Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Did the British connive in anti-Jewish riots?

May Day was the anniversary of the Jaffa riot in 1921 in which 14 Jews, including the writer Yosef Haim Brenner, were murdered by Arab rioters. The disturbances spread and in total 88 were killed and 238 injured; there was much looting and destruction of property. Sarah Honig described the scene in the Jerusalem Post, but a question mark remains over the role of the authorities in this and other anti-Jewish incidents elsewhere in the Arab world:

"There was no occupation when the 1921 intifada erupted on May 1. On that hot day the British police permitted a group of Labor-Zionists to hold a May Day parade in then-tiny Tel Aviv, but denied the same privilege to Jewish communists, who rallied anyway in Neveh Shalom, the second-earliest Jewish neighborhood adjacent to Jaffa. The two groups of leftist Jews collided and exchanged a few blows.

"But while the Brits energetically chased several communists through Neveh Shalom's winding narrow lanes, they doggedly turned a blind eye to the thousands of Arabs massing in Jaffa, all brandishing clubs, knives, hatchets and metal pipes and hysterically chanting "itbach el-Yahud (slaughter the Jews)."

"With no British presence to cool their ardor, rioters began attacking Jewish passersby. The only representatives of the law were members of Jaffa's Arab constabulary. But rather than quell the rampage, they helped turn it into "a full-scale pogrom," according to Izhak Ben-Zvi, who three decades later would become Israel's second president.

"In a May 11, 1921 letter of protest to British High Commissioner Sir Herbert Samuel, Ben-Zvi charged that "the Arab policemen themselves led the onslaught on the Jewish Immigrants Hostel in Jaffa's Ajami quarter. They shot Jews with weapons supplied them by the government."

"Sounds familiar? Ben-Zvi continued: "Rather than disperse the rioters, the police encouraged them and distributed firearms to the incited rabble. They ignited the flame of murder, fanned by confidence that the government sides with them and that they can massacre Jews with impunity."

While there is no evidence that the British paid the rioters, The Virtual Jewish library is convinced that the British did nothing to stop them. Some say they encouraged them:

Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, former head of British military intelligence in Cairo, and later Chief Political Officer for Palestine and Syria, wrote in his diary that British officials “incline towards the exclusion of Zionism in Palestine.” In fact, the British encouraged the Arabs to attack the Jews. According to Meinertzhagen, Col. Waters Taylor, financial adviser to the Military Administration in Palestine 1919-23, met with Haj Amin a few days before Easter, in 1920, and told him “he had a great opportunity at Easter to show the world...that Zionism was unpopular not only with the Palestine Administration but in Whitehall and if disturbances of sufficient violence occurred in Jerusalem at Easter, both General Bols [Chief Administrator in Palestine, 1919-20] and General Allenby [Commander of Egyptian Force, 1917-19, then High Commissioner of Egypt] would advocate the abandonment of the Jewish Home. Waters-Taylor explained that freedom could only be attained through violence.”

Haj Amin took the Colonel’s advice and instigated a riot. The British withdrew their troops and the Jewish police from Jerusalem, and the Arab mob attacked Jews and looted their shops. Due to Haj Amin’s overt role in instigating the pogrom, the British arrested him. Yet, despite the arrest, Haj Amin escaped to Jordan, but he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in absentia. A year later, however, British Arabists convinced High Commissioner Herbert Samuel to pardon Haj Amin and to appoint him Mufti.

Samuel met with Haj Amin on April 11, 1921, and was assured “that the influences of his family and himself would be devoted to tranquility.” Three weeks later, however, riots in Jaffa and Petah Tikvah, instigated by the Mufti, left 43 Jews dead.

The British pursued a policy of 'divide and rule', fomenting opposition to Zionism where none existed before. The phenomenon of rent-a-mob paid protestors is common in the Arab and Muslim world. When Sir Alfred Mond visited Baghdad in 1928, it is believed that the British paid a group of protestors to shout 'Down with Zionism' (Yuskut al-Ziyoniyya). Except that, not knowing what Ziyoniyya was, they were shouting Yuskut al-paswaniyya - 'Down with the security tax'. So much for the spontaneous anger of the Arab street.

In 1941 in Iraq and in 1945 in Libya, the British did not start the murderous pogroms which claimed the lives of 180 Iraqi Jews and 130 Libyan Jews respectively - but took several agonisingly long days to quell them.

The French, the main colonial power in North Africa, have also been accused of encouraging the local Arabs to vent their anger on the local Jews. They were thought to have instigated the riots of Constantine, Algeria in 1934.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

British did connive anti-jews.