalem: Its Place in Islam and Arab History," Islamic Quarterly, (Oxford: The Islamic Cultural Centre, 1969). Also published by the Institute for Palestine Studies, Monograph Series No. 10 (Beirut, 1969). Other versions appear in The Arab World, (Special Issue), edited by Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, Volume XIV, No. 10-11, as well as Abu-Lughod, ed. The Arab-Israeli Confrontation of June, 1967, (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968).

6 Ibrahim Dakkak, "Some Aspects of the Israeli Annexationist Policy as Practised in Jerusalem," (Jerusalem: 1977), submitted to the 10th Annual Convention of the Association of Arab American University Graduates, Detroit, 1977.

7 Ibid., and Benvenisti, op. cit., pp. 286-87.

8 See for example Filastin, August 15, 1929; Haaretz, August 15, 1929; Doar Hayom, August 6, and 18, 1929; The Jewish Chronicle, August 1929; The New Palestine, October 19, 1928; and Sawt al-Sbaab, August 3, 1929.

9 These aspects have been combined into a social action framework that also integrates Anatol Rapoport's "Fights, Games, and Debates" interaction models and employs a set of differencequations to explain and mathematically analyse Arab-Zionist interactions during the first decade of the Mandate. Mary Ellen Lundsten, "Abraham and Ibrahim: A Formal Conflict Model Applied to Palestine, 1920-1931," University of Minnesota, Doctoral Dissertation, 1976.

10 Tibawi, "Jerusalem," op. cit., p. 18.

11 CO 733/132/44051-05442, (Colonial Office files available in the Public Record Office, London).

12 FO 371/3385/747, Storrs to Headquarters, OETA, November 4, 1918, cited by Dennis Knox, "The Development of British Policy in Palestine, 1917-1925: Sir Gilbert Clayton and the 'Near Eastern Question.' " PhD Dissertation, Department of History, Michigan State University, (1971), pp. 204-5.

13 Inside the cover of one such pamphlet, as noted by the Palestine Government's Chief Secretary, was the statement: "The amount realized by the sale of these stamps will be employed in acquiring the Holy Places in Palestine." And on the back was written (in German, Hebrew, and English): "The object of the Jewish National Fund is to acquire land in Palestine as the inalienable property of the Jewish people." Lt. Col. Bramley at British Headquarters in Jerusalem noted that the stamps had been seen by the Palestinian Arabs and had been the cause of bitter resentment, especially among the Muslim population. CS 38 (Chief Secretary File, Israel State Archives, Jerusalem).

14 Exhibit #48, Palestine Commission on the Disturbances of 1929, (Shaw Commission), Minutes of Evidence, (Volumes I-III), p. 919, citing Das Yiddiscbe Folk of April 30, 1920.

15 On May 16, 1920, the issue was taken up by Menahem Ussishkin, whose own maximalist political views had little interfered with his being appointed President of the Palestine Zionist Executive. Ussishkin wrote to Louis Bols, Britain's Chief Military Administrator in Palestine, that Muslim repair of the Wall was "a sacrilege.... The Wailing Wall is a possession of the Jews throughout the world." Then, on May 30 the Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community asked the government "to entrust the Wall to the care and control of the representative of Jewry." And three days later the Council of Rabbis contended, in a memo to Ronald Storrs, that the "Holy Wall is the property of Israel. No other person or persons is allowed to touch it." The Rabbis' memo went on to proclaim the sacredness of the entire area where the ancient Temple had been located. Great Britain, Public Record Office, FO 371/5151, Report of the Court of Inquiry Convened by Order of His Excellency the High Commissioner and Commander-in Chief, April 12, 1920, p. 33, and Tibawi, in Arab-Israeli Confrontation, op. cit., p. 37, or in "Jerusalem," op. cit., p. 19. See also Ronald Storrs, Memoirs (New York: G.P. Putman's Sons, 1937), pp. 420-22.

16 Files Z/4 1454, Zionist Archives, Jerusalem and CO 733/132/44051, Public Record Office, London. See also The Maccabaean, (July 1920).

17 CO 733/2; CO 733/4; Hansard reference for April 5, 1921, Shaw Commission, Minutes of Evidence, op. cit., p. 919.

18 Z4/14451X, Z4/1250, Zionist Archives, Jerusalem.

19 How Rutenberg had established his reputation as an executioner in the early days of the Russian Revolution is all too vividly recounted by Harrison Salisbury in Black Night, White Snow, (Garden City: Doubleday and Co., 1978). In Palestine Rutenberg was active as aHagana commander and, with the help of Rothschild and Lord Reading (Rufus Isaacs), secured the electrification concession for Palestine.

20 In 1929 Jabotinsky wrote a revealing letter to his friend, Solomon Horowitz (who was then helping Sir Boyd Merriman to conduct the Zionist Executive's testimony before the Shaw Commission). Complaining that he was tired of taking sole responsibility for the ultra-nationalists' illegal weapons and combat preparations over the past eleven years, Jabotinsky said, "But what I cannot qualify else than dirty is this: the 'Zionist Commission,' which then [1918] consisted of Weizmann (he was here) and Ussishkin, directly and insistently requested me to organize the Hagana. I did it at their demand, on their expense, from their premises at H.Q. When the A.P.U. came to search, I was called in to state that I was the only responsible one, which I did, with the results that you know." Letter of December 8, 1929 in Jabotinsky Archives, Tel Aviv.

21 CO 733/132/44051-05442, Memo: "The Wailing Wall"; The Times (London), December 10, 1925.

22 CO 73 3/132/44051, Reference to District Officer's letter 2271.

23 CO 733/132/44051 and Encyclopedia Judaica, "Haganah," p. 1066.

24 CS 131, (Chief Secretary's Files) Israel State Archives, Jerusalem.

25 The Zionist paper Doar Hayom reported this reference to the Buraq and criticized the Council for using an Arabic name to refer to the Wall. The Council's deference to the needs of Orthodox Jews while strictly opposing the Zionists' political attachment to the Wall drew a bitter retort from Doar Hayom. The columnist noted that this discrepancy reflected the overall position of Jews under the "protectorate" in Palestine. Doar Hayom, May 17, 1923, cited in CO 7 33/46/05508.

26 CO 733/160/57540.

27 Responsible British officials in the Colonial Office secretly agreed with the Arabs' assessment of Bentwich's strong Zionist biases. Even though these British administrators questioned Bentwich's legal competence and his unprecedented formula for the "Government of Palestine," they wanted above all to avoid the "inevitable storm" that would erupt if Bentwich were asked to resign. See CO 733/175/67411 and CO 733/202/87105.

28 CO 733/160/57540, and Shaw Commission, Minutes of Evidence, p. 529.

29 Jabotinsky had estimated Brit Trumpeldor membership at 5-7,000 as of early 1929. (Jabotinsky letter to Brodie, June 2, 1929. Jabotinsky Archives, Tel Aviv.) Within a little over a year British estimates put the membership figure at 18,000-a significant proportion of the age group from which its young members were recruited. (Police Weekly Summary for September 6, 1930, CO 7 3 3/186/77086. See also Doar Hayom reference for November 6, 19 30.)

30 Hebrew Press Summary cited in Chancellor's Memorandum to the Colonial Office, in CO 733/182/77050.

31 Although Zionist references to the incident typically described the screen as portable, separate references by British officials, including those in the November 1928 White Paper, described the screen as a more permanent installation - referring to its being "attached" and "affixed" to or "pounded into" the pavement "with an iron pike." See "The Western or Wailing Wall in Jerusalem," (Memorandum by the Secretary of State for the Colonies), Official Gazette of Palestine, December 11, 1928, pp. 760-70, CO 733/160/57540 and 525/2939, Zionist Archives, Jerusalem.

32 S 25/2939 Zionist Archives.

33 The New Palestine, October 26, 1928; see also The New Palestine, September 28-October 5, 1928 and Arcbives Israelites: Recueil Politique et Religieux, October 18, 1928; also CO 733/160/57540.

34 Letter of October 26, 1928, to The Near East and India in CO 733/160/57540. Nahum Sokolow, Wiezmann's deputy at the London Zionist Executive, published a similar article in The New Judea. Sokolow described the Yom Kippur incident as a "mob of police" and a "mob of gang leaders" who "made a sudden swoop upon the assembly, took the place by storm as though it were a beseiged fortress held by the enemy or a den of armed robbers, and made liberal use of their fists and elbows, scattering the worshippers in all directions." He also mentioned that individual Jews had been subjected to the "throwing of stones by Arab riff-raff." Reminding his readers of the need to "follow the path of peace," Sokolow nonetheless sustained the issue by declaring that "the Jewish people must husband their resources and watch for an opportune moment." The New Judea, November 30, 1928, enclosure in CO 733/162/67015. Similar accounts appeared on October 19 and 26, 1928 in The New Palestine, the official publication of the Zionist Organization of America, edited by Meyer Weisgal.

35 Revisionist leaders were especially concerned to remove the Arabic language from dominance in Palestine. Jabotinsky argued to a Revisionist audience in Latvia that there was no real need for Arabic in Palestine, (CO 73 3/186/77086). Col. Josiah Wedgewood, one of Jabotinsky'strongest backers and his colleague in the Seventh Dominion League, wrote (in Haaretz on February 18, 1927) that it would be worse for the Zionists if the Arabs were taught English. "The Arabs want to teach their children English so they can compete with the Jews; but this means to make them Western children, to give them ideas, like the mistake we made in India. It is better for us that they use their own language and we will learn enough words in this language so we can give orders."

36 Jabotinsky, Wedgewood, and Rutenberg lobbied hard against renewed legislative council talks, with Wedgewood observing to the Colonial Office that "the grant of self-government is sometimes an unworthy shuffling off of our responsibility to the weaker races under our rule.... [Britain] cannot ask Jews to accept [the proposal] any more than white settlers in Kenya or Rhodesia should accept an assembly dominated by Africans or Indians." At the same time Jabotinsky coordinated tactics with Kisch at the PZE, agreeing "There is something to be said in favour of your tactical proposal - not to reject the idea point blanc but to formulate conditions fully safeguarding our interests and therefore unacceptable from the other side's viewpoint." (Confidential letter to Kisch, September 25, 1928, Jabotinsky Archives, Tel Aviv.).

37 CO 733/160/57540.

38 Weizmann's letter from New York was dated October 31, 1928. CO 733/160/57540.

39 Also on tour in America, Alfred Mond (now Lord Melchett) acknowledged on October 26 that purchase of the Wall was "not feasible now" but "the Zionist Organization is determined to force the issue and obtain a definite arrangement with the government or parties concerned" for regular Jewish assemblies to worship at the Wall. Both Weizmann's and Melchett's remarks were reported in The Jewish Exponent (Philadelphia), November 9, 1928.

40 Letter of October 30, 1928 in CO 733/160/57540. At the same time, Stein was in constant touch with the Colonial Office and with David Lloyd-George to draft a Parliamentary question on the Yom Kippur incident. Stein's phrasing was calculated to elicit a British reply that would be "helpful" in revising arrangements at the Wall. And active in the British Parliament was the Revisionists' ally, Col. Wedgewood, who pledged that his Labour Party would intervene with the British Government to satisfy Zionist demands regarding the Wall. (Letters and telephone requests from Stein to Colonial Office, October 30-November 11, 1928, in CO 733/160/57540.

41 Stein letter to Under-Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs, citing PZE. Statement in Jerusalem on November 6, 1928, in CO 73 3/160/57540.

42 Va'ad Le'umi letter to "the Arab nation" in CO 733/160/57540.

43 The same writer assumed that the Palestinians would agree to such an exchange since they "are no more Arabs than the niggers in the USA... [but are] Caanites (the real Jews I call them) [who] speak a sort of Arabic and are (very mild) Muslims." These natives were now being agitated by "the Effendis and their tacit supporters, henchmen, and reptile press" in order to "manufacture a small Jehad" and, "supported by the Latin priesthood and French Government who are all anti-Jewish," to "keep the Jews in a state of sycophantic Pariahdom." Letter forwarded by Evelyn Wench of The Spectator to the Colonial Office on November 19, 1928, in CO 733/163/67013.

44 Comment quoted in Doar Hayom in January 1929, and cited again in Haaretz,August 18, 1929 and September 6, 1929.

45 Five petitions containing approximately 1,350 signatures, September 29-30, 1928, in CO 733/160/57540.

46 Letter of October 4, 1928 in CO 733/160/57540.

47 Letter from Supreme Muslim Council to High Commissioner Chancellor, October 8, 1928. in CO 733/160/57540. See also "Mawqif al-Majlis al-Islamiya al-Ula bi-Sha'ni Hawadith al-Buraq," from al-Jami'a al-'Arabiya, October 10, 1928, in Abd al-Wahhab al-Kayyali, Watba'iq al-Muqawama al Filastiniya al-'Arabiya (1919-1939), (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1968), pp. 115-16.

48 "Bayan al-Lajna al-Difa'i 'an al-Buraq ash-Sharif ila al-Muslimin al-Kafatan," al-Jami'a al-'Arabiya, October 29, 1928, in Kayyali, op. cit., pp. 116-18.

49 Exhibit #86, Shaw Commission, Minutes of Evidence, pp. 1081-84.

50 Sir John Shuckburgh, Assistant Under-Secretary in the Colonial Office, minuted an observation in 1923 after several journalists had begun to criticize the British commitment to Zionist aspirations in Palestine. "This is all very well for journalists and M.P.'s, but it is not a line that H.M.'s Govt. could possibly take. We gave a formal pledge in the face of the whole world, and are bound to do our best to carry it out. The people who applauded us at the time may be at liberty to change their minds, but we are not." CO 733/54/05505.

51 Luke's letters of October 30 and November 3, 1928, in CO 733/160/57540.

52 Exhibit #45 (i) A, in Shaw Commission, Minutes of Evidence, op. cit., pp. 1051-52.

53 "Western Wall Memorandum," op. cit., pp. 768-70.

54 Letter of December 27, 1928 from al-Husseini to the Deputy District Commissioner of Jerusalem, Exhibit #75 in Shaw Commission, Minutes of Evidence, op. cit., p. 1077.

55 The three members of the committee included Sir Boyd Merriman, who in a few months would serve as the impassioned Zionist legal advocate before the Shaw Commission. Administrators in the Colonial Office admitted that the report was not particularly "helpful" in resolving the dispute but they had not expected it to be so. CO 733/164/67015.

56 It is interesting to note Benvenisti's account of these manoeuvres. "In the second half of the 1920's, the Muslims began to claim that it was not only forbidden to place benches and barriers in the alleyway, but even to bring Torah scrolls to the Wall or to hold prayers in public. They demanded that the Mandatory Government judge the issue. When the Government delayed its decision, the Mufti began a series of provocations." Benvenisti, op. cit., p. 66.

57 CO 733/164/77015.

58 "Resolutions of the 16th Zionist Congress," (Extracts). Exhibit #54, Shaw Commission, Minutes of Evidence, op. cit., p. 1055.

59 For example see Haaretz, August 15, 1929; Palestine Weekly, August 13, 1929.

60 The spirit in which the youth groups embraced the Wall cause was expressed by Rabbi Kook in an interview with Doar Hayom on August 18, 1929. Rabbi Kook praised the militants who had "testified to the national pride and the Maccabean zeal" who "desired literally to sacrifice their lives" for "the redemption of the sanctuary" and for the "sanctity of the exalted soul of Israel." Adding that it was intolerable for the sanctuary to be forever surrounded by "such dirty and ugly lanes and houses which are breeding places for all sorts of filth and disease," it must be possible to expropriate "the sanctuary" since it was obstructed only by the "secular waqf of the Mughrabi beggars." Doar Hayom, August 18, 1929, extract available as Exhibit #110, Shaw Commission, Minutes of Evidence, pp. 1102-3. An eyewitness account of the Zionist militancy on the Wall issue was offered by the journalist Vincent Sheean in Personal History (New York: Garden City Publishing Co., 1937), and reprinted in Walid Khalidi, ed., From Haven to Conquest, (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1971) pp. 273-301, and in David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Brancb: Roots of Violence in the Middle East (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1977), pp. 66-71.

61 Looking back over the violence that did result, in large part, from the Revisionists' militant posture, Jabotinsky wrote to a friend in October 1929 about the provocative Zionist flag-waving during the August 15 rally at the Wall: "...even that was a psychological and political necessity; and if I believed for a moment that that was the 'cause' of the outbreak, I should heartily congratulate the promoter, because it's the main thing in all strategy to force the enemy to attack before he is ready. A year later would have been infinitely worse... not for justification, but for attack." Letter to Seligman, October 24, 1929, Jabotinsky Archives, Tel Aviv.

62 CO 733/175/67411, and Shaw Commission, Minutes of Evidence, pp. 205-10; and Exhibits #35, 101, 103-6.

63 See for example the letters of Rufus Isaacs (Lord Reading) to Prime Minister MacDonald and Colonial Secretary Passfield, August 30, and September 4 and 5, 1929. The comments and architectural plans submitted by Rutenberg in conjunction with this correspondence are recorded in CO 733/163/67013.

64 Exhibit #41, Shaw Commission, Minutes of Evidence, op. cit., pp. 1047-48. See also CO 733/163/67013.

65 CO 733/163/67013.

66 Ibid.

67 This was a letter of February 13, 1931 by British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald to Chaim Weizmann read out to the House of Commons. MacDonald, in response to Zionist pressure, in effect reversed the earlier official policy expressed in the Passfield White Paper of October 21, 1930 announcing the British government's intention to suspend Jewish immigration to, and land purchases in, Palestine. While the Passfield White Paper recognized the legitimacy of Arab fears about the Zionist project, MacDonald effectively reasserted British support for it.

68 CO 733/163/67013.

69 CO 733/163/67013.