Saturday, May 02, 2009

  • Saturday, May 02, 2009
  • Elder of Ziyon
An article in the Jerusalem Post about the 1921 Arab riots in Jaffa gave me some incentive to research it myself, and I found a full copy of the British Commission Report on the incidents.

Here are some parts of the 64-page report.
The disturbances dealt with in this report began with a riot in
Jaffa on Sunday, the 1st May, 1921, followed by serious acts of violence
in the same town on the two succeeding days, and local attacks on
Jewish agricultural colonies on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
of that week. To the same group of events belong sporadic anti-
Jewish manifestations which occurred in Jaffa during June and as
late as July.

[The report details the antipathy between two Jewish socialist parties on May Day.]

The Arabs of Menshieh, who had resented the Bolshevik demon-
stration from the first, became aware that a disturbance was taking
place on the Tel Aviv side of the sandy space, and came out of their
houses to the western edge of the sandy space, where they could
observe what was happening on the Tel Aviv side. Many of them were
armed with sticks. At the same time Jews began to collect on the
eastern edge of Tel Aviv. It then became the duty of the police to
come between the two parties and prevent a collision if possible.
They occupied the sandy space, Mr. Cohen and his men keeping back
the Jews, and Tewfik Bey with his men keeping back the Arabs.

The dispute between the Jewish Labour Party and the M.P.S.
was now at an end, and demonstrators were beginning to disperse
towards Menshieh. Had it not been for outstanding grievances felt
by the Arabs against the Jews, the police would have had little difficulty
in keeping the peace. The Arab population is ordinarily very obedient
to authority, and it is only when some religious or racial emotion is
aroused that it becomes difficult to manage. The Jews are less obedient
to authority and more difficult to control : on the other hand, they are
less prone to that sudden access of violence which characterises the
Arab when aroused to anger by some actual or supposed wrong or

It became evident that the situation was growing critical, and
shortly after noon Abdin Bey joined Mr. Cohen, and Reserve Inspector
Atkins joined Tewfik Bey. Neither party was willing to return into
its own quarter until the other had done so first. Some police in the
sandy place fired their rifles into the air by order of Mr. Atkins. This
was the first firing that was heard. It appears that most of the people
who heard it were ignorant as to where the shots came from or who
had fired them. It must have been almost immediately afterwards
that somethuig occurred in the Moslem quarter to draw the poHce
and the Arabs back into the streets of Menshieh. Mr. Cohen says that
reports were brought by Jews of their shops having been broken open
and of shooting. That shooting was probably the firing by the police
in the air by order of Mr. Atkins, as no persons appear to have been
killed or severely wounded up to that moment. Mr. Cohen goes on to
say that later he heard a noise in the Menshieh quarter, left his place
at the sandy space, rode to the spot, and found Arabs breaking windows.
It seems clear that at that moment police and Arabs left the sandy
space, and poured into the Menshieh quarter, where a general hunting
of the Jews began. We are of opinion that both Mr. Cohen and
Tewfik Bey did their best to keep the peace, but the police lost control
of the situation altogether.

At this time Mr. Miller was sent by the Governor to Tel Aviv on a
report that the quarter was being attacked by Arabs. On arriving
he found that firing was coming from the Menshieh quarter towards
Tel Aviv, and being replied to from houses on the edge of the latter
quarter, but that Tel Aviv was not being attacked. He proceeded to
Menshieh and found that the police had lost all authority, and that there
was a great deal of fighting going on.

On reaching Menshieh main street they found the Jewish
market there entirely looted, and looting was going on elsewhere.
The presence of Mr. Miller and the notables, especially that of the
Mayor, had the effect of stilling tumult at any spot where they appeared,
but so exasperated had the two parties become by that time that this
effect was only momentary, and fighting began again as soon as their
backs were turned. At that time all the men in the streets were armed
with sticks, iron bars, knives, anything that came to hand.

The [Arab] civil police in general were now wholly
inefficient, either because they felt themselves unable to cope with the
tumult, or because racial passion had become infectious and they were
unwilling to make an effort to stem the rage of their own peoples.
It is difficult to rely on the evidence of individuals engaged in the
melee, but we liave formed the view that from this time the police
became partisan, a view that is confirmed by subsequent proceedings.

..The door [of the Jewish Immigrant House] had been broken open by an angry crowd, a bomb had been thrown with fatal results, blood was flowing and the Inspector of Police, the only officer then present, went home to lunch.

We are satisfied from the evidence of the Reverend A. C. Martin,
of the London Jews' Society, who saw much of what happened from a
window on the opposite side of the main street, that the police in the
street broke through the door and led a part of the mob into the yard.
They broke into the ground floor of the main building and into the
other buildings. Men who sought refuge by running into the street
were beaten to death by the crowd. Others were killed inside the
courtyard. The invaders came in from all the entrances when the
defence had broken down. Only one woman was killed, namely by a
shot fired through a window. Those women who escaped into the street
were roughly handled by the crowd, but not killed. They were wounded,
but not dangerously, and were sheltered from further harm by an
Arab neighbour. Perhaps the most revolting incident was the conduct
of one of the Arab policemen. He was at first regarded by the women
as a protector, but he took advantage of the prevailing terror to rob
them of their small possessions, and to two he made indecent advances,
telHng them that he was a Jew, with threats of violence if they refused
to comply with his demands. They appear to have avoided this
crowning act of brutality by escape. This man was convicted by a
special Court for the trial of offences committed during the riots, and
was sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment. It must not be supposed
that no resistance was made by the Jews. The toll of dead and
wounded in the gruesome episode of the Immigration House was as
follows :

13 Jews killed or mortally wounded and 24 wounded ; one Arab killed and four wounded.

[May 2]

A horrible murder was disclosed during the afternoon. Mr.
Brenner, a Jewish author of some repute, was living with five other
Jews in an isolated house off the Kamleh Road. The women of the
house were absent. A motor lorry was sent to bring them away,
and the house was found to be closed and empty. Some distance away
five bodies, those of Brenner and four others, were found lying in a
footpath, beaten or stabbed to death. The sixth body was found about
100 metres away with the hands tied behind the back. When the
searchers returned to remove the bodies the sixth was not discovered,
and has not been seen since.

A group of Jewish houses near the German Colony was entirely
looted on Monday. The inhabitants had fled and there was no loss of fife.

[May 4]

The general situation had improved, but the state of feeling was
obviously still acute. Popular unrest had spread to the surrounding
country, and by Friday night there had been* attacks by Arabs on five
Jewish agricultural communities. All parties were looking to the
Government for some distinct declaration of policy. Colonel Byron
says : "As far as the Moslem population were concerned, they were
very anxious to receive some declaration on the question of immigra-
tion. I gathered such information from both parties, i.e., the notables
here, and Mr. Dizengoff, the Mayor of Tel Aviv." He had already
issued an order under his general authority that no immigrants should
be landed at Jaffa for the present. On the morning of Saturday, the
14th May, a telegram was received from Government House confirming
the temporary prohibition of immigration, and, when made known by
the town crier in the square, was received with acclamation.

[May 6, Hadera]

During the night of the 5th and the early morning of the 6th,
people were coming in from neighbouring villages, and a considerable
number must have collected in Tulkeram. They were rudely armed,
and not a serious force if encountered by a small number of experienced
troops ; but a formidable mob for the police to deal with..../

When the airman returned at 12.35 p.m. the attackers had already
entered the village from the south-east under the cover of a grove of
eucalyptus trees. They had burned, ransacked, destroyed and looted
at will in that quarter of the village. They had encountered for a
moment three mounted scouts, who retired on their approach, but no
collision had occurred as yet between them and the inhabitants of the
colony. Mr. Flynn circled round the village at a low altitude, and
ascertained the condition of affairs. On the occasion of his former
flight he had been unable to turn the Arabs from their attack by a
demonstration of force without actual violence. On the second occa-
sion his return created a panic among the invaders, which caused them
to hurry from the village, carrying in their flight what loot they could.
As they fled, the Arabs were hurried in their retreat by bombs and
machine-gun fire. Their casualties were not so great as might have
been expected. Three Arabs are known to have been killed and three
wounded. Among the retiring Arabs, whom Mr. Flynn estimates as
a crowd of between 400 to 500 persons, were the 10 mounted policemen.
The Sergeant-Major asserts that he arranged his men in military forma-
tion so that the airman might observe that they were not a part of the
mob, and avoid bombing them. Mr. Flynn observed that these were
police, but from the fact of their retreatment with the raiders, regarded
them as participating in the raid, and took no pains to discriminate
between them and the rest of the crowd. Four of these were wounded,
the Sergeant-Major severely, and three police horses were killed.

The lives of the colonists were saved. They had been in great peril,
and we have no doubt that had the raid not been interrupted, the
colony would have been destroyed

In this case it is clear that the colonists had done nothing whatso-
ever to provoke an attack. The armed crowd that proceeded to raid
them intended to kill and loot, and it is a pity that they were not firmly
handled before they had the opportunity of doing damage.

It was evident from the tone
and substance of what the Mayor of Tulkeram said to us, that he con-
sidered the raid as an act of war against the Jews, if not justifiable,
at any rate excusable. He had done his best to keep his people quiet,
but after the raid was over he was clear in his determination not to
allow any person or village to suffer for it through his instrumentality.
So unanimously is public opinion on one side of this controversy that
evidence to ^x responsibility is practically unobtainable, the more so
as the colonists saw little or nothing of the raid.

[The report also details attacks on Jews in Kfar Saba, Petach Tikva, and Rehovot.]

...This was no ordinary riot. The disturbance raged for several
days with intensity wherever Arabs came into contact with Jews, and
spread into the surrounding country, where Jewish colonies, having
nothing whatever to do with Bolshevism, were attacked with ferocity.
The Bolshevik demonstration was the spark that set alight the explosive
discontent of the Arabs, and precipitated an outbreak which developed
into an Arab-Jewish feud.

....We are persuaded that it is due partly to the Government policy with
regard to a Jewish National Home in Palestine, partly to Arab mis-
understandings of that policy, and partly to the manner in which that
policy is interpreted and sought to be applied by some of its advocates
outside the Government. It culminates in a suspicion that the Govern-
ment is under Zionist influence, and is therefore led to favour a minority
to the prejudice of the vast majority of the population. We have been
assured, and we believe, that had there been no Jewish question, the
Government would have had no political difficulty of any importance
to deal with so far as its domestic affairs are concerned.

...We have no doubt that the Arabs were the
first to turn this quarrel into a race conflict, and, when once this issue
was joined, they behaved with a savagery which cannot be condoned.

Dr. Beadles, the Principal Medical Officer, Jaffa, thus speaks of his
examination of the dead bodies on the 1st May :

" I was struck most with the number of wounds on each body,
and the ferocity of the wounds. I am speaking particu-
larly of broken skulls. Some of the victims had dozens
of wounds."

The last expression may be an unconscious exaggeration, but it shows
the impression produced on the mind of a man who had practised his
profession during the war, and was not unaccustomed to the sight of
wounds. The killing was accompanied and followed by an orgy of
pillage which was a disgrace to a civilised community.

When we come to consider the raids on the agricultural colonies
we find the immediate cause to be the reports of Jews having killed
Arabs in the Jaffa riots. They were all the outcome of the general
rage against the Jews aroused by these reports. In some cases there
were local causes which stimulated this feehng. The Khedera raid
was immediately prompted by a false report of the imprisonment of
Arab labourers. The raid on Rehoboth was the immediate result of a
story about the Jews of that colony having attacked a neighbouring
Arab village. There is no evidence to show the responsibility of any
particular village for the raid on Rehoboth, but Mr. Miller and Mr.
Wainwright think that the false report was concocted on that day
by persons at Ramleh who wished to promote an attack on the Jews.
It is, however, only fair to add that two notables, who were tried in
this connection, w^ere acquitted. In the Petach Tikvah case only the
Abu Kishk tribe can clearly be saddled with responsibility. The
Yahoudieh men never actually raided the colony. They would have
done so had they not been caught in time by the military, but they were
stopped and soundly punished. There is no evidence to show by whom
Kefr Saba and Ain Hai were raided. The raiders found no one to kill,
but looted and destroyed. In none of these five cases can the conduct
of the Arabs be excused or condoned. Most of the colonists had lived
for years on quite friendly terms with their Arab neighbours, and had
in many cases given them regular employment on a large scale. The
bloodthirsty attacks on these peaceful settlements, which had been
guilty of no provocation whatever, are among the worst features of the
Although the report does mention retaliatory attacks by Jews, it makes it very clear that every incident was initiated by the Arab side, with uncommon savagery.

Yet the conclusion has the same kind of disgusting "even-handedness" that we see daily at the present time:
...It has been impossible to avoid the conclusion
that practically the whole of the non-Jewish population was united in
hostility to the Jews. During the riots all discrimination on the part
of the Arabs between different categories of Jews was obliterated.
Old-established colonists and newly arrived immigrants, Chalukah
Jews and Bolshevik Jews, Algerian Jews and Russian Jews, became
merged in a single identity, and former friendships gave way before the
enmity now felt towards all. On the 27th June, nearly two months
after the first outbreak, two members of the Commission of Inquiry
chanced to meet a band of decently dressed Arab children, whose
average age could not have exceeded six or seven, marching in proces-
sion along the Ajami quarter, brandishing sticks and branches, and
shouting the words, " We want to fight the Jews." The incident was
small, perhaps, but not without significance, and it was noted by the
members of the Commission who saw it that no attempt was made by
several policemen present to interfere with it in any way. So long as
the popular feeling described above continues it will not be possible
to maintain law and justice effectively, because the mass of the people
cannot be trusted to do justice where a Jew is concerned.

[Many other examples are given of anti-Jewish feeling by the Arabs of Palestine, and yet...]

...But for the considerations set forth above we feel convinced that
there would be no animosity towards the Jews as such ; that there is
no inherent anti-Semitism in the country, racial or religious. We are
credibly assured by educated Arabs that they would welcome the
arrival of well-to-do and able Jews who could help to develop the country
to the advantage of all sections cjf the community. Zionists, for their part,
dwell freely on the theme that the realisation of the policy of the
" National Home " will benefit Arabs as well as Jews ; but we feel
bound to express the opinion, arrived at in the course of the inquiry,
that the Zionist Commission, which is the representative of the Zionist
Organisation in Palestine, has failed to carry conviction to the Arabs
on this point. So far as we can judge, the only sentiment it has
inspired in them is one of profound distrust.

Much, we feel, might be done to allay the existing hostility between
the races if responsible persons on both sides could agree to discuss
the questions arising between them in a reasonable spirit, on the basis
that the Arabs should accept implicitly the declared policy of the
Government on the subject of the Jewish National Home, and that the
Zionist leaders should abandon and repudiate all pretensions that go
beyond it. The immigrants should be made to understand that,
whatever their historical and religious claim, they are after all seeking
a home in a country at present overwhelmingly Arab, and that it
behooves them to adopt a considerate attitude towards the people
among whom they must wish to live in peace and friendship. The
Arab notables, on the other hand, should make it clear to the Arabs
that in no case can they expect murder, violence and pillage to be
See how even handed it is? Tell the Jews to be more considerate and friendly towards Arabs so as not to anger them - and ask Arabs nicely not to murder Jews.

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